“Why don’t you come in?” Notes on School Day.
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Last week was Vienna Schools Day. After many school decisions that we have already made, it is now the turn of the youngest.
We said: The elementary school around the corner should be public, friendly and ambitious. At the nearby schools in Grätzel there are two stories which all confirm orally who live there: One school is great, alternative and offers cross-class learning. The other two schools: They don’t work at all.
School one on the Vienna Schools Day: At 8.30 a.m. the school is full of parents who all look like us: white, with an affinity for education and committed in many ways. We go through the school – everything is as promised: appealing, friendly, fine, but bursting at the seams, because in reality far too many children want to attend exactly this school. Because of the high number of parents, there is a short lecture for everyone, the request to look independently into the classes, not to ask questions to the teachers – only at the end in announced reflection rounds.
More space, more air
And then we’ll go to the other two schools. At ten o’clock we are pretty much the only parents in the building. We are warmly welcomed by the headmistress, all the teachers we meet, the movement coach – and many children wave out of class. “Come in and see us! We hear this sentence felt twenty times. Both schools look better equipped: more space, more air, more rooms, a modern extension.
At that second we are in a personal conversation with the headmistress: “Most of the ‘Bobos’ don’t even look at our school, a few come and are interested and then don’t dare to join us. We have a bad reputation – we can’t get rid of it.”
Everything we see in this school is appealing, loving and very committed. We sit down in a class and listen to the teacher teach reading, talk about the time the polar bears are being carried and answer the question if she believes that animals can cry and are sad. The children listen attentively, point out, read and discuss. Percentage of children with a migration history: almost certainly over 90 percent.
The experiences on the day of the Viennese schools occupy us very much. How can that be, in a Grätzel? Why is there no division, no quotas and no predetermined mixing? Neither one school nor the other completely depicts the city in which we live.
“Because otherwise the parents would run storm,” some say. The concern that one’s own child will get a good place in the educational system is deeply understandable. We want our children to learn to read, write and calculate well. We want them to find their way in the world, we want them to become self-determined children and not lose the desire to learn. The discomfort that this cannot be achieved in a class in which hardly any child has German as their mother tongue is understandable.
It is easy to avoid because there are many possibilities in between: Catholic schools with public rights, private schools, parent and self-governing schools, and also the one public school with the good reputation is almost always there. A good reputation, which in reality consists in the fact that those who are there are a bit like us.
The slogan of the parallel society is omnipresent in the public debate. But for public schools (and those that have publicly funded teachers) we should make sure that they reflect the society in which we live as well as possible. We should ensure balance and, yes, a quota. In school, social learning should take place with the very people we live with in the everyday life of this city.
“The children are never the problem”, we have often heard this sentence from teachers on this open day. The children learn together and from each other. As a rule, it is the parents who do not (or cannot) have the confidence that their child will be promoted just as well in school around the corner and are therefore often looking for expensive alternatives. The cited parallel society is therefore not one in which one can only give responsibility to “the system”. The parallel society is the same in our heads – they are also our own prejudices and fears.
Rotate fixed images
In any case, we have already clearly decided in favour of the school that does not enjoy the best reputation. We trust in our feeling and are convinced that we have found a good place for our daughter, where she will learn much more than reading, calculating and writing.
We will begin to circulate and reinforce the good stories. We want to turn the stuck images a little. We will talk to the parents, who might also like to “dare”. Why don’t you come in?
Judith Pühringer is mother of two daughters (five and 18 years), in patchwork there are a total of five daughters. She herself was born in Vienna and went to a private Catholic school. She is an expert on labour market policy at Arbeit Plus and is involved in the Poverty Conference.
Should the child go to “school around the corner”? Discuss with us!