“bad” school

I lived in Michigan for 2 years and in that time my son started Kindergarten at the local state school.  He loved riding to school and back on an American yellow school bus.  He also loved his Kindy teacher; she was lively and fun.  🙂  The school he went to was in a low-socioeoconomic area and did look old from the outside but inside it had been freshened up with colour.

It was in Michigan that I first encountered the “where are you sending your child to school?” question.  My children were obviously too young for this type of question to be asked when we were living in Canada, and I keep wondering if this is as common in Canada now too?  There were many kids in this area of Michigan that were driven (by parent) to private schools; we were living in a well-off/lake-side community.  I remember feeling like I had made a school/parenting-mistake when my neighbours grilled me about my school choice.  It was then that I started reading, learning and talking to other parents about schools and the pressures that some parents feel to put their children in private schools.  It was also then that I realised and saw how a community could be fragmented by school-choice. 

Neighbours snubbed other neighbours and belittled them just because they decided to not put their children in private schools.  “Can you not afford it?” or “You do know that all the poor kids go to that school?” or “Your setting your child up to fail in the future!” – all statements that I heard from some of the neighbours!  Luckily there were a few open-minded parents on my street who had kids that went to that school and they were very happy with the school and their kid’s education.

Fast-forward a couple of years and we’re now living in Australia, my original home, the place that I completed most of my schooling.  Australia, the community-driven, social-minded and mostly public-run country that I had idealised for years and years during very, very cold Ontario and Michigan winters!  We move into our first Aussie home and start to get to know the neighbours and one of the first questions I hear is “where are you sending your child to school?”…..the local school….”oh, where are you sending them for high school?  You better start thinking about that now because the local High School is BAD!”  What?  Really?  The sad point is that I hear this a lot and have heard it more and more in the past few years.  I did my first teaching professional-experience at this local school and I didn’t think it was that “bad”, I did think that the hours should be changed (and supposedly they’re looking at changing that now).

What’s the problem here?  I can’t help but wonder if this is not solely the schools fault.  Imagine, you are told over and over that you’re bad….well, it would be pretty hard to change EVERYONE’s perception of that right?  Well, I think that’s what’s going on here with this particular school.  My argument is that if we STOP putting OUR local school down and start sending our GOOD kids to it then maybe we can CHANGE perspective!!!!  Of course, who knows, the pressure might be so great that in 3 years I’ll be sending my kid to some expensive private school; you never know!  🙂

5 comments on ““bad” school

  1. I can only speak for what is happening in Alberta. There was a growing movement towards school choice. Most school divisions addressed it by closing boundaries which only angered some people. Choice exists in a very unusual way. We have a parallel Catholic, public system. it is not parochial like in the US so it is fully funded and follows the provincial curriculum. I see little evidence that is better or worse than what we refer to as public. The alternative is a growing home school community and some private schools.

    Elke, your are right when you say choose your community school, support it, and you can build something good for children. I think the way we organize decision-making from afar is counter to that thinking. We need to find ways to engage all of the community in their school.


  2. Leslie says:

    Elke, you will be relieved to hear that, at least in the Durham District Board, there is very little of what you mentioned going on. Of course, there are private schools in the area, but they seem to be for people with exceptional incomes. Public Education is the way to go. There really is very little choice. The only grumblings I hear is because of the schools strict boundary rules and this is usually because of atheletics and/or the students wanting to be with their friends. Having worked in many schools in the DDSB both elementary and high school I find the schools with the lowest social economic back grounds have been the best schools to work in. Mostly the staff have been very deticated to the students and making sure they have the best education possible. They truly work together as a team and become almost family like. I personally think that whether a school is good or bad depends on the staff and administrators at the school. Unfortunately right now, there is a battle going on between the Ontario Government and the Educators. We will see what the fall brings.


    • elketeaches says:

      Hi Leslie. Thanks for your post. That’s good to read because I was sure this wasn’t going on in your area. The boundaries are a hard one for friends. Right now, assuming nothing changes in the next few years, a lot of my son’s friends will be going to a different school because of boundaries (assuming not going to private schools). I’m not sure, but if friendships were really strong I would actually consider moving home, ah maybe not! lol

      That’s interesting what you say about the low-socioeconomic schools and the staff relationships. I went to a low-socioeconomic school for my last professional experience and I LOVED it. The kids were fun and the teachers and staff seemed super friendly, helpful and they shared! I WANT to work there. 🙂

      (Hey, wouldn’t that be cool if I could do my next prac in Ontario? I don’t think I can, but oh wow that would be so awesome!)


  3. JCready says:

    Interesting reading your comments. I believe the social and economical status of schools has a lot to do with peoples choices these days, and I think it has evolved this way. It used to be we all sent our kids to the local public system school. Then, it was just “what religion are you”,protastant or catholic etc. We never thought about private schools. Probably because we didn’t have the money to send them, it wasn’t even a consideration. My kids survied quite nicely in the local school and the differences never ocurred to me until my son told me he wanted to go to a downtown school. I immediately said “That is a Bad school” but we came to an agreement that he could go as long has he kept his marks up and he could stay out of trouble. I was very concerned, but we soon found out there were some great teachers and a lot of great kids too. All worked out well. Now if we had lived in Metropolitan Toronto or in some parts of the US where they have metal bars in the halls in the event of a lock down, would I have sent my kids there? Good School or Bad School?.


  4. Naomi says:

    Hi Elke- thanks so much for finding my blog and referring me to yours. It is nice to find a kindred spirit across the globe who is deeply thinking about these topics. I hope that Australia manages to avoid the rut that we have found ourselves in here in the U.S. – during an economic downturn, “we cut off our nose to spite our face,” by cutting education funding, while expecting the schools to do more with less. While resources are scarce, it seems people scramble to the schools with more, instead of staying and advocating for more where they are. Sure we all want whats best for our own children, but in 20-30 years, what will be left of free public education that is accessible to everyone that isn’t divided by social class/race/etc?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and good luck with your own parenting/school decisions in the future!


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