Goody Two Shoes on Choosing Schools
Education is very important; I think we all agree on that. It shapes our thinking and gives us choices for our future. Where I live, it decides so much more. The type of education chosen speaks volumes about a family’s politics, religion, values, economic and social status, linguistics and culture.
In Jerusalem, there are all sorts and types of schools: some teach a certain religion intensely; others focus only on one language. Some have gender separation, while others differ in their choice to have compulsory uniforms or no uniform at all. Freedom of speech and politics is hard to find.
When our first son was born, it was the First Intifada and we were renting a place to live in a muslim village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. My husband and I gave each other a nod when the subject of schooling or education was broached by a well wisher. We assured ourselves that by the time he reached school-age, all this upheaval and unrest would be over. It wasn't. That baby is soon to be 26 years old and it still isn't; in fact it is worse.
When our son was 3 years old, we checked a few kindergartens. After all, he was our first child and we wanted the perfect place for him. Soon to be discovered: there is no perfect place.
We gave each other the reassuring nod again. By the time he was school-age, all this upheaval and unrest would surely be over. It wasn't. It still isn't; in fact it is worse.
By the time he was 5 years old, he had two brothers and logistics factored into our decision. His Father and I did a search/checking/fact finding mission of just about every type of school available in a 5 km radius of our home (now in a Jewish area). Armed with a notepad and large sheet of paper with a plus and minus column, we set about to find the perfect school for us (and he would just have to get on with it after we had chosen!).
I checked the atmosphere/cleanliness and tried to see if I could imagine my beloved son in this place. My husband wanted the previous years’ graduation statistics.
We compiled our list of the many schools, trying to forget the images of off the shoulder cardigans, clicking heels, bushy moustaches, dirty shoes and spanking sticks. Nothing seemed to fit and we were disheartened.
In a strange set of circumstances, it was suggested we try and apply to a free-thinking, mostly secular, non-religious Israeli school in the centre of the city. Apparently, there was a long waiting list to get in and the application interview was for the parents only. Seemed a bit odd. We didn't think we had much of a chance with one of us being Palestinian and the other a blatant foreigner.
After the interview and the totting up of how many formal years of education we had and what we could contribute to the school (Christmas party was what I offered, whereas my husband offered a series of lectures on the Christian faith...Both of which we did several times but that's another article), we were asked what we would do if our child was refused a place. We shrugged our shoulders and looked blank as we had no answer.
In a turn of twisted fate, being Palestinian for once worked to our advantage; our seemingly odd cultural background and religious beliefs were welcomed and even embraced, getting our son a place at the school and bypassing the waiting list!
So that is what we did. All four children attended a Hebrew speaking Israeli school. They flourished. They were picked on sometimes. They succeeded. They were a severe minority. They were different.They were accepted. We enjoyed the pluses and downplayed the minuses and countered the incorrect teaching and concepts of Christianity with our own teaching at home .
There were times when we found ourselves in the headmaster’s office over disciplinary issues, had terrible parent/teacher meetings (those moments when you discover your child did not do homework for ½ a year), and obeyed the suspension orders; but we also celebrated the sports triumphs, school trips, graduation parties and enjoyed the family atmosphere. Basically, we were normal.
Many, many times we were asked why our children were outstanding and had such great integrity. What was our secret? Did we bribe them?
Some parents wanted to send their children to our house for lessons in table manners!
Our youngest still attends the school. Was it the best choice for our family given the language and atmosphere of the country? Not sure...maybe...maybe not.
Today, we might choose differently. Today, we might not have the options we had all those years ago. Life can push us into circumstances we would never imagine and force us to make decisions we are not entirely comfortable with.
Thought: there is no perfect school. Make the best decision for your family and 'go for it ' wholeheartedly, not looking back