As we had recently moved cities, the father and me had one important agenda – to find a good school for our very different children.We wanted a school that could (somehow?!) do justice to both our children – my last post( Click here to read -She sees all! He knows all! But do the Schools appreciate any?) having demonstrated just how different each little angel can be.
We had done our homework and had shortlisted a few schools. There was one oddball in that. My beautiful niece had suggested a website that listed ‘alternative’ schools (I’m not even going to try and define that term) and lo behold there just happened to be one such school in the vicinity.
Coming from a Montessori background and Peanut and Buttercup themselves having studied in that environment in their initial years, I was excited to consider this school. Since I was clearly biased, I decided to not share my enthusiasm with the father but present it in a very matter of fact way as another option in our consideration set for schools.
And so we set forth visiting our shortlisted schools. The first school we visited was a building with stilt parking and school buses were lined on that concrete parking. The reception was swanky and we were made to see a glossy presentation. I had heard their ‘customer service’ was great. Full marks on that. Thereafter we were taken on a short round of the school (even though we were looking for KG and Grade 1 admission, we were only shown senior classrooms) and back to the reception area. We were made to note the cctv cameras in all the corners.
We insisted on seeing the actual classrooms that our children would be sitting in and then were taken there. The classrooms were nicely designed with low tables and comfortable seating. But a teacher was ‘forcing’ a little KG girl to write. Then as we walked back to the parking area we saw the sports activity taking place on gym mattresses. To be fair to this school, it had a swimming pool and a basketball court. One could say it had everything, unfortunately just not what we were looking for. These things at best were frills but definitely not imperatives for our ideal school. Our takeaway was that little children had designated times to visit designated areas and the rest of the time was in their classroom. But what happened to being cognizant of ‘childhood’ and just being a child? How was that being channelized? We didn’t even bother asking that for fear of sounding cuckoo. Finally we were told that there is a special discount on fees and so we must register and pay the fees at that time as the next week that discount wouldn’t exist. We managed to get away muttering to give us a few hours to think about it. Mind you, weeks later I still get a message now and then from that school stating a special discount for me. My children must be brilliant or the father and I were just too smart in our interaction!
And we were off to the next school. This one was bigger in campus and in building size. It had an even posher office with air conditioning to boost. After filling up the customary form, we were made to wait for a really long time. No idea why (I asked but got no clear response). Since I didn’t want to jeopardize the admission, I twiddled my thumbs till they called us in along with other hopeful parents like us. Now there was a live presentation by a very articulate lady. So articulate that she rudely brushed aside a parent’s query! A few more queries and she had run out of patience! Majority of her presentation time was spent on explaining the fees and fee structure to us. In between we enquired on day excursions that the school took them on. She said we take the children to local supermarkets! As we were walking out of the reception we saw a bunch of cuties heading out for sports. They were being asked to walk in a straight line with a finger on their mouth!
I was never really sold on this type of school but the father was just plain unhappy. We would HAVE to choose between the devil and deep blue sea. These were our only options as other schools had class strength of 50 and above with 1 teacher. That was not ok by us.
A day later we went for the open house of the ‘alternative school’. At first we couldn’t even locate the school and when we did find it, we found it tucked away in the basement of a residential/ commercial building. As walked down, we saw large truck tyres strewn around. The father and I contemplated a u turn but were immediately taken in by the laughter and talks emanating from inside. We walked into a large and yet cozy environment and were taken around either by a teacher, a parent, a mother of a teacher or the founders who incidentally are also parents in that school. Each offering their thoughts and concepts about this school. The KG class was massive in size, it had no desk and no chairs but lots of mats, a little tent made out of dupattas with a cozy mattress, a little washing area with a tap and lots of unfinished wooden toys. The grade 1 class was smaller in size and instead of answering our queries they (parents and teachers) showed us what they did in class! Then we were taken for a presentation in one of the other classrooms, where other enamored parents like us were taken through the concept of such a school. As we all sat on the floor sipping hot cups of tea we discussed children, childhood and schooling. We definitely belonged here. And there was no discussion on fees. That did scare us a little bit. Since we loved the school, we didn’t want the fees to be a deterrent in not selecting this school. Later we asked one of the staff, who sat us down and explained the fees. Suffice to say and much to our surprise it was the lowest we had seen across the schools we visited. Apparently the parents and school sit down once a year and decide the school fees! This was far from being an elitist school but rather a community school that integrated every aspect of a child.
The old adage ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ couldn’t have been more appropriate in our search for schools.
We had found the school to match our ideology and honor our children’s diversity.
And with that our tryst with schools ended and instead of a forced choice, we chose a school we loved and one that our children are thoroughly enjoying now.
This school deserves its own post (and maybe more than 1) to do complete justice to it. That’s coming soon.