Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Christian Academy education

When school resumed after the Christmas holiday, my husband and I decided to put our little Princess in a private school. A Christian school where she could get a good education, make friends and have a wonderful time. I researched, visited and talked to several different places and their respective staff. I finally had it picked out. A small Christian academy that was a perfect fit for us. I was happy, my daughter was semi-happy and it was close to our house and the best part: they had room for her! Wow, were we lucky.

So, I'm there and I'm signing the papers to get Little Princess enrolled. I pay the fees and tuition and I mention that I may be looking for a job when he asks me why Little Princess is no longer going to be homeschooled. He told me that they really needed a part-time teacher/sub if I was interested. I, never in a million years, would've even remotely considered taking a teaching position so was totally shocked when I heard myself say, "Sure, that would be a great experience!" As soon as the words were out of my thick head I regretted saying them. I thought to myself...what in the world did you get yourself into now, you ditz!

He took my word right then and there. I couldn't back out. Then I thought, well, at least I'll be able to see what type of environment my Little Princess would be getting that wonderful Christian education in and I didn't give it a second thought. I figured, what the heck, I'm not doing anything anyway.

I started the same day my daughter started school. I was a little bit uneasy that there were several different grade levels in one classroom. They hired me to fill in for one of the teachers that was out on Mondays. I agreed to that. Several days later, they wanted me to come in on Wednesdays as well so the kids could have other activities available to them. I agreed. My husband didn't like that idea too much. I convinced him the kids needed me. They did. Desperately.

The next time I went in I noticed that the kids were for the most part just needing encouragement and attention, lots of it. I built them up. They were, for lack of a better word, lost. Hungry for attention. They had low self-esteem. Those were the good qualities. More than half of the children, I later discovered, had ADHD, Dyslexia, or some other form of learning disability. I figured that was probably the reason their parents had put them in a private school. More one-on-one instruction. Special needs being catered to in a Christian environment. I knew I had made the right decision when the children started laying their heads on my arms so I could say words of encouragement and reassurance to them.

At first I thought this was a wonderful place for my daughter to be in as she loved going there. She enjoyed being around other kids her age more than anything. I quickly realized that she loved it so much because the curriculum she was given was so far behind from what I was teaching her when I homeschooled her. She tested so high on her diagnostic test that they only had her doing for subjects. Leaving out two subjects because she tested 4 levels above her grade level was just not what I wanted to see.

As the days went on I saw this same pattern with a few other students in my class. They were done with all their school work by 11 am. The rest of the day, they sat there bored and picking on each other, talking or playing. Remember, I'm only a sub so I can't really change anything. I did, however, approach the school director about my concerns. I pointed out that the kids should not, in my opinion, have all that free time on their hands. He felt the same way but said he had no control over the rules that had been set in place by the pastor's wife who was now gone from the school due to terminal cancer.

It annoyed me. I continued to play by their rules. After all, I'm only a sub. The kids all told me how happy they were that I was there because I really enjoyed helping them. One little boy told me, "Mrs. Rico, I like you because you always have a smile on your face. You walk in first thing in the morning and you are smiling. We ask you for help and you smile and help us all the same." I think I floated about 3 feet off the floor all day long. Humbled is what I was.

One day after school, the principal called me to tell me that the pastor's daughter had told him that I must not wear eye makeup any more. I got upset. Now, granted, I don't wear heavy eye makeup at all and the other teachers didn't even notice I had any on at all so I have no idea why this woman said that. Anwyay, I got ticked off and I told the principal that I wouldn't be controlled like that.

I was miffed. I would show them. I would tell them where to get off. How dare they expect me to look all dead and pale. I have dark hair and a very pale complexion. If I were to wear no eye makeup whatsoever, I'd risk someone calling 911 on me thinking I'm dying. Seriously. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't wear anything other than face powder and barely there eyeliner and mascara. Just enough to mask the ghost-like appearance. No eyeshadow, no blush, no lipstick, no lip liner. I do wear chapstick or lip gloss but nothing like blood red color on my lips. It's just not me.

In my head I had already prepared the little speech I was going to give them before I quit. Shoot, who did she think she was telling the principal to tell me not to wear eyemakeup. I'd show her.

The weekend came and I pondered the situation. I cooked for my family. I pondered. I did my daily family things and I continued to ponder. Monday morning I showed up with no eye makeup on. I looked frightful but I did as I was told. In coming to the conclusion that the kids were more important to me than looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I realized that what I looked like didn't matter any more. Being there for those kids that needed so much help was now my first priority.

Two weeks ago, I found out that our principal/director was going to be resigning. When I questioned his motive, he responded with something that totally shocked me and just broke my heart. The school that I thought was going to be where my daughter would graduate from was far from what I had envisioned. Apparently, a random drug testing that had been done on the high school kids had come back positive for cocaine on several of the boys. When the pastor was told about this he chose to continue with the basketball games and only suspended the guilty parties for a week. Although the kids were failing academically, the games were not cancelled and the principal told them he would be leaving because he would not be held responsible for something like that.

I immediately started planning on taking my daughter elsewhere or just to homeschool until the end of the school year and looking at other schools between now and the new school year in the Fall. What I found out next is like a nightmare from the very bowels of the inner city schools in the slums. Nothing could have shocked me more.