Friday, May 11, 2007

Choosing a Kindergarten

It's a funny thing, but I'm pretty used to being marketed to. When I needed to get a gym membership, the gyms that I went to had someone there to give me a tour; show off the machines and the hot tub; in general make me excited about going there. Or when my wife was checking out nursing homes: she had a very similar experience with people who wanted to make her comfortable and get her interested in coming back, offering her cups of coffee and things.

So when we got the letter about coming to a kindergarten open house, that's sort of the thing I expected. I thought the people would be interested in showing us around and getting us excited - like the gym or the nursing home, trying to sell their product to us, sell us their school. I guess the first warning I should have had came straight from the informational packet, though: there was really nothing there except lots of information about "your child" - "your child" should be able to tie his shoes. "Your child" should have lots of time to read with you. "Your child" needs to be independent enough to go potty all alone. Not a word about this big, new, mysterious place he'll be going to.

So I was expecting some more information on the school at the open house. Unfortunately, what they had for us was another informational packet explaining what "your child" had to do in order to be ready for kindergarten. And who was running the open house? One kindergarten teacher. The school has two, but the other was busy - and I understand she just lost a family member, so that was okay - and the principal apparently had decided that some interviews he had to do were more important than meeting the new parents. I disagree.

So it's very clear when you leave the private sector, even for a heavily regulated industry like nursing homes. We obviously had some amount of choice over our kindergarten, but once we made the important step of purchasing a home, we were pretty much stuck with this one, and I think that the information we got reflected that. I'm not even saying it's intentional - simply that no one's ever thought twice about having to sell their school, because no one has to.

That in a nutshell is the biggest problem with the school system, IMO. It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues or whether some more wholehearted attempts will be made at engaging us.