A Public School in Annandale

"Americans think the nation’s public schools are troubled, just not the public schools their kids attend." This is the first item on Brian Langley's "When Talking Education: Five Lessons to Inform Conversations". This past school year, I could not really relate to this issue first hand since my son was attending a private Catholic school. This coming school year is going to be different. My son is transferring to a public school, Mason Crest Elementary School, "Home of the Tigers". "Tigers" is already a good selling point for my son since big cats always capture his undivided attention. 

Mason Crest Elementary School
Assistant Principal Diane Kerr and Principal Brian Butler
Photo copied from Mason Crest Elementary School

Transferring school is momentous. I transferred school when I was in grade school. I spent the first three years at Centro Escolar University and the next three at Quiapo Parochial School. I could still remember how challenging fourth grade was but I managed since I found a welcoming home in my new classroom at Quiapo. With a change in school, everything would be different: classmates, teachers, building, bathroom, not to mention the fact that every grade level came with new lessons even without transferring to a different school. In my case, even the schedule was dramatically changed. Quiapo had double shifts and I was assigned to the afternoon section. These changes were of importance and should not be underestimated.

Meryl Ain recently wrote in the Huffington Post, "9 Tips for Parents If Your Child Is Changing Schools":
1. It is normal for both you and your child to be anxious about entering a new school, but if you have concerns, please don't express them to your child. Express confidence and optimism about his/her ability to meet the new challenges.
2. Look for opportunities for your child to meet his/her classmates over the summer. Check with the school principal, PTA, religious and social organizations and other groups to find connections.
3. If your child has special needs, such as a learning disability or food allergy, work with the new school as far in advance as possible to determine placement and to line up services and support.
4. Keep the spark of learning alive during the summer. Students can lose from one to three months of learning during the summer, so plan to keep your child engaged by encouraging reading, word games, math and nature activities. Simply cooking and baking with kids can help develop math, reading, and science skills.
5. Call the PTA or PTO president and introduce yourself. Parent organization leaders are in a good position to share information and issues about the new school with you. Ask how you can contribute your skills and interests. Getting actively involved in your child's new school benefits you and your child! Research indicates that the more involved parents are, the more successful their own children will be.
6. Know the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your children's teachers, principal, and school nurse. By all means, contact them if you have questions or concerns.
7. Become familiar with your school and school district websites, and check them for calendar changes, meeting announcements and minutes, news, policies and procedures, and other information.
8. Check your mail for the publication of the annual calendar/directory. Keep it in an accessible place.
9. Find out how your school communicates important information to parents and then be alert to those messages. Is it by automated phone message, e-mail blasts, electronically through systems such as Parent Portal, newsletters, snail-mail, or in your kids' backpacks?
The above are indeed helpful tips. My wife and I have visited Mason Crest Elementary School several times. Diane Kerr, the assistant principal, sat down with us the first time we expressed interest in sending our son to her school. Last week, my wife and I also met in person the principal, Brian Butler. Both were very open to making my son's transition in their school as smooth as possible. We were pleasantly surprised when Mr. Butler offered to meet our son by paying us a visit in our home. This way, my son would meet them in a much familiar territory. So both Mr. Butler and Ms. Kerr looked at their schedule to see where they could fit a home visit. They did. Both visited us yesterday morning and my son was happy and excited to meet both of them. He was showing them a book he made about animals and gave them a tour of various photos from zoos and animal sanctuaries. My younger daughter was also excited although she kept mixing up the principal's name. She kept calling him Mr. Dudley (from the book "Jeremy Bean St. Patrick's Day"):

Jeremy Bean in front of the school principal, Mr. Dudley
Above copied from "Too Busy for TV: Weekend Reads"
Jeremy Bean, the main character in this story, was quite shy and a bit scared of the school principal, Mr. Dudley. It was only later in the story that Jeremy discovered how kind and reassuring Mr. Dudley was.

My daughter might have been correct though. So far, my son has received kind attention from Mr. Butler. And I think he is quite happy that both principals took time from their schedule to visit us. They even invited him to visit the school before the school year starts. We shall see how my son copes with the change. Who knows, my son might even learn and do the "Mr. Butler Dance":