The other day my seven year old had a dentist appointment at 10:00 am. Her elementary school starts at 9:30. To make it easy, we went to the dentist and then I drove her in to school late. I walked her in the office, knowing I would have to sign her in or check her in and she’d get a late slip to go to class.
When we walked in to the office, the secretary gave us a sly smile and as I started to explain that my daughter had had a dentist appointment, she interrupted me with “I know I already called your house and spoke with your husband.” First of all, I was stunned that she knew who we were, just by walking in the office and second, I was amazed that the school called home because my daughter did not show up in her seat that morning. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am delighted, but still shocked nonetheless. That is exactly what you would want to happen, right? If for some horrible reason your child did not make it from your car door or from the bus to their classroom one morning, you would want people to notice and let you know.
I am shocked because this is our first year at this school. We are used to attending a large kindergarten through eighth grade school in an even larger urban school district. After two full years attending that school, I did not know the secretaries names, nor did they know my name, or my face for that matter. Over the two years, there were few occasions when I had to visit the office, but because I was never greeted warmly, or even greeted at all, I simply tried to stay away from the office. Eventhough it was the main office, the frontline for parents and the public, the place people go when they visit the school, the staff always acted like you were interrupting a conference call with Bill Gates when they walked in.
In contrast, the first time I walked into the elementary office here on the island, I was there to fill out forms, etc. because we were enrolling. I had talked with the secretary about three days previous to let her know we were coming in. When she warmly greeted us, I told her why we were here and she asked us our last name. When I replied with Pells, she quickly spouted back my daughter’s name, in an “oh yes, we’ve been sitting here expecting you all day way.” I almost fell over. Because, like I said, at our previous school, the secretaries wouldn’t know me from Jane on the street.
And, yes, this is what I wanted out of a school for my children. I wanted them to attend a school that had a bit of a rural edge and was small enough to be a community where students, parents and staff knew one another. I love that the school my daughter attends is only kindergarten through fourth grade and I love that I feel like I am sending her to a little elite private school, when in fact she is attending a public school.
So, this is what it is important to me, it is something that matters, a good education, in a small community. So, when I miss my larger house and the larger city where I used to live, I remember why we chose to downsize, we were getting rid of the things that didn’t matter, so that we could afford the things that did.