A few things we love about our daughter's school this year:
1. Every month, the principal hosts a coffee hour right after the start of school. The parents sit in an empty classroom with chairs in a circle, drink really good coffee (we're in Oregon, you know), and talk about whatever needs to be discussed.
2. After school, the kids play outside (if it's not too rainy) and the parents stand around talking, sometimes for over an hour like last Friday afternoon.
3. The "community" feel of this school is really amazing. We have yet to meet a parent who is not friendly and helpful.
4. Parents are very involved but not obsessively-involved in that "granola stepford-wife" way that results in quiet judgment and competitiveness among the parents. Yuck. Can't stand that.
5. In Beti's class, there are several other children of color, and the "room mother," is part of a transracial family. It's comforting to know I am not the only pink-skinned parent of a brown-skinned child.
6. The teacher this morning sent the kids to hang up their coats according to their skin color. She had a poster with about ten different colors of construction paper taped to it that she would point to and say "Whoever has beautiful skin this color can go hang up their coat." Diversity, diversity, diversity, understanding, understanding, understanding.
7. On the playground after school, we see the mom with the long salt-and-pepper hair who wears a "Peace" armband every day. The gawky, awkward, lumbering dad with the red-headed boy in clunky glasses who always is there every day for pick-up and drop-off. The adorable chubby boy and his spitting-image father who is the spitting image of this kid, my favorite character from Hook. The wasp-y looking mom whose hard exterior hides kind pragmatism (she rushed to help me one day when I lost Abe on the playground at a crowded event). The sprite of a black-haired, blue-eyed adoptee with artistic parents. On and on and on. Wonderful characters.
8. One morning this week, Beti's teacher had calmly brought an older kid into her classroom to have him write an essay for her about "What you did wrong out there and how you plan to do things differently next time." It was awesome, funny, and a little scary.
9. As soon as you walk into the classroom, you see a sign that says, "Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack ran so our children can fly." Even typing that, I get choked up, as I do every time I read it.
10. This one is the biggest of all. About two weeks into the school year, I sent a short email to all the parents in the class saying basically that Beti is new here, is still learning English, so if they or their kids notice any odd behavior, it's because she's getting used to things.
I've gotten nothing but support in response. It is blowing my mind. I haven't gotten even one bone-headed or intrusive question. I mean, seriously. Not one. Parents have written me emailed responses and have stopped me at the school to thank me for the email and tell me that they have talked to their kids about how they should be welcoming and patient with our daughter. Another one of the transracial moms wrote to tell me her daughter's story, and we emailed off and on all afternoon (turns out we know some of the same people in the immigrant community). They tell me how amazing they think Beti is, how they can't believe she's only been here two months, how she keeps up with every little thing in the class. They've been inviting her over to play after school. I get a happy tightness in my chest when I think about this supportive place we have found for her, for us, eventually for our son.
At the principal's coffee this week, as he was wrapping up, he asked if anyone had any last thing to add. Ted raised his hand and said, "My wife and I transferred in from another school, and we love the vibe here. For us, it's about the vibe, and we feel so supported..." Then he got choked up, eyes turning red and welling up with tears.
We feel so lucky to have founded another soft landing spot for our daughter.