Thursday, May 16, 2013

My Uneducated Thoughts On Education

I'm going to share with you, in no particular order, some thoughts I have about school this year. I have 4 kids in 3 schools, two of which are public schools and one which is a combination national/state/county program and private school. I get a little flavor of it all.

Yes. I am fully aware that if I don't like the schools I can pick new ones at my own expense or home school.

The new thing this year in our schools is a sort of team teaching or pair teaching. The two teachers at a grade level teach both classes. So they learn math and social studies from one teacher, then writing and science from the other. They move back and forth between the classrooms. I'm not all that concerned about the moving back an forth. By 6th grade they're in middle school and constantly moving from classrooms to lockers and back again. So what.

I am concerned about them doing it in the lower grades. I don't know which grade is the magical number to allow this, but I'm guessing 1st grade isn't it. The issue for me isn't the moving around, it's the multiple teachers. They already have art, phy. ed. and music teachers. All of whom have different teaching styles than their main teacher. I realize schools have rules and expectations that apply school wide to the student body and the staff, but I also recognize that each teacher is the rule and expectation setter in their own room. That is acceptable.

The hard part comes with a pair of teachers with different styles and expectations and your kid bouncing back and forth between them all day long. When they leave their room and go to art or P.E. they know it will be different. When they are in middle school or high school or college, they just understand that they expectations are tied to the teacher and each room is it's own place. When they are 7 and have a cubbie in one room and a desk in another and a hall hook somewhere between and both teachers have equal rule over them, they get confused.

Another issue I have with all this transition is the amount of things getting lost, broken and stolen. I understand my child is fully responsible for his or her own stuff and when they loose it or break it, I am responsible. I understand that when stealing happens, I am still responsible to replace it for my child as well as parent and council them through all the emotions of someone stole my stuff. I am not however thrilled with replacing things that belong to my children that they did not break or things that I did not provide for them.

In one of my kids classes they use clear plastic storage bins as their desk to keep their notebooks and pens and so on. These are open for everyone to take from. Trust me, I've more than supplied the class with pencils this year, at least twice over. The bins are open for all the kids from both classes to abuse and touch and move around and whatever.

What I learned this week was, (A.) the bins exist. I did not provide a bin. I was not asked or required to provide a bin. These bins are somehow part of the school plan for the kids and classrooms or whatever. (B.) When my child's bin gets broken by another child from another class, I am responsible to replace the bin. I have nothing appropriate to say about this, fill in your own blanks. (C.) It is not a simple bin to find. You must go to a specific store and get the exact bin. (D.) If you do not get the exact bin, the school takes the bin you just purchased for your child, to replace the one your child did not in fact break, and gives them an old bin they had in storage. What??

Let's move on to another school. The child must complete an end of the year writing portfolio of their best work. Sounds like a great idea right? Sounds like they would be pulling from the assignments they've spent the whole year working on right? Oh how wrong you would be. No, according to the email, they will begin working on the writing for this today. The email was very quick to point out that should your child not stay caught up with the work schedule they will need to do the work at home and we will be responsible for it. Hmm...kind of sounds like homework and how school is supposed to work in general, but OK, I as the parent can take an extra interest in this very last minute project and help my kid stay on schedule. Now, could I have a copy of said schedule and maybe the rubric of expectations for each one of these assignments? No, that would be useful. OK then, enough right? No, no, there's more. Provide a binder. OK I can buy yet more supplies for the last weeks of school. Now we're good? Nope, not yet. Now you as the parent need to make sure that the child has his portfolio read through by at least two adults in his or her life and a peer. "Be aware", says the email, "that this should take roughly 30-60 minutes for each of the adults and the peer". Note that you can only "schedule these appointments in these 3 specific days" and then further note that "each person reviewing the students work will be required to fill out a complete evaluation rubric for the student that will impact his or her final grade in the class". Say what? How about I just home school him and do your dang job for you.

Next school. Let's talk about special kids and special days. To be perfectly fair I need to state that I feel we have far too many special appreciation days and weeks and months for everything. We should all be appreciative of everyone for the jobs they do in life. Doctors, bosses, nurses, teachers, mother's sanitation workers,  and on and on and on. This just falls in the category of be nice to people, be kind and have some damn manners. We lack that collectively in this world. Today at one of my kids schools it was grandparent breakfast day and book fair week. This child has issues. The chaos walking into the building this morning would have set off a typical child. The hallway is crowed with tables of shiny books and posters. Clifford the Dog is there. Then we get to the room and it is filled with grandparents. The routine is changed. They are going to a new room so they can all eat breakfast. For my kiddo, this is disaster. It is overwhelming chaos. It is great big giant feelings about family. It's another episode of school pushing in his face their very narrow idea of what normal is.

The school has good intentions. For most of the kids it's a wonderful, special day they will always remember, when grandma or grandpa came to their school and had a special meal with them. For my kid, it will be a day he always remembers too, but not because of some warm fuzzy feeling, because of the pain and the isolation and the jealousy and the hurt and confusion and the anger. This is a day that will play out in tantrums and so on for the next several days. It will probably impact how well this child is able to cope with another new experience today of being on a sports team. The odds of this child making it through the practice without a total disaster happening just decreased immensely.

It impacts everywhere. I have spent my morning waiting for the school to call and say, crisis, come get him. I was forced to decide on the fly whether or not to keep the child in school today. I am spending time thinking about how I'm going to handle this child for the rest of today, what it means for the night, how it will play out and impact plans and family members for the next few days.

Is it fair for me to wish the school wouldn't do these kinds of things? No. Could I be more on top of the schedule and do a better job prepping the child ahead of time? Yes, if that were my only child. Go ahead with your judgement, well maybe you shouldn't have so many kids then if you can't give them all what they need. Well, maybe if more of you opened your homes to these kids I wouldn't have so many in my home. We could go around and around. We won't. Do I wish they could just skip over these days? Yes. I feel like if they really, really have to recognize them, couldn't they just read a story at circle time about grandparents and then maybe make them a card or something?

Let's switch schools again and return to Teacher appreciation week, and yes, I know, this whole post seems like a great big teacher bashing post. It isn't. It's a whole lot more about common sense and thinking a tiny bit further out of your box than what is the stereotypical normal child and seeing the kids that are right smack in front of you. Our kids brought him notes on Thursday or Friday that "required" them to use provided piece of construction paper and make teacher appreciation cards for their teachers. The note then went on to tell us to have each child bring several pieces of fruit to school on a designated day to fill the fruit bowls on the desks of teachers and staff in the building.

Seriously? I am being told to provide gifts for my children's teachers because they are doing the job they intentionally picked?! I need to give them prizes because they graduated from college with a teaching degree and actually have the good fortune to have a job using that degree and teaching, which I assume-and yes I know what that means about me-I assume that at some point in their lives they wanted to do this for a living.

Switch schools again. Everything is electronic now and you are punished for not being a helicopter parent. All grades and assignments and so forth on now online for the parents immediate and constant monitoring. Emails hit my in box all day and night from teachers. With four kids it is constant. This morning I got one at 8:30, from the English teacher. My son is missing an assignment. Um, OK, glad to know it, I will discuss it with him, hand out the consequences and so on, but yet, here is my issue. At 8:30 my son should be sitting in English class in front of this teacher. Why is she unable to look at my kid and say, where is your assignment? Why is she unable to communicate directly to him that he is missing an assignment? And just how exactly does this teacher expect me to communicate it to my child at 8:30? Cell phones and texting are not allowed in school. So, should I send him with his phone into class so he can receive texts from me in class that tell him he is missing assignments in the very class he is sitting in? Should I call the office and have him paged out of that class to come to the office and receive a note that he is missing the assignment? The soonest I can make him aware is 4 in the afternoon when I see him next, you dear teacher have him in the classroom right in front of you as you're sending me the message, why don't you stop emailing me and tell him? Please. Just try it once. Knowing my kid, it's probably just in his locker or his folder and he simply forgot to put it in your box because you don't collect assignments, you just believe this kids will turn them in on the date due with no prompt from you, and some kids will, kids with issues won't, and we're all aware my kid has issues.

I don't hate the schools. I don't dislike the teachers or the staff, with a few exceptions. I don't think generally the rules are outrageous or the expectations unrealistic. I don't think my kids are perfect. Heck, I don't even know how the staff begins to handle some of them on a daily basis, because frankly, as the parent, they are relentless and exhausting in their needs and demands.

I do think that we could all think a little more.

Eh, but what do I know, I'm just the mom, the special needs mom, the foster mom, the adoptive mom, the advocate, the protector.  I'm just the one that goes in and comforts and instructs and encourages the teachers and staff daily about how to "handle" this child. I remind them not to take all the drama and crisis personally. It isn't about them. It isn't intentionally directed at them. It's the child's issues.

*forgive the typos, I have not edit time today


Mind Of Mine said...

This all sounds so needlessly complicated.

Jen said...

That's it exactly...