Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Last Exit to Middle School

Last Wednesday wound up being a day of reckoning. All year I've been on the beat of looking into Middle Schools since my daughter enters 6th grade next September. I was sold on New Voices in this neighborhood but some of my daughter's friends are interested in Bay Academy far away in District 21, so I thought I should at least apply. I visited Bay Academy in the fall, but somehow spaced out on getting the application. I didn't realize I wouldn't just get one, that I had to request it and go through the process of pre-applying for the application. All of this was necessary because we live out of the Bay Academy district.

When I found out what I had done it was horrible, and I expected the worst of the system so I didn't know if it would still be possible to get the application. I didn't sleep well that night, I felt vaguely panicky and the full moon stared down at me through the window. I managed to fall asleep, but when I did I dreamed that I was with my father and we both had insomnia, so we were looking through books in some kind of library. I had a small volume of mythical beasts listed in alphabetical order and I was looking for some sort of animal that began with A. It was a strange dream and it reminded me of something my father told me when I last spoke with him, about a time when he had fallen asleep with his cat right on his chest, and started having a very happy dream that he was with his mother, who has been dead for over 40 years. He only slept briefly and when he awoke his cat was still on his chest, staring directly at his face with wide eyes, as if she had been watching the dream too. That's how I felt the moonlight that night, as if it had woken me up with the intensity of its stare.

The next day I started making the calls to get the pre-application, or "pre-app" as it is affectionately known. I called the Parent Coordinator at Mark Twain and he kindly advised me to call the admissions office and ask for Mr. F. There was also a Mr. D in that office, but I was told I should avoid him if possible because at times he lacks patience, when dealing with disorganized parents I guess. Mr. F told me I could come and get the "pre-app," at his office at the school, which is on Neptune Ave. in Coney Island.

I got to Coney Island by subway. I thought about driving and would have if I had known how far Mark Twain is from the train. While I was walking down Mermaid Avenue for 15 blocks or so, through a very poor neighborhood, I got a phone call from a parent trying to schedule a play date. It was hard to walk, find a time slot for this playdate for my son, and navigate a block full of people waiting with a certain intensity outside the lighthouse mission. I wondered what they were going to get. The sidewalk was very crowded and I brushed into a man who spun around to see who would do that. He accepted my profuse apology with a look of satisfaction.

The nearer I got to the school the more desolate the neighborhood felt. Once in the building I immediately felt a certain warmth. Mr. D wasn't as bad as all that, he had bluster for sure and I'm glad I had the warning, but you have to enjoy those people whose attitudes are so caricatured by the people they work with that they become a public monument. I was highly distracted while in his office though by their scheduling system, a large wooden board about 25 feet wide and 8 feet tall hung with a few hundred tiny hooks, all of which held different colored tags. I wanted to take a picture of it but didn't want to aggravate Mr. D. I did manage to ask him about it and he joked "we sell clothes." It was amazing, an iron age excel sheet that I could easily see hanging in the Whitney.

That weird board, one of two things I've really wanted to photograph for this blog but didn't out of respect. The other one was the display inside the Windsor Terrace Scouts Center in Holy Name, 2 large plywood panels affixed with snapshots of scouts from all over the world in their various scouting uniforms, proudly posing in front of their tents. Try to get in there and see it, along with the board showing all the badges.

Above, Timbuktu Hair Care on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island.


Lo said...

ooooh middle school. Best wishes to you. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

wow, Coney island! What a place. I recall the subway rides with my mom going there to the beach and then getting a hot dog and soda before we got back on the train.

Hoops Coach
-Container Diaries

Anonymous said...

Hey there! I graduated from he Bay Academy, and all I can tell you is:DO NOT APPLY! It is one of the WORST schools ever! Complete and utter garbage. It may sound prestige because you have to apply to get in, but trust me, the people who go there are not the people you would want your daughter hanging around with. (By the end of the 8th grade, they bragged about drinking and smoking, and that is not the worst they have said.)
The teachers there are horrible! In the 8th grade, when we were supposed to do regents prep, the math teacher would sit and talk about her 2 yr old child,and the day of the regents, the science teacher did not inform me about the lab part I was suppossed to take.(luckily I passed with a high grade because I had taken the time to study everything myself.)
In the seventh grade, when I was in math class, the students were screaming all the time, not paying attention, and threw a 100 page hard cover text book out of the 5th floor window! (luckily no one got hurt.) The assistant principal would rush in all the time to reprimand the teacher, but the teacher would not try to do anything. In the 6th grade, the Social Studies teacher would only talk about his family history and quiz us on it.
Honestly, this is not the worst.I really do not want to scare you more, so good luck! (Really, GOOD LUCK!)