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What I Want from School This Year

Today’s the first day of a new school year.  I just returned from delivering my babies to their respective schools.  It’s the last year of elementary school for one and the last year of middle school for the other.  Be still my heart.

With all the excitement and anticipation of the new year, there are some things that I hope our teachers keep in mind this year.  Now, I’m not bashing teachers.  Most of the teachers the kids have had over the years are everything you could hope for.  But, as in anything else in life, there are a few who have disappointed.  I genuinely hope these reminders aren’t necessary, but I think it’s fair to put them out there.  I do my part.  I make sure homework is done, we discuss the school day and what was learned.  I make sure they’re fed, washed, rested and delivered to school on time.  I buy whatever supplies are needed.  I think up ideas for projects and I proofread papers.  I teach them manners and respect.  I share cookies and cake balls at the holidays.  I don’t think I’m being too demanding by having a few expectations of my own.

This is where I would put a picture of my kids on the first day of school, if I had remembered to take that picture in between asking them fifty times if they had pencils and lunch and if they remembered where class was. Please enjoy this generic pic via zazzle.com instead.

  • I don’t have unlimited time.  I will help my children with their homework and their projects, but I have a life of my own and plenty of things that keep me busy on school nights.  Please be respectful of my time when making assignments that require parental participation.  I am fully capable of quizzing a child on spelling words or history dates while I’m washing dishes or cooking dinner.  I am not so good at multi-tasking while I’m trying to find little objects to stick in a memory box about a story out of a reading book.  This kind of thing is going to make me resentful, and probably make me say things out loud that I should keep inside my head.
  • Don’t dumb it down.  Please make my children work.  In addition to learning all the school lessons, they also need to learn about the value of hard work.  It’s nice to have an easy day sometimes, but they’re kids.  School is their job.  They’re not learning everything if it’s always easy.  Well, they’re learning that everything is easy and what an unpleasant surprise it’s going to be for them the first time something is hard.  Honors English students in the sixth grade are capable of writing a book report, but alas, they were asked to create a book report-type thing on a cereal box.  I don’t even know what to do with that.  I know this, though.  In my professional life, I have had occasion to write proposals, presentations, manuals and countless random memos and training documents.  I have never yet been asked to draw pictures on a cereal box.
  • Don’t neglect the smart kids.  I realize that there are a lot of kids who need some extra attention in order to understand the lesson.  I realize that teachers have a very limited amount of time and resources to accomplish the nearly impossible.  I don’t think this is a valid reason to neglect the needs of advanced kids who hate school just because they are bored all the time.  They have specific needs, too.  Maybe it’s as simple as giving them an extra worksheet to keep them busy, or handing them a book to read.  It’s simply not fair to expect a child to sit still through the eighty-eighth explanation of something that they understood the first time.  And it’s doubly unfair to have the guidance counselor call a parent at work to discuss any possible problems at home because a bored eight year old threw an eraser at a friend in class.  (I’m not condoning that kind of behavior.  I’m just saying, it’s not really a reason to grill me about the state of my marriage or the health of my parents.  Nosy pants.  I might be holding a grudge about that incident.)
  • Please communicate with me.  I’m not the kind of parent who calls or emails all that often.  If there’s a problem, though, the emails will start flying.  If my kid is being a problem, I will fix it.  I just need to know about it.  If my kid is having a problem, I need  you to help me fix it.  Last year I had an assistant principal suggest to me that we just overlook the fact that my kid was being bullied, since there were only a couple days of school left.  I declined that offer.  That’s ridiculous.  Look, I realize that teachers and principals and all the other faculty have a lot of kids on their plates.  I have two.  If one of my two needs something, it’s my responsibility to ask for it.  I will not take kindly to getting the brush-off, no more than you would appreciate me ignoring requests from the school.  Schools want parents to be involved, right?
  • Please don’t expect us to blindly follow rules.  Some rules, yes, we understand.  My children have been taught to follow the rules.  However, if you need to implement a new and unique rule, please, please, pretty please, explain the reasoning for it.  My daughter was once told by a teacher that the class is not allowed to erase answers and make corrections on tests.  I cannot even begin to explain to you the firestorm that this started.  By the time my son had the same teacher, erasers were no longer a problem.  I am certain that the teacher had some valid reason for such an off-the-wall rule, but really?  There are a lot of rules that my kids don’t understand, but I’m an adult with plenty of skill in logic and reasoning.  If I can’t make sense of it, you can be sure I’m going to ask.  If I don’t feel that it’s beneficial to my children or their educational needs, I’m going to question it.  If I still can’t follow the logic, I’m probably going to ignore it.  I will never ever question you if you need to send my kids to the principal’s office for something I told them to do.  As I told one administrator last year, if you have to mark down the grade, then do it.  We all have a job to do, I get that.  But I’m not going to be a sheep and I’m not going to allow my kids to be.  Sometimes an F isn’t the worst thing.

I realize that I sound like a pain in ass mom who teachers dread.  I imagine that there are some who groan when they see us coming at Open House.  I really don’t try to be a nuisance.  I just have high expectations.  I want my children to get everything out of their education that they can, but school is about much more than that.  It’s also about learning how to handle yourself in social situations.  It’s about overcoming challenges that seemed insurmountable.  My son told me recently that he wasn’t excited about fifth grade because he won’t learn anything new.  While I can’t help but snicker and shake my head at his tremendous ego, it also makes me sad, because he’s not far from the truth.  More than anything else, he loves to learn new things and that’s all he wants out of school.  He just doesn’t often get it.

I am starting the new school year with the assumption that the kids will have all wonderful teachers who will excite and challenge them.  I also have lofty ambitions that I will remember the names of each of the ten teachers and maybe even remember who the eighth grade principal is.  I don’t mean to come off as crazy and demanding. (I am crazy and demanding, but I don’t like to advertise it.)  We’re all on the same side here, right?  We all want the kids to do well in school.  I am not involved in the way that includes PTA meetings and walking my children to class, or, God forbid, baking two thousand cookies for an event (yep, that request really happened.  The cookies did not happen.), because that’s just not my style.  I don’t have the time or inclination to play politics and mom-clique games at school.  But I am involved.  Maybe not always in the most fun or pleasant way, but I’m involved.  Look, I will make sure my kid decorates the stupid cereal box, but I think we’ll all be a lot happier down the road if she just learns how to write a paper.

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  1. August 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm

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