Friday, December 12, 2014

The Trick of Memory

(Or:  "Tell a Lie Enough Times and you Start to Believe It")

For as long as I can remember, I have been called "The Smart One in the Family," and I convinced myself in my head that if I am getting top grades, I must like school, and I must have had an overall positive experience from the beginning of my traditional education, in elementary school.

Today began the process of scouting elementary schools in Jerusalem, toward Raphaela entering First Grade next Fall.  Having already consulted with many parents in my area who have daughters slightly older than mine, I constructed a list of my first and second choices.  This morning I went to the Open House for my second choice program; second only because it would mean driving every morning and sitting in traffic, as opposed to walking down the street for ten minutes..

My primary question for Raphaela, without imposing my own skewed views on the subject, is whether she would do better socially in a mixed class or an all-girls class. I have heard cogent arguments for both sides.  As well, the choice of the vein of Zionist Nationalist Religious education (as opposed to another stream) also has extreme implications on our family life.

When I walked into the building, it felt like...Jerusalem.  Old Jerusalem.  That translates to a dingy exterior, small-ish classrooms with no locker space to keep books and back packs, and those Israeli tiles that they used in the 1960's, the ones that are brown and speckled and look dirty even when they are bleached and spotless.  The principal and the teachers seemed committed and enthusiastic, and I appreciated their program of supplementing - "challenging" - children who seem to be bored in a particular subject.

I did not like the little speech I got about the detriments of bi-lingualism, and how it's better not to "confuse" children.  Quite the contrary, I have read study after study that states unequivocally that children who speak at least two languages fluently have a more flexible brain, and can absorb and process information more quickly. I also did not hesitate to point out that when this generation of  computer-literate and generally life-savvy children hit the job market in their 20's, the person with the better English will win the game.

Then it hit me, as I was observing these kids and examining their displayed art objects, this little voice in my head said, "You have been lying to yourself all these years!  You did well in school because you worked damn hard, but you had a difficult social life and low self-esteem.  You always felt like an outsider, you most absolutely did not like school!"

Joining the chorus was a voice even more surprising, that of a mature anxious mother, "Some part of you does not want Raphaela to grow up, and the idea of her starting First Grade scares you to death.  You are afraid to make the wrong choice, you are afraid she will not have a good group of friends, you are afraid that she will miss out because you did not grow up in Israel through this same educational system..  Will my daughter be happy?!"

I left the school premises with the information I needed, and a whole new set of nightmares to keep me awake.

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