A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nursery University

By Joyce Szuflita

I was excited to go to a screening of Nursery University a while back and interested to speak to the directors, Marc Simon and Matthew Makar, about some of the behind the scenes details of making this documentary as well as the Manhattan nursery school admissions process. The DVD will be available July 7th, 2009. I recommend this entertaining movie for anyone who isn’t involved in the nursery admissions process, and for parents in the midst of the process who will see it as a window into the admissions office after the applicants have gone home. If you are already stressed out about the whole thing, this won’t necessarily calm you down, but it is a respectful and balanced look at the parents and the schools. It is not an expose’ or a comic send-up of out of control parents and it isn’t the whole story either. Like all good documentaries, they follow compelling stories and you get to love the quirkiest characters because in the end they are all just trying to do the best for their children.

The documentary follows several families during the fall touring, application and spring admissions seasons. Among them are families from Harlem, the Upper East Side and the Village each with their own focus and expectations. A few Manhattan schools also tell their side of the admissions story. We hear their public presentations and their private thoughts on the strains of the process. The scenes I found most interesting were the ones that showed the discussions in the admissions office after the kids and parents went home; what the teachers discussed about the children at the play-date, and the review of application essays. On the whole it is responsible educators making heartbreaking decisions.

We also see the whole arc of the stories from optimistic or bemused applications to acceptance, rejection or waitlist. This was the part that was most interesting to talk to the directors about. The stories were not staged, but occasionally things were left out. SPOILER ALERT: The type A Upper East Side father, who is charming comic relief because of his obsessive school focus, receives his daughter’s multiple acceptances with shock and delight. It looks like she didn’t receive any rejections. Actually, one came the next day but lets face it, the arc of their story didn’t change. When asked how they were able to have such a splendidly positive outcome, the director said that because of his seemingly over the top preparation the family made very wise and appropriate choices and applied to schools that were really a very good fit. When asked about the mother whose son was waitlisted at her heart’s desire and finally moves out of town, the director said that she chose mostly lottery schools and was out of luck because she didn’t have a large enough range of choices. Did the mom who was best friends with the School Consultant have an edge because she knew someone or her family represented diversity, probably a little bit of both, but we will never know. And how did the family in the village breeze into the lovely parent run co-op? Sometimes miracles happen.

(Email subscribers and certain RSS readers will need to click through to the actual Hip Slope Mama website in order to see the trailer of Nursery University located directly above).

Pre-order the Nursery University DVD on Amazon today (officially available on 7/9/09).

Joyce Szuflita is a working mother of twins. She has been a Brooklyn resident for 28 years. As NYC School Help, she consults with families who are doing the school search; public or private, nursery school through high school. Her aim is to save you time, clarify your priorities, present you with thorough information in a clear uniform format so that you can make an informed decision about your child's education. She takes a crazy stressful process and makes it clear and manageable. Joyce is also a regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama.