I would like to preface this by saying the owner of this website has asked that I do not disclose the name of the school or any details that may reveal the identity of the school for this blog entry.
Our school was suggested to us by other parents in or near Dallas who’ve either attended, had children there or knew a family there. In the beginning, we loved it. The academics were (and still are) strong and our children were getting active in various social groups that allowed us to meet other families. Our school prides itself on being diverse and inclusive and we thought “Wow, this is great! Our children are in a school where we can openly discuss social issues.” Many private schools have social groups that are designed to foster relationships between students and families within the school based on religion, ethnicity or interest.
The more parent gatherings I attended outside of school the more I felt alone. It was a bizarre feeling for me. At our meetings, I listened to other parent’s talk and slowly started to see that not much had changed or showed signs of change at our school. We were having discussions outside of school that revealed how uncomfortable some of us were. Many of us felt like we had to be someone else at school functions and around other parents than who we actually were. To sum that up, we had mastered the “code-switch.”
Most schools will tell you they try to make sure that no students wealth or class is on display for the sake of making all feel equal or welcome but that’s a joke. You see how administration interacts with certain families versus how they may deal with another family. You can tell when teachers do not wish to push back on a student too much because of who their parents or grandparents might be. Sadly, the students emulate some of these behaviors as well. I don’t know if I blame them, they’re just learning from adults. Even my own children learned from me, they learned to put on a facade when among their school peers.
I felt like a walking contradiction. Here I am this very proud African American mother with a diverse extended family of Latino’s and biracial people and yet I was teaching my kids to “play the part.” I had never done this before so why now? The school has set the tone and has an image to uphold and its families are following suit. It is all about perception.
The turning point was when I noticed they did not want to invite their friends from school to any of their functions outside of school. To use my children’s words “They’re different and I don’t’ think they get us.” This isn’t just a one school issue, this is an issue that many schools have. How do I know? Parents talk a lot and very often.
When DFW Private Education launched its Families of Color Conference we attended. The school year had just begun and after attending and hearing Victoria Taylor speak, we were inspired but had more questions for ourselves. “What do we really want for these kids? Why are we sending our children to this school?
I requested to meet with Dara (the founder of this site) in person and I explained my issues and she understood me loud and clear. She was also clear in explaining that no school is perfect. Most schools really do believe themselves to be the best and they like feeling “elite.” “Who wouldn’t? Everyone would like to be the best at what they do. It doesn’t mean they’re the best at doing it for you.” This made sense, this was not the best school for my children. She advised me to really think hard about what I want for my children now and going forward. We discussed the conference and one of the things I liked was that she intentionally used as many minority-owned businesses as possible. It was all very intentional and I think that is what I want along with academics.
I want a school that does not arrange for certain kids to be in certain places of the day to get the “Diversity Picture” but then put it in a mostly white and sometimes upper-class publication. Our school would place ads in magazines that have done little or nothing to reach different types of audiences. I would think to myself “How is this attempting to be diverse when you’re not using a diverse platform to market?” I want my school to be aggressively intentional.
We’re leaving our school at the end of the year. It is a great school academically nothing I could say or do would ever take that way from them. But the next time someone asks “What did you think of xyz school? I will ask them what are they looking to get out of it? I realize I’m just one parent but I’m not the only parent feeling this way. So many of these parents are not engaging with other families in school because not a single one of them can relate and the school has not figured out how to make it happen.
My advice to parents that may be reading this is, for every big named Dallas private school that you tour, tour something outside of Dallas that is completely different. My advice to some of the schools, you can change the culture if you insert yourself into the culture of others. My advice to DFW Private Education, keep doing what you’re doing because many of “us” are rooting for you.