With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, it’s a logical time to think about what I’m thankful for this year when it comes to New York City schools.
This is a personal list. I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of broader issues such as school reopenings, vaccine mandates, masking kids, or the announced end of Gifted & Talented programming.
The below are five things that I, personally, am thankful happened this year. Please share your own list in the Comments!
- I am grateful for my daughter’s high school placement — and that, even with how needlessly stressful the process was last year and how complicated it is every year, we in NYC, at least, have choices.
As I wrote in June in Choosing My Daughter’s High School To Please Mayor DeBlasio:
I have three kids. They are extremely different. My oldest likes learning and likes school. He attended a Specialized High School which was a good fit for him. He got good grades, participated in multiple extracurricular activities, made some wonderful friends he is still in touch with today, and went off to college. My middle child loves learning and hates school. He attended a Specialized High School where he got good grades and made some wonderful friends. But he also wanted to learn more and faster than the school was offering. So he left in Junior year to homeschool himself. My daughter likes school and is more or less OK with learning, as long as it doesn’t get too much in the way of her extracurricular activities and socializing. She will be attending the school that is the best fit for her.
It is a school that I picked without giving a damn what Mayor de Blasio (or the School Chancellor, or a teen advocacy group proposing impossible numbers, or people on Facebook, or friends, family and neighbors) might think of my choices of my child. I strongly recommend that everyone reading this do the same.
- I am grateful for all the people who helped me get my daughter placed in the appropriate math class at her new school. And I am thankful to all the people who stymied me, because now I know how to help others in the same position:
After two weeks of spinning in a perfect loop of nobody knowing anything while assuring me that it wasn’t their department and I should address the correct department even if they couldn’t tell which department that was, I approached some people I know. “They say there’s a rule which prevents them from placing your daughter in Geometry without a Regents exam in Algebra 1?” I was told, “Make them show you which rule that is.” It was the best piece of advice I received throughout the process. The next time I reached out to the NY Education Department Office of Curriculum & Instruction and to the Board of Regents (cc’ing elected officials), I asked that exact question…. The process never became transparent, but I do hope that what I went through will be able to help others in a similar situation. Start with “make them show you the rule….” and go from there…
- I am grateful for remote parent-teacher conferences.
As I gushed in Are Remote Parent-Teacher Conferences Here To Stay?
Technical glitches are easier to fix than the frenzy of trying to canvass a single building on foot in the space of a few hours. It cuts down on the need to find babysitting for younger siblings. It removes travel time which, for some families, can add multiple hours to the process. Working parents can log in from the job. Yes, technological equity is still an issue (for which we ask you to consider donating equipment to our mutual aid website), but I still believe remote conferences increase accessibility overall and should continue even after the pandemic ends.
- I am grateful that my son’s homeschooling endeavour seems to be going well.
Exactly a year ago in Whatever You Do For Your Child You’ll Be Wrong: Why I Gave My Son Permission to Drop Out of High School, I confessed:
We allowed him to file his Letter of Intent to Homeschool with the city. He’s on his own now. We’re on our own now. He’s empowered and confident. We’re conflicted and terrified. In the end, it’s his life. And, as he said, “If I’m going to make a terrible mistake, isn’t now better than later?”
“No,” my husband said, flatly.
My husband and I see things differently. We both want what’s best for our son. There’s a Russian expression: It’s not evening yet. We won’t know if we did the right thing until whenever that might be.
It’s still not evening yet. We still don’t know what the final result of his dropping out of school will be. And yet, in the short term, here are the benefits I see: He made dozens of phone calls to find a school that would let him take Advanced Placement tests. He set up his own curriculum, chose his own coursework, organized his own study time, filed his own paperwork, and spent weeks fighting the Department of Education bureaucracy – all on his own. Those skills are arguably more valuable than the slow, shallow learning he felt he was getting in the classroom. Oh, and he also set up a mutual aid website for families who need remote learning devices. And wrote a post that went viral and became NYST’s most read one ever. (Am I jealous? Just a little. After all, I’ve been writing professionally for over 30 years. He’s been writing professionally for… over 30 minutes.)
- I am grateful that Eric Adams will be the next Mayor of New York City.
Full disclosure: Adams was not my first choice in the June primary. But I did rank him. Because there were many worse options.
Undeniably, my gratitude over the incoming mayor is tied to my relief that the current one is going. I chronicled Bill de Blasio’s tenure in a post entitled Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: De Blasio’s Education Legacy.
I also speculated about What Mayor Eric Adams Might Mean For NYC Schools. I talked about universal dyslexia screening, charter school expansion, and his (seeming) support for accelerated education at all grade levels.
- If it’s a simple matter of “unpausing” Bill De Blasio’s edicts (since nothing was officially enshrined into law, it was just announced as a fait accompli), Adams might do that his first week in office and be done with it, which would give the Department of Education enough time to restore middle-school screens, set high-school admissions criteria, and even possibly revert to last year’s G&T teacher recommendation methods, which had many, many flaws, but at least kept the programs alive.
- If, however, it’s a matter of drafting new laws and battling opposition to get them passed, the fact is, education is not Adams’ priority. He isn’t against accelerated programs, but it’s doubtful he would dive into fighting for them ahead of issues that he has indicated are his priorities, like public safety, congestion pricing, fair housing, and reforming the police department.
So what I’m saying is, we’ll need to wait and see. My fifth pick isn’t so much immediate gratitude, as it is hope that I’ll be grateful for Mayor Adams… next year.
How about you? What are you thankful for? Let us know!