Friday, September 04, 2009

Catching Up to Now

Wow. It's 9.4.9. Counting down to 9.9.09.

I guess the best place to start is where we are: eeking out the last vestiges of summer before we start a new chapter, a new school year, and for us, a new school.

For someone like me, that last little phrase does not get written lightly. There are all kinds of weight and connotation and massive amounts of emotion and transition stirred into that little phrase, but change we are.

We are leaving "the little school that could" - the one I hoped it would anyway - the one I had invested almost 4 years of my life to, sacrificed significant hours and income to, leveraged political ties and social relationships, my capacity to mother and at times even my marriage to. We are leaving behind the little experiment.

There. I said it.

It's a relief, really. As if a giant weight-of-the-world has been lifted and I am suddenly unpinned, weightless. Free of the responsibility of the ensuing issues and dramas and politics and constant challenges at that little school.

On Tuesday, we will be starting orientation at a new school. We were given a rare opportunity, and after an agonizing week of deliberation, we decided to take it.
In a crazy stroke of backwards luck due to budgets cuts and thus increased class sizes all over LA, Miss S won a coveted lottery spot for 2nd grade at a fantastic school – one she never would have gotten into unless someone had either moved away or, I hate to say it, died. It’s a magnet, a charter, a Nat’l Blue Ribbon school, a CA Distinguished school, and an International Baccalaureate program that weaves a focus on Humanities and Global-Perspectives into the overall curriculum, and it’s public so it's tuition-free. It's a great school. It will be a big change for all of us.

Mostly we are counting down to NEW.

Mostly I am rethinking what to do with all this freed-up time.

Mostly I have been relearning how to float.

I have become quite buoyant this summer.

* * *
To back up a bit, the last time I posted back in April my life was churning ahead full-speed. I did a series of radio shows taking on the CA State Superintendent, then the President of the UTLA teachers' union, then the Superintendent of the LA school district offering my in-the-trenches perspective on our dysfunctional public school system. I was asked to speak on Brooklyn's Public Think Tank Radio. Recent press had my Guidebooks flying out the door and me booked solid with speaking events, especially a new model I devised called The House Chat, taking my public school demystification sessions into the living rooms of groups of "strollermoms" and "preKindermoms" all over this fine city, teaching them the ins and outs of our school lottery systems and urging them to get active and involved early on, stoking the grassroots passion and activism I love to inspire. I also began offering individual one-on-one sessions in addition to my usual round of "Choosing A Kindergarten" Nights at many local preschools.

I was awed when my chats inspired a group of strollermoms to launch a fundraising booster club years ahead of the completion of their new school, and another group asked me to come back and teach them how to transform their lackluster neighborhood fixer-upper school. I had goose-bump moments speaking to a class of Early Childhood Education teachers about why, really, we teach, and questioning what, in the end, are we really trying to teach our children, our next generation of citizens, and how together, with collaboration and parent participation, we have this amazing opportunity to not only connect with, but inspire our children, our communities, and shape our future.

On top of this I was waging letter-writing campaigns to our local school board members fighting the good fight against budget cuts, teacher pink slips, losing our Ast Principals (we lost some of them in the end but not without a fight), speaking out in local town halls and local e-blasts, while at the same time helping to establish our school's new by-laws and next year's operating budget, as well as creating our monthly school newsletter, and performing all the myriad tasks I do for our little school.

By the time early June rolled around, I was exhausted.

I put down my sword. I relinquished my 2 -year stint as creator/editor of the school newsletter. I let go of the grant I was overseeing when I realized we couldn't complete the project within the grant's deadline due to yet another ridiculous roadblock with District Facilities flagged by our by-the-book new principal. I stopped trying to wedge in our Professional Development sessions, budgeted for by parents and pre-approved by the former principal, when repeatedly faced with an unyielding Scheduler, um, calendar. I was simply unwilling to become not just next year's Room Parent, but a "Grade-wide Parent" (here we go holding up the school again) to compensate for the lack of volunteers on the other side of the social-economic divide, meanwhile facing either a teacher we all wanted fired or another one who hadn't taught 2nd grade in almost 5 years and having no say in the matter.

Optimistic, yet exhausted, I Just...



Even still, with all this investment of time and effort and resources, it's hard to just walk away.

My heart, my passion…my very blood is coursing through that school. I have been part of the collective vision and outreach of that little school since my daughter was in preschool, circa 2006!

But when the call came that last week in June dangling this amazing opportunity for Miss S, that's what we did. We made the choice to walk away. 

To try something new.

I can't imagine what I'm going to be doing with all this free time….

I just keep reminding myself, all is unfolding in divine perfection.

This moment is fine.

Don’t need to see the whole map.... 

Got 4 more days to float....


Jerri said...

SO good to see you here again. And, as you know, I'm anxious to see what unfolds in the space.

Blessings be.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

This is an excellent example of MOVING ON, LETTING GO, versus giving up.

Love it.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Blesings to you and your family as you move forward.