As a follow-up to our 4K and K registration post, Carousel shares her experience touring Midvale Elementary School.
I have heard such great things about Midvale Elementary School. It’s innovative: cutting-edge principal and teachers who work collaboratively and out of the box. It’s uniting: high parent involvement and a strong parent/teacher organization; a school garden on the property that both student and members of the neighborhood care for. It’s diverse: the student body is 36% Hispanic, 16% Black, 11% Asian, 6% multi-racial. Plus, it’s a SAGE school, meaning it has a large percentage of low-income children but has smaller class sizes because of this. And, for the kicker!—Midvale is now a dual-language school. Parents can opt for classes where both English and Spanish are being spoken and taught.
My husband Tim is sold on dual immersion. He loves the idea of Cass learning a new language at such a young age, especially in an immersion setting (compared to the sleep-inducing language classes we all had in high school). Tim also likes that this is a new program for Madison schools. He believes Midvale will garner more resources and innovation than other schools to help ensure dual immersion’s success.
I am not as sure. Everything I heard about dual immersion is great, and I love the idea in theory. Yes, this is the time when children’s brains are most open to another language. Yes, Cass will be close to bilingual by middle school. Yes, the curriculum is the same as in all other Madison classrooms, so there will be no loss in substance of her education. Yes, Yes, Yes. But other realities of the program scared me. No, the teacher would not speak to parents in English because the teacher only spoke in Spanish for the majority of the day; No, I don’t know Spanish (beyond the cursory that I know from living in Los Angeles for part of my life); No, I can’t help Cass with homework if it’s in Spanish.
And, with new bilingual teachers replacing English-only teachers, and a brand new principal, I was worried that the vitality and community spirit I had heard so much about at Midvale might be gone.
So much built up, before Tim and I even entered the school.
Visiting the school was exciting! The hallways were filled with student art in bright colors and signs reminding you to be quiet in the hallway, don’t run, and treat others as you would like to be treated. Inside the classrooms there were maps and posters, calendars and dates, math workbooks and beginning reading books. The world was wide open, and it was overwhelming to think that Cass could be here soon discovering the magic of learning. It is an awesome moment when you can envision your child’s future and possibilities.
As for the school and program itself, we liked it overall. The classrooms themselves had lots of teachers and support staff. It seemed like every kindergarten class of 18 kids had at least 3 adults in the classroom with them, helping out the lead teacher in various ways. Very impressive! Our tour guide, Midvale’s learning resource director Mary Kay, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Students kept running up to her to giver her hugs. But, we didn’t spend much time within each class, and when we did stop in the dual immersion classes, I didn’t understand what the teacher was saying. One class was reading a book called “The Carousel” (but that title was in Spanish). Mary Kay tried to get me to tell the teacher that my name was Carousel. But, instead of saying “My name is Carousel,” I said, “Yo soy Carousel” (“I am a Carousel.”). To which the teacher look at me with a very quizzical look. Un-huh, this is just what I was fearing.
Other things I loved about the school: the art class (could this be the greatest art teacher in the district? They were learning about Andy Warhol and drawing self-portraits. So cool!); the gym and the great climbing wall; the community/school garden; the 45 minute lunchtime (vs. 30 minutes at other schools). And Mary Kay told us they go on field trips about once a month. I don’t know if she’s exaggerating, but if she isn’t, that’s pretty great.
The new principal was certainly enthusiastic for dual immersion classes. She gave a bit of a hard sell, and you could tell she was confident in the success of the program, even to put-down other Madison schools.
So, now what? Tim and I are scheduled to visit the open-classroom program at Lincoln Middle School this week and then our other neighborhood school, Van Hise Elementary, next week. Stay tuned!
(By the way—I would like to officially blame my older sister Jodi for my failure to know Spanish. As the younger sister of a brainy, perfect student, I disliked being in Jodi’s shadow. “I have high expectations from Jodi’s sister,” a math teacher told me. So, when Jodi choose to study Spanish in 6th grade, and I had the option of taking French—with the French teacher who never met my brilliant, perfect sister Jodi—I jumped at it. Some good speaking French does me now. Thanks a lot Aunt Jodi!)
Is your child in a dual-immersion program? Does your child attend Midvale? We’d love to hear what you (and your child) think of it!