How my family views education in the Heights
The next school year will be the first in 16 years that my wife and I will have no children in the CH-UH public school system. Our two daughters attended our schools from kindergarten through graduation from Heights High, just like both of their parents, and their paternal grandparents (my mother is an alum, but moved here in 10th grade). Our experience was similar to that of many other Heights families—our girls thrived and excelled in our schools. Certainly, there were moments when we were concerned about one issue or another, or that teacher or something else, but they both received a good education.
There are other lessons that our kids learned beyond academics by attending CH-UH schools. They navigated challenges that one doesn’t learn in a classroom, but does still learn at school, mostly about how to get along with others—how to play together on the playground, get along with others during lunch, and how to work on academic teams.
These are some of the reasons why, except for a very few students, I do not believe that homeschooling or online learning represents a complete education. In the classroom, our girls got a chance to hear from other students with different opinions, were exposed to a variety of methods for working out a problem, and tried to understand others’ points of view. I don’t understand how these important experiences can take place online, if one learns in isolation, or even if one attends school in a homogeneous setting. Learning how to play and work with others has to be challenging when one is alone or with family members only.
When we decided to raise a family, my wife and I knew that our kids would attend Heights public schools, and we only looked at houses in the CH-UH district. We knew that our children would be in the minority, both in race and religion. I am certain this status affected them in some ways, but they always had friends and did well in school.
I believe the transiency of our school population was harder for them. For our younger daughter, it seemed there was always a friend moving away during her elementary school years. It was difficult to keep starting over with friendships, but both of our girls also have friends that they have gone to school with since kindergarten or first grade.
Another type of challenge came early in one of our daughter’s classrooms. It took a while to get used to the teacher’s way of doing things, but we got through it. Programmatic changes in school also made it difficult for our daughters to adjust from year to year—something was always changing. We all lived through it and did the best we could.
We had teachers who went out of their way to make classes interesting and provide individualized lessons and learning opportunities for our girls. Although I am an employee and my wife was an active volunteer in the schools, we never felt we needed to use those positions to benefit our children.
Everyone warned us about middle school: “Just close your eyes for three years” was the advice we got. When we bought our house we did not realize we were in the Wiley attendance zone. We forged ahead and felt like our girls were at no disadvantage compared to the families of kids in the other two middle schools. Wiley ended up being fine for both our girls—even with open eyes.
Our girls’ experiences ran the gamut from sports to music (lots of music), clubs and AP classes, and even classes at John Carroll University for part of the day this year. Not every experience was pleasant or wonderful, but it is hard to imagine that utopia exists anywhere. I believe that our decision to work, live and send our “precious cargo” to the CH-UH schools has all been worthwhile.
If I had it to do over again, I would not change a thing. These decisions made our daughters the people they are today, and prepared them well for the next chapters in their lives. We are so proud of them and glad they had a chance to be part of Tiger Nation.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.