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Oh So Feisty One reaches ‘middle’ age

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The middle school moment of truth is just around the corner.

Sort of.

In the next month or so, Smartmom, Hepcat, and the Oh So Feisty One will have to fill out OSFO’s application to middle school.

Da da da dummmmmm.

Since the fall, they’ve been attending middle school open houses and tours.

OSFO keeps tabs on Smartmom’s progress. She’s convinced that she isn’t doing enough to facilitate the process.

“Have you made appointments at all the schools?” OSFO asks frequently. “Isn’t there somewhere else we should be looking?”

Smartmom explains to her that they are only looking at public schools.

“Is Berkeley Carroll public or private? How about Poly Prep?”

Obviously, middle school is the talk of the playground — and the source of great anxiety for kids and parents alike.

In preparation for that big decision, the Smartmom Three (the whole family minus Teen Spirit) toured New Voices Middle School on 18th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues and got a really detailed sense of the place from the charismatic principal, Frank Giordana, who took them around. His shirt was lavender, the same color as the walls of the school.

Giordana prides himself on knowing the names of all the children in the school and seems to have created a cozy and nurturing learning environment.

It’s also a very creative place, where the arts are considered an important component of academic life. All sixth graders are required to take dance, drama, fine art, graphic design, and music. In seventh and eighth grade, they are required to specialize.

OSFO liked the idea that she’d have a chance to sample a variety of artistic disciplines. MS 51, another school she is considering, requires that you make a commitment to one of the arts and stick with it for three years.

It’s hard to imagine that a fifth grader would be prepared to make that kind of decision.

Walking back to Third Street after the tour, Smartmom knew better than to ask OSFO what she thought of the school. Sure, part of her just wanted to just blurt out, “So, is New Voices a top contender?”

But she knew that OSFO would bite her head off. A girl needs time to process her own thoughts.

Poor OSFO. She has to leave a school where she’s been comfortable and happy since kindergarten and make a choice about something strange and new.

By the time the Smartmom Three got to 16th Street and Seventh Avenue, OSFO did seem willing to share. She said that she liked the school, but thought it might be a little far away from the apartment.

She wondered if any of her friends would be going there. Obviously, she doesn’t want to make the transition from PS 321 to middle school alone.

Finally, she asked about lunch. She’s gotten used to going out to lunch every day with her friends at PS 321.

“They don’t let any of the kids out of their sight,” Smartmom told her.

“You mean we can’t even go out to get something to eat?” OSFO inquired somewhat incredulously.

“That’s weird.”

So geography, friends and lunch seemed to be OSFO’s main concerns about her future education. That seemed about right to Smartmom.

The three of them walked down Seventh Avenue and avoided the topic of middle school altogether. Mum’s the word unless OSFO brings it up — the subject is fraught with so much anxiety for everyone.

Will she get into the right school? Will she be happy there? Will she do well? Where will she go to high school?

“How about we get something to eat?” Smartmom asked as they passed Grab, the gourmet shop on Seventh Avenue near 14th Street that had some delectable looking pastries in the window.

But OSFO seemed eager to get back to her fifth-grade teachers and classmates at PS 321, the place where she belongs.

Who wouldn’t be in a rush to get back to the tried and true? The future is a giant white piece of paper with not even a stray number two pencil mark on it.

Smartmom looked at her precious child with the long brown hair, skinny jeans, and Uggs and felt an outpouring of love and empathy. How would you feel if you were being asked to leap into the unknown?

No doubt, she’s up for the task. In some ways, she’s ready and raring to go.

But still, change is never easy. Even for OSFO.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Daniel Meeter from Park Slope says:
You know I have some parishioners who have nothing but good to say about New Voices.
Jan. 18, 2008, 3:23 pm

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