Friday, November 2, 2012

In gratitude for our Catholic school

A few weeks ago we had our autumn parent conference with Henry's teacher. This year, Mike and I were both able to go, which was wonderful. As we were waiting for Hank's teacher to finish up with another parent, we wandered around the hallway immediately outside the room and saw lots of adorable art work. I love the Catholic spin on everything they have the kids do there. There was a featured prayer, one written by each child, in honor of the month of the rosary, complete with drawing of Mary. Lists of things they were grateful for, etc.

When it was our turn, we headed in. I had met Henry's new teacher before, but Mike hadn't. She came from a nearby Catholic school that closed last year after being open for more than 100 years. This is part of a sad reality in our area. I know that we're lucky in that where we live (western New York) there are more Catholic churches and schools than you can shake a stick at. However, over the past 10 years, there have been SO many church and school consolidations/closings. I'm sure this is prevalent throughout the northeast.

The main reason is population shift. Not as many people live in this area compared to 100 years ago, and those that do have moved to the suburbs in droves. The original, gorgeous churches (complete with schools) in this area were built in the cities. There simply wasn't enough families registered to keep all of them open, especially with the high cost of maintenance in these historic structures. One of the local suburbs recently built a new church to accommodate their burgeoning congregation, but alas, it is modern, and well, sort of ugly. :) It seems to be the way of things these days. But I'm happy that the parish is thriving.

Our parish school closed 3 years or so ago after being open for nearly 110 years. Hank's school is affiliated with another parish that is very close to where we live. Including our parish, 3 Catholic schools have closed recently right in or on the border of our town. Too much competition for not enough families willing to pay to send their kids to Catholic school. I will say though that with the public schools majorly cutting back (laying off teachers, cutting programs, etc) it seems to me that there is renewed interest in the Catholic schools even from non-Catholics, which is helping attendance.

At any rate, Henry's school picked up some students and teachers from this most recent one to close, and the school seems to be doing well. I'm happy, since I obviously want them to stay in business.

Henry's teacher is very experienced, and very laid back. We chatted with her comfortably, and it's clear that Henry is thriving both academically and socially. I worry because Henry is a bit of a shy child (he reminds me so much of myself in this way) but she assured us that she never would have known he was shy if we hadn't said anything, that he just integrates so well with his classmates. That made me feel good.

She said two things that struck a resonance with me. As we were chatting about Hank, she said:

"He's doing so well here, I'm so glad that you sent him here."

Me too! I thought that was just such a lovely way that she put that.

As we were finishing up, I asked her about her old school closing and how she was transitioning to her new environment. She said how much she liked the school, and how it emphasized traditional academics and values:

"They focus on the important things here academically: reading, math, handwriting, science and social studies. And God. God is the most important thing here."

Since she had come from another school and had many years of teaching to compare with, her comment really stuck with me.

This morning, Henry forgot his gym clothes, so I dropped them off in the office on my way to work. The principal was there talking to one of the secretaries when I arrived. They immediately asked me about Henry's birthday (which is Tuesday) because one of the kids had told them that Henry's birthday was tomorrow. I mean, the principal KNOWS my kid and cares about getting his birthday right in the daily announcements, and it's not because he's seeing her all the time for disciplinary reasons. :) I was so impressed by that. This is a nice place, a very worthwhile investment in Henry's future.

And I can't wait to see Anne in the adorable girls uniform when she starts kindergarten. :)

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