Earlier this month, I wrote about our children starting at a new school. It’s a “good school”, that’s what everyone says. About their old school, they said less flattering things; "it’s a rough school, a bad school". I always felt like I was on some kind of affirmative action campaign, trying to dispel those myths because, well, we loved that school. It was a great school.
Now, the new school is a good school too but my point here is that the perceptions we have about our local schools are very often based on little more than dust in the wind, snippets of conversation and rumours. Sometimes the perception is entirely based on standardized test scores and media reports about them – a very narrow window into a very big world.
I spent last week working in a school that is very much like the school my children used to attend. If you asked around at swimming lessons, or on the side of the soccer field, you might hear that this school is a bad school. You might assume negative things about the students or the staff. You might avoid it for your own children. You would be wrong, very wrong.
It is a great school. I witnessed amazing teaching last week and I was so impressed by the ways that these teachers and administrators were carefully considering how to best serve their students. I didn't hear a single disparaging comment about a child or a family and I witnessed incredible compassion. Those kids need great teachers and they have them.
We who hang out on the sides of soccer fields, holding Starbucks lattes in our hands need to think carefully about how we define good schools and how we talk about all schools. Is it really just about the test scores? Don’t we want more from schools than test scores? I know I sure do. The demographics of a school are not its destiny and numbers never tell the whole story.
Maybe we should hold our opinions, like the foam on our lattes, until we’ve walked a mile in those hallways.