Friday, July 26, 2013

Baby University

 I recently went to see 'A Kid Like Jake' at the 'Claire Tow' theatre in the Lincoln Centre. It follows the story of two parents as they brave the New York private school application process. It highlights the emotional affects it can have on a family and the impact on the child. The portrayal of desperation and frustration in this play must ring true with many parents across Manhattan. 

As a former Kindergarten teacher in London's private school system, I am aware of the stressful process required to secure a child a place in the most popular schools. However, since moving to New York I have discovered that the system here is more grueling, and the competition for spots even greater.

Applying for the best schools in New York starts early in a child's life, sometimes before they are even born. Waiting lists to apply for certain schools start years before the child will begin his or her education. The actual submissions procedure then requires endless form filling, essay writing, interviews, observations and exams. 

The ERB (Educational Records Bureau) test for pre-schoolers is required by all of the top private schools in the city. Many parents pay for tutors to coach their child in preparation for the exam, where anything below 90% is considered a poor score. It seems like a tremendous amount of pressure to place on a 4-year old.

But why are these schools regarded in such high stead? You could argue that if you only pick the brightest, most academic and easy to teach children, you will of course get better results. Would these schools be as successful if they were unable to hand pick their students? It is this exclusivity and prestige associated with such schools that attracts parents, making it worth the high price tag and excruciating application process.
Some might say that it is ridiculous for a child's future academic career to be determined before they are 5 years old. It places too much pressure on a family and replaces the excitement of starting school with doubt and anxiety. 

That said, with the demand for such schools at an all time high, it doesn't appear that the system will change any time soon. In an industry that seems largely unaffected by today's economy, it demonstrates the lengths parents will go to, both financially and emotionally, for their child's education. Parents I have spoken with say that choosing a first school is so important because it ultimately determines which university their child will attend. As each school feeds up to another it is important to start at the bottom of the best ladder you can afford. Although by no means a popular process, parents are willing to accept it in order to offer their child, what they consider to be, the best start in life. 

'A Kid Like Jake' played at the 'Claire Tow' Theatre in the Lincoln Centre until July 14th 2013. For more information visit http://www.lct.org/showMain.htm?id=218

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Paparazzi stalk Orlando Bloom

I have just seen the ugly side to celebrity as I watched poor Orlando Bloom being hunted like an animal by paparazzi on the streets of New York today.  My husband and I were strolling along 5th Avenue when a pack of photographers came running past us.  We looked behind and saw Orlando Bloom carrying his small son.  He seemed to be trying to get a cab to escape pack of 10+ photographers, but as is often typical in New York, there wasn't one to be found.  My husband tried to get him one too, but didn't have any luck either.

Then all of a sudden two of the photographers started fighting.  I'm not sure what happened, but they ended up in a full fist fight on the street!  I must admit it gave me great pleasure to see the paps turn on each other and give Orlando Bloom the chance to get away.

Unfortunately the respite didn't last long, and they were back hounding the actor after a few minutes.  I felt so uncomfortable watching them chase him up the street, especially as he was with his young son.  There was a general consensus from the people around that this was awful and that they should leave him alone.  How many shots do you need of someone walking up the street, even if they are a celebrity?

I have never seen anything like this before, and thought New York was a safe place for celebrities.  Generally New Yorkers are too cool to bother celebrities, but I guess the paps can go anywhere. After witnessing the paparazzi stalking Orlando Bloom today I think that they are awful people who are part of an ugly profession.  I don't buy or read the magazines that publish such photographs, and I will continue to avoid them at all costs after what I saw today.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Maroon 5 and backstage on the 'Today Show'

A couple of weeks ago a friend invited me to see Maroon 5 play at Rockefeller Center as part of the 'Today Show' concert series.  We were lucky enough to have VIP tickets, which meant that we avoided the huge queue of people waiting to see the band.  We still had to arrive by 6.15am, but many of the crowd had been camping out overnight to secure their spot!

Trying to get a glimpse of Maroon 5 during the sound check
Unfortunately the weather wasn't great and we had to wait around in the rain for a couple of hours until it was time for Maroon 5 to play.  The band did a sound check before the performance and the crowd went crazy when Adam Levine arrived on stage.  Then the 'Today Show' cast came out and said hello to the crowd before doing a brief interview with Adam.  Maroon 5 sang three songs and everyone was dancing and singing along.  I managed to get a few glimpses of the band on stage, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn't interact much with the crowd.  That said, it was great fun and we enjoyed the show.

Maroon 5 during the performance
However, the best part of the morning came after the concert, as included in the VIP ticket was a backstage tour of the 'Today Show'.  We met with out guide, who worked on the show, and she took us onto the set during filming.  It was very exciting the see the cast and crew in action and observe the process of taping a live show.  The studio is much smaller than it appears on TV and everyone works in very close proximity to each other.  

We were then shown the kitchen and weather studios, the green room and finally the main control room.  One wall of this room was full of monitors showing various shots of the Today Show as well as other NBC programming.  Staring at the screens were rows of people all wearing headsets with direct contact to the live show we had just seen being taped.  I had seen rooms like this on TV, but as you can imagine, it was much more impressive to be there in person.

I had a great time at the 'Today Show' and while I'm not sure if I will be getting up at the crack of dawn for the concerts in the future, getting a tour of the show was certainly a memorable experience. 

A different artist or band plays every Friday morning throughout the summer and each performance is free.  The full line up for summer 2013 can be found at http://www.today.com/toyotaconcertseries/fun-chris-brown-one-direction-headline-today-2013-summer-concerts-6C9690371