Thursday, September 4, 2008

St. Marcus

This year we moved Ike to St. Marcus Lutheran in downtown Milwaukee from St. Paul's, Muskego. I have heard the question many times now, "Why would you do that?" So I thought I would answer that. Thankfully for you I have been able to refine my answer to be shorter now than it used to be. What is encouraging after only two weeks of school is that the reasons we moved Ike are being proven out in a very visible and gratifying way. For those of you who don't know St. Marcus all that well it would traditionally be called an inner city black school. St. Paul's, Muskego would be your totally white suburban school. So when we say the differences are black and white...we mean it.

Reason #1 was for the academics. Although St. Paul's has good academics St. Marcus turns it up a notch in three ways..and they are the three ways that address Ike's needs the most.
First, they have a great support network for those with diverse educational backgrounds and special needs. They target problem areas and give you lots of resources for addressing them. They have "power hours" in the morning and after school for getting extra tutoring and help from your teacher in any subject you need it.

Second is the "No excuses" policy. They make the teachers available 24/7 to be called if you need help on an assignment or need to know what an assignment is. They have a weekly homework list and daily signatures in the assignment notebooks for parents and teachers required. There is just no reason you could offer for not completing your work and having it done well because sloppy work is considered incomplete (One of Ike's tendencies).
Third, They have a great accelerated Math and Reading program. Ike will struggle this year because although he is in the same math series as at St. Paul's he just jumped a whole book to the Algebra book in 7th grade. He'll be catching up a little for sure.
third.5 They crank on the english..Ike is diagramming sentences. Karen and I were in heaven.
As I said St. Paul's has good academics but you will not see the same level of accountability pushed on the kids. Ike needs that structure because if he stays focused he does great work...however given too much rope he will hang himself. If he had to choose between slopping some rediculous answers on a worksheet to make it looked filled in so he could go out for recess or to get his homework finished at home so he could watch TV ...he would. Now he can't do that anymore. We have noticed that he just comes home and starts his homework right away and he does it neatly. It makes our jaws drop still.

Reason #2 After a number of years of listening to shall we say "suburban" attitudes at St. Paul's about such things as the "bad people" at Wisco or any other rhetoric when St. Pauls would play the inner city schools for sports, it grew very wearysome. The mother of one of Ike's friends was very nervous just being parked on the street in our neighborhood (very mixed neighborhood of hispanic, serbian, black, and white) Its sad that people are still so afraid, paranoid, and some just plain racist. It is hard to listen too. Kids need to get out of that shell and learn about diversity and be able to handle life in an ever growing diverse world.

Well Ike seems to have made some friends pretty quickly and enjoys the kids and teachers at St. Marcus a lot. I think he likes that many of the kids are a bit older, or at least life's situations have made them more self reliant and street smart. With Ike being 14 and many of his classmates being 12 and turning 13 this year it makes a difference socially in these awkward years. At St. Pauls many if not all of his friends had barely even started puberty. Their interests are not at all where Ike's are (music and girls). Ike was an early bloomer on top of being two years older than his class. It would seem that the St. Marcus class has a different dynamic with a decent number of kids who are 13 going on 14 and also are well into puberty. I think I saw at least 4 guys over 5'7" in his class. I think many of their life situations force them to be "older" than probably they even should be but Ike appreciates it.

Reason #3 The fact that St. Marcus uses its school as a mission outreach into the community fits very well with the goal of Victory of the Lamb as well and I want Ike to see that the mission of church can be applied at school too where 80% of the students are unchurched. I think all congregations should use their schools as an outreach tool instead of just a service for its members. I guess its okay if that's what they want to do but seems a waste to me. However being a mission tool means putting up the money. You need the resources to handle educational diversity and student diversity. Honestly St. Paul's is wayyyy too uptight to handle that. Any kind of kid that falls outside the aberhollistereagle prep standard is going to endure some scrutiny. Its hard to pinpoint exacly but the feeling you get there is that in general the school is in a cocoon and a little out of touch with the reality of people's lives. For all the structure of St. Marcus it seems that they at least have some perspective on what are the important things to address in behavior and what is just sillyness.

Reason #4 School uniforms...awesome!!!

Reason #5 I save the entire amount of tuition by not driving out to Muskego and not having to pay for extended care. I can drop him off at 6:30am and pick him up at 5pm without Ike needing to go to Extended care where he actually should have been paid for helping babysit the little kids but instead we had to pay for it. On top of it Ike gets two power hours to get his work done and get help from teachers...he's not just sitting around after school.

Reason #6 Martial Arts as an elective in the curriculum.

So far Ike has been happy, been more respectful, more diligent in his homework and the quality of his work, and generally happy as he leaves school. So far I'm happy we made the right decision.

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