I recently read back over some old stuff I wrote right about the time my oldest child was preparing to enter kindergarten in the San Francisco public school system. I’m amazed at the fear and anxiety that clouded my vision.
We were going through a lot at that time. Everything seemed to be happening at once: our struggle with hateful landlords (who ended up evicting my family), a psychotic twenty-something neighbor, and the SF public school application process. I had this crystal-hippie notion that the City was trying to send me a message to get the hell out.
I was full of anger. And like most mad people, my anger stemmed from fear, fear, fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what I couldn’t control. Fear of harm befalling my family.
I don’t know what I actually thought would happen – was I worried that a five-year-old was going to shiv my kid during recess? No. Was I worried that she wouldn’t learn in public school? Wouldn’t thrive? No.
I think that, even though I pressed my brain as hard as I could against the outer edges of paranoia, I still quietly bought into the fear foisted onto me by my fellow San Francisco preschool parents. The sentiment basically went, “The schools are bad because everyone says they are bad and even though I have no personal evidence, I believe them to be bad.”
So I operated from that place. Fear, fear, fear.
And once I enrolled my child in a San Francisco public school, the fear quickly dissipated. Awe developed. Awe of all that she was learning. And respect grew. Respect for teachers and professionals who give their hearts and souls daily for our children. And then I felt shame. Shame at my earlier fear of what was different and unknown.
That was three years ago. And I can own those feelings. Even though I may not be proud of them now.
Three years, and many public school experiences later, I have evolved into a cliché sort of involved parent, volunteering at the school, actively trying to consider the big picture, working hard to secure resources to benefit not just my kid, but all the kids at our school. I’ve started thinking beyond the borders of our little school, and I want to be an advocate for state and federal K-12 educational funding.
I try not to be too annoying with all of this, but I know that I probably am. And I’m okay with that.
This is where I am now. Even as I hustle to help produce our school’s huge spring fundraiser. It’s all so far from that fearful little place I inhabited just a few years ago.
I know I still have a long way to go. I hope that in three more years I will look back on this time and marvel at my continued growth and change, at my evolution as a public school parent.