[Hall Monitor] The McNeels Choose a School–Part Eight

Note from SA Charter Moms: We are proud to share guest posts from hallmonitor covering San Antonio’s public schools.

[Hall Monitor] The McNeels Choose a School–Part Eight | San Antonio Charter Moms

February 19 was a dramatic day in San Antonio ISD. Offers went out. Parents groaned and cheered. A “now what” for families waitlisted at their first choice and accepted at their third choice.

Here’s how it went for us with Moira, our will-be kindergartener and Asa, our will-be PreK-3:

Moira had already been waitlisted at the Advanced Learning Academy, something we knew from day one.

We received text messages next that both Moira and Asa had been waitlisted at Steele Montessori.

And next, a text message that Moira was waitlisted at Twain Dual Language Academy.

At this point, I tell you, I believe in the system, I believe in fairness, but I could feel a little fight burning in my chest. A little “fine, if you don’t want our amazing, wonderful, lovely baby we will take her elsewhere! Somewhere she’ll be happier! And more successful!”

I was surprised by how my defensive “I’m being rejected” emotions came up. That’s how fairness feels when you feel sort of entitled to everything.

Then we got the text message about Asa. He’d been offered a seat at Twain. Immediately after, we got a second text telling us that, essentially, Asa’s offer had pulled Moira in as well, and she was offered a seat at Twain.

No longer feeling totally miffed, I now just had, for the first time since having children, real and limited options to consider. Limited options . . . I really don’t know what to do with that as a parent. I remember the sting of not getting into the graduate programs I wanted. I was rejected by two out of three. But going to grad school didn’t seem as fundamental as kindergarten, and it was weird to think of something so fundamental being restricted in any way.

Again . . . that’s how limits feels when you’re used to a world where you almost never hear “no,” only “here’s how much it will cost.”

Lewis and I discussed it as we drove to pick up the kids at my mom’s house. Twain was his favorite option, and he was thrilled. It’s less than a mile from our house, literally at the end of our street. Five blocks.

It was my second choice, only because I love Montessori so much. I was relieved that at least the my preference versus his preference choice had been made for us.

For me, it was then just a matter of accepting the offer. But, as I’ve mentioned, Lewis McNeel is one thorough man. He wanted to take the kids up to the school, and see how they responded.

Now, here’s a note: Asa cries every. single. day. at drop off. The teacher tells me he stops the second we’re out of sight, and when I pick him up, he’s happy, grinning, and loving life. But if I ask him, “how was school?” he tells me, “I cried and cried. I’m just a guy who cries.”

I’ve asked the pediatrician about this. He says, “There’s one in every family. Don’t sign him up for sleep away camp.”

Asa is also the kind of kid who obsesses about one single thing and cannot be distracted or deterred. He will ask no matter how many times you say no. He wears gloves at all times, keeps a sketch pad with him always, and asks for chocolate at least once per hour. Gloves. Sketching. Chocolate. On repeat. All day. Literally from the moment he wakes up to the moment he falls asleep. More than once he’s woken up in the middle of the night asking for his gloves or chocolate. That’s why Asa has to go to school.

Moira is very much NOT that kid. Moira has loved school since the day we dropped her off at age 20 months. She almost never asks to stay home. She runs to the car in the morning.

So I was skeptical that we would learn much from a campus visit. But letting Lewis take his time has never been a bad idea in our house. It usually leads to better decisions.

We told the kids about their new school, and that they would be learning Spanish. (Beyond what they’ve gleaned from watching their favorite movies in Spanish.)

“Hola, familia!” shouted Moira, right away.

“Cho-co-late” said Asa, with Spanish pronunciation.

So they’ll know how to get what they need . . . .

We took them to the campus, and both were enraptured with the Spanish instruction. Moira was ready to explore the classrooms. She saw “Morado” on the color rug and asked if they had made her a spot already. I told her that meant “purple” and she said, “They even knew I like purple?!?”

The school assured us that language acquisition would come quickly at their age. Asa made a friend on the tour. Moira made friends with the tour guide.

They were anxious to get back to St. Paul’s that day . . . but are generally very happy about the prospect of learning Spanish and sitting on a purple spot on the rug.

So, that, my friends, is how the McNeel family chose a school, and all the things we learned along the way.

Originally published as “The McNeels Choose a School,” Hall Monitor, February 28, 2019

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