Saturday, January 26, 2008

"The interview"

We're applying to a couple private schools for Lucas. It's been an interesting experience all around for Kevin and I to tour these schools, meet current and prospective parents, and discuss the whole public vs. private school topic with friends.

And of course there's Lucas, who knows nothing about any of this. He assumes he will go to our local public school, aka "the school across the street", and there's a chance he will.

Last weekend I took Lucas to the playground of one of the private schools we're applying to. It was suggested by the school, to get them used to the place before his "interview". As we were driving home from the playground I asked if he wanted to come back with me on Friday, since "I would be meeting with some other parents". He could play on the playground and in one of the classrooms with some other kids. (Yes, it's a slight twist on the truth, but I decided it would be better than, "We're coming back on Friday so strangers you don't know can take you in another room with 9 other kids you don't know. They'll observe you, ask you to perform some academic tasks, and ask you questions, to see how smart/charming/curious/whatever you are, and to see if you will be one of the 25-30% of kids who they will deem worthy of paying the price of a new car every year so you can benefit from their school.)

I admit, I have been somewhat anxious about the interview since I learned that it's part of the admissions process for private schools. Lucas can be shy and is not usually willing to off with someone else, especially someone new. Like a lot of kids, it takes him a while to open up in new situations. And again like all kids, sometimes wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. And with an interview starting at 9, I thought about how I would have to wake up Lucas, who sometimes he sleeps in till 8 or so and DOES NOT like to be woken up.

So all week I have been feeding Lucas propaganda about our "fun" Friday. In the morning, playing with other kids then, and after that, going to work with me to have lunch and 'work" (for some reason, Lucas loves to come to my office).

Yesterday Lucas woke up before 7 and was fairly chipper as well. As we drove to the school in the pouring rain, I told him he wouldn't be playing outside when we got there because it was too wet, he agreed. The only coaching I did for Lucas was "Listen to the grownups and remember to share with the other kids," which is what I usually tell him before we go on play dates, etc.

We got to the school and we went straight to the parents waiting room, which was actually the tech lab. We were the first ones there and Lucas was unusually adventurous and wandered around the room on his own.

My jaw practically dropped when I saw the second child and parent walk in. The poor girl looked very uncomfortable, all dressed for a holiday party -- patent leather black Mary Janes, red/black plaid dress, bows, and a red coat. I looked at Lucas in his pull-on pants, pj top under a sweatshirt. My mind went back to what I've heard about "snooty parents" at some of the private schools. Luckily, my mind was at ease as the other kids/parents trickled in - normal looking parents with normal kids with wet pants, rain boots, t-shirts, and typical kid clothes.

An adult came up and started talking with us, then asked Lucas if he was ready to go play some games. Surprisingly, he said yes and went away with the woman.

There were parent volunteers in the room with us to answer any questions we might have. I sat with some other moms and we all chatted. Contrary to what I've heard about some parents of private schools, the other prospective parents at my table were super nice and very interesting: a bird biologist, social worker working with at-risk-youth, and a stay-at-home mom.

However, in my focus on getting Lucas out the door that morning, I forgot one thing -- that I was probably going to be observed as well. While the three other women chatted while knitting super-impressive handiwork (the bird biologist was doing some needle felting to make, what else, a goldfinch), I just sat there with my idle hands and talked (observer notes: mom cannot multi-task and is not as crafty as the other moms). At one point I looked in my bag to see if I had something to read, but I just pulled out a handful of old parking tickets (observer notes: mom has racked up a collection of parking violations). I shoved them back in my bag and decided it was safer to just talk.

After the two hours were up, the kids came running back into the room. Lucas was all smiles as he told me that he had fun, and had a juice box AND graham crackers.

On the car ride on the way to my office, I gently questioned him on what went on in the other room. It was all pretty much what they told us would happen - drawing, circle time, puzzles, etc. Lucas shared some anecdotes with me:
  • "After I drew a picture, one lady was very funny. She asked me to give it to her so I did. Then she gave it back to me and said, "Now give it back to me and put your hands on your head," I did it, but isn't that so silly?"
  • "One man showed me a picture of the sun and he said, tell me what you see in the picture, but don't say the word 'sun'. So I said 'shiny'. And he said 'good job'. Why do you think he didn't want me to say 'sun'?
  • "First the man asked me to read some words. Then he asked me to spell some words, like 'dog', 'cat'. Then I showed him that I can spell 'Yoda'. He thought that was funny.
It sounds like he had fun and it went well. So if we happen not to get into this school, I'm sure it will be because of me (admissions feedback: Son would have been a perfect fit, but unfortunately, we can't accept non-crafty moms with excessive unpaid parking tickets.)

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