September 1 11

“Why are some tuition dollars worth more than other tuition dollars?”—said over overpriced tea.

A funny thing happens as soon as the crisp Fall air starts to roll in, making our mornings nippy and our evenings darker and cooler. And no, I’m not talking about the static electricity that has arrived and will continue to plague my hair through the end of May. Oh no. I mean, of course, like the static, this funny thing is not really all that funny at all. As kids in Ontario head back to school the day after labor day (read: in 5 days. Eep!), mothers of children in private Jewish day schools wait impatiently by their mailboxes for the admit-to-class cards. These golden tickets are both proof that you have written out all the post-dated tuition checks for the year (my poor, poor bank account is crying real tears this week) and they are the all-important indicators of whether or not your campaigning for the RIGHT class and the RIGHT teacher has paid off. Along with some vital emergency contact information, there is a card with a number on it.

The number, to parents like me, is a number. Oh, Isabella is in Room 208. Right then, let’s move on to laundry and dinner and school supplies and the rules of Mah Jong.

The number—to other parents—means something entirely different. Jewish mothers, by nature, know that the fruit of their loins are unique snowflakes. Now, I really don’t want to go and single out the Jewish mothers, as I’m sure this is true across the board of many different cultures and faiths. Mothers truly and fully believe that their children are the best, the smartest, the nicest, the most-like-to-succeed. Because of this, it’s important for mothers to make sure their wee snowflakes don’t fall through any cracks. This requires a tremendous amount of time and work; this business of figuring out who is the most desirable teacher and who are the most desirable kids.

A friend admitted to only agreeing to be on a certain school committee if she could hand-pick the classes her daughters would be in.

A friend admitted to befriending influential people in the school to get what she wanted.

A friend admitted to threatening to pull her children out of the school if they didn’t get placed with xxx and xxx.

A friend admitted to fabricating certain special needs of her child to get the room number she wanted.

See what I mean? This is WORK. This takes TIME. This takes a certain kind of craftiness and ruthlessness I don’t possess. I’m not saying they are wrong; many of these moms are very dear friends. I just, well, don’t do this.

For me, at the end of the year, I filled out a friend-request form for each of my children. I asked for each of my three children to be placed with one of their friends. That’s about as involved as I get in this process. This does not mean that I love my children any less.

When I opened our admit-t0-class cards early this week, I looked at the numbers, I shot off some “hey, what class is your kid in?” emails, and filed the cards away in a place I—hopefully—will remember. But the Jewish mothers? THEY ARE AFLUTTER! Did you get into the right class? Did your kids get the right teachers? I don’t even know who the teachers are! They didn’t give me names…they gave me NUMBERS. And unless Isabella’s teacher’s name is Room 208, I will find out on Tuesday who her teachers are. (Apparently, though, she didn’t get into the RIGHT class.)

It is naive of me to think that the school spends time and energy to place each student with each teacher based on strengths and weaknesses and skills and appropriateness? I mean, my $45,000 checks would certainly guess that to be the case.

Is there something I’m missing here? While I am spending time working and vacationing and spending as much time as I can with my kids…should I really be spending more time getting my daughter into the right first grade class? Is her life going to be LESS if she doesn’t have Mrs. Miller….whoever that is?

But maybe my friend is right. Maybe some tuition dollars ARE worth more than others.

I wonder what theirs is worth?

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  1. I also send the emails and make the calls. Truthfully, I want my kids to have NICE teachers and maybe know someone in class. We trust the teachers from last year and the administration to know my kids and make the right call. Gosh. I do hope my tuition cheques are rated highly. It seems some parents can get a *little* too involved.

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    That’s the thing. nice teachers and someone they know. Exactly. I have faith in the school that it will be fine. My experience…at the three different schools my children have gone to…that for the most part, it’s always FINE. My kids are fine. and happy.
    :)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Dana on September 1, 2011
  2. Who in the world has time to do all that? Or keep up with all that? AND WHO PRETENDS THEIR KID HAS A SPECIAL NEED TO GET IN A SPECIFIC CLASS? I don’t care if they’re Jewish, Methodist, Purple, or Vegetarian, that’s just WRONG.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jana A on September 1, 2011
  3. We don’t pay tuition. But oh boy do I see this at our school.
    When Matt started jk we got the good teacher (and she was amazing), and people actually asked me how I got in. Ummm … I did nothing.
    I care and I’m involved, and we go to some special meetings because my kid has (real) special needs. But, beyond that I have learned to trust that the team putting the classes together actually does take the time to look at all the options – not just look at the most involved parents.
    Maybe it’s different when you’re paying tuition, but from my experience, part of what makes them do certain things, and work with you as a parent, etc, is when you choose to work with them, and actually respect that there is more to class placements and teacher assignments than what you want – and it actually is about the needs of all the kids.
    Funny aside, in university I was a tour guide (I led class trips to places like Quebec) and I always found it bizarre that some parents would try to bribe me to let their kids choose the best place on the bus first. Like, really? You are offering me $50 so your kid can sit at the back and save seats for his friend? In grade 8?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Laural on September 1, 2011
  4. At my school, we spend HOURS looking at what is best for the kids and what will work and what might not and we do our best to create balanced classes where kids have friends but will still be able to learn.

    Sometimes parents perceive that one teacher is better than another. I think that they are wrong, most of the time. Just because a teacher puts on a good show for parents does not make them a great teacher. Sometimes just having been in the school for a long time gives the perception that you are a great teacher. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not.

    Parents make requests and we do our best to comply, but it doesn’t always work. However, our school is public. I think that makes it different.

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    Yes. EXACTLY! And sometimes THE teacher to get is a terrible fit for YOUR child…every kid is different and needs something else from a teacher or classroom or peer group. I don’t feel qualified to know…since I’m not an educator, yanno?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heather on September 1, 2011
  5. I don’t worry about this kind of thing. My son is in public school (2nd grade) and so far I’ve had a good experience with feeling like the teachers *like* my kid, care about his learning, and taylor his work to his skills. He is reading chapter books while other kids still read the more basic books, etc. I worry a bit that he might not be challenged to the level that he could in another school, but I figure that if he is exposed to the idea that learning is important at home and we work with him on doing the best he can, then he will be fine.

    And, I’ve got to say — O.M.G. $45,000. I cannot even imagine….

    [Reply]

    Comment by Laura on September 1, 2011
  6. Did I read the tuition amount correctly — is it really $45,000??

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    It’s probably a bit less. I think full tuition at their school works out to 14-and-change per kid.

    [Reply]

    Comment by PinkieBling on September 1, 2011
  7. This makes my brain hurt. I mean, I know teachers are different, but I wouldn’t say better. Maybe one is better for your kid than your friend’s kid. But that isn’t a fault of the teacher. Everyone has different learning styles.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kristabella on September 1, 2011
  8. Sorry Ali but that is just PLAIN WRONG. I’d like to think for all that, ahem, $$$$ – you’d be pretty much guaranteed good teachers all round. What’s this? A popularity contest? Those mothers obviously need something BETTER to do with their time – like a job perhaps. A respected teacher once told me that the biggest factor in a child’s success at ANY school is the support of the parents. To the CHILDREN. For the record, I pulled my kids out of private school because the education was substandard, there was too much bullying going on and the school did nothing about it and yes, there was THIS type of toxic parenting going on. You and your husband are great parents and provide the right kind of support to your kids and they’ll do well, wherever they’re placed. :)

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    I don’t think it’s wrong. I just think it’s different from what I do…does that make sense?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Heidi on September 1, 2011
  9. As always, it’s only a matter of perspective ;)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Larissa on September 1, 2011
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