12 September 2012

And...I'm done!

The boys started school last Wednesday and I had visions of going to the gym and sewing again. 



Last week, I spent days in the classrooms and nights working on various classroom-related projects, including but certainly not limited to those pesky photo rosters that involve over 30 individual portraits per classroom.  These are those rosters I promised I'd never do again last year at this time (and probably the year before as well because my self-proclamations are ineffective like that).  Thus far, I've done 6 classrooms, I'm in the middle of 1 more, and I still have one that I promised to do but on which I have yet to even begin.  I'm not sure anyone realizes that it takes me over 2 hours to pull each one together after I've carved out the time to visit the classroom and snap the original portraits.

So by last Friday afternoon, after 3 days of ignoring my children and my house (this is where I force the "like a tornado hit it" simile) and sleeping no more than 5 hours a night, I was burnt out!  We had a little swim playdate at the house and I, not so facetiously, declared to the other moms that I was going to get a full time job because I was never so busy and stressed out when I was working outside the home.  They talked me off the ledge and I even made plans with one of the moms for this Monday morning because she knows I have difficulty standing my ground and she wanted to give me a real reason not to end up at school.

Shocking news!  I never made it to see her on Monday.  I have been in the classroom this entire week, and working on dissertation-length emails since I'm somehow the Room Parent in BOTH classes (I volunteered to share the position in one class but was assigned for the other).  This is all to the detriment of my soccer coaching skills (I intended to read up on the rules of the game and the skills and drills necessary for my little guys), my poor Wolf Cub den (I still have no concrete plans for the year to come and I'm not Wolf Leader trained yet even though our first meeting in a day and half), my photog "business" (I know there are plenty of unanswered emails but I just haven't had the time to get back to everyone who is trying to schedule their holiday shoots yet), my blog (I love it here!  I miss it here...), and of course, the worst hit of all, the aforementioned kids and house.  We ran off to the ice rink tonight without a single snack for the boys because I didn't have time to pack anything (or go grocery shopping, for that matter)--dinner is usually at 5pm but tonight they went until 7pm without any food.  Yes.  That's what become of me and my parenting.  I'm lucky we even made it to and fro since the gas tank is just about on empty and I haven't had a chance to fill it up (Isn't that the metaphor of all metaphors?).

I really wouldn't mind it too much if it really were truly in the service of the boys' academic experience.  But now I'm not even sure for what I'm doing all of this.  Yes, yes...this many paragraphs down, I'm FINALLY getting to my point.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into A1's classroom.  He was among 6 classmates assigned to a parent leader.  And let me tell you, I applaud this woman who took her time and put forth her valuable energy to blindly come into a classroom with which she's completely unfamiliar.  But she and A1's teacher were doing exactly the same thing.  That means that A1 would never rotate to his teacher.  He was with this learning center in lieu of being with his teacher!  Again, I have nothing against this parent or any of the other parents who are so gracious with their time, but so many of them are admittedly weak in English (Yeah, yeah, we'll talk about a classroom full of Asian GATE kids later...) and express their discomfort in working with the students, particularly on amorphous, abstract material (Once, again, we'll talk about that Asian math thing later...).

Optimally, we parents come into the classroom in order to complete clerical tasks that would otherwise occupy the teachers' attention and reduce their time or ability to teach the class.  Last year, this was not the case in A1's classroom.  When we broke into small groups, the children would rotate through some motivated, skilled parents and some less motivated, less skilled parents.  But eventually, they would have focused attention from their teacher during one of those rotations.  Having a confused parent is still better than quiet, independent (read: busy) work while biding their time to be taught by the teacher, so I didn't question it.  But now, having witnessed what happened on Tuesday, I wonder if A1 has frequently been passed off in the past, if his many of his experiences in First Grade were with a parent volunteer instead of his teacher.

And that brings up to the ledge off of which I'm about to leap happily and willingly.  *I* can teach him better than these obviously uncomfortable, English-challenged moms.  Tonight, I've neglected my school-related duties and I've been looking at classroom ratios and considering the option of moving to another part of the country.  I've checked out private schools and charter schools. 

I would have addressed this with A1's teacher when I first saw it, but I didn't realize how hard it would hit me.  So now, the Head Cheerleader of this little parent volunteer squad has lost her way.  I'm off the Kool-Aid and that will make it hard to do my job.  I'm usually the one to rally the troops, but how long can I fake it with all this cynicism brimming forth?  I made this giant matrix to request volunteers for every hour of every instructional day for this school year.  Again...shocker: It's virtually empty.  But I'm not about to send out more emails requesting volunteers if it means my son will be under their tutelage instead of his teacher's.

There is a 5th grade GATE class on our campus whose usual teacher is on extended medical leave.  The class is being taught by a permanent substitute and many are frustrated that it is not a GATE-experienced teacher and inflamed by the fact that she was officially their physical education coach last year.  Well, hey, at least she's a credentialed teacher!  It's many steps up from the random parent who doesn't even want to be put in a position where they are providing instruction.

Posts here are nothing without photos, so here are some unrelated, "Mama, Mama take a picture of this," shots.

A2 built these by himself and is very proud.  Never mind the unwashed, chlorine fried hair:

These belong to A1 but he wanted me to capture them without their maker in the shot:


Michelle said...

I had no idea that volunteers were actually being used to teach now. That's pretty worrisome!

Your home is so open to organic learning that it's mind blowing. At least then your hours of work will be to the direct benefit of the As rather than a roundabout one.

Rachel S. said...

I had no idea parents taught in class either! Is this commonplace in the district or just at your school/A1's class? Is it worse because of the 1/2 split? Can you switch back to redhill? I'm sure I speak for many when I say: Please don't move to another part of the country!

Rachel S. said...

I am worried that the fact that you have not responded yet must mean:
a) you're still working on your 12th photo roster and have 18 left to go
b) A1's teacher called and asked YOU to teach half the class every day (to which of course you said yes)
c) you've already moved to another part of the country
d) all of the above

I'm thinking of organizing an intervention.

Lam said...

As far as I know, the occurrence of parent-led "centers" that either cover different material or different levels of the same material is commonplace. I know it happens in other grades here at TMA and from our Peters Canyons friends, I know it happens there as well. But these are two schools with highly invested parents and I imagine that it cannot happen if involvement is not as extensive.

I finally asked the teacher why she and the parent were doing the exact same thing and she said that it was because she was testing the parent out to see if the parent could handle teaching the material but didn't want to saddle her with the entire group on her first time out. I don't know that that eases my concerns.

This teacher recently found out that I passed the CBEST (20 years ago!) and mentioned that I would be qualified to take over a whole class. I think she may have actually ramped up my responsibilities since then.

But what are the alternative? I happened to be in A2's classroom when he finished a sorting assignment and was allowed to play with his little teddy bear manipulatives. His exact words, "But I don't want to play with my teddy bears, I just want to get smarter!" That was his way of saying that he's sick of the pedestrian activities that benefit some of his classmates.

So what's better? Having varied instruction that is provided by parents or having uniform instruction so that a child like A2 who is reading and adding and subtracting has to sort freaking teddy bears by their COLORS?

They both suck. Classrooms with 33 students suck. There is no way around it.

Okay, homeschooling gets around it. But there is no public (or even private for that matter) school way around it.

Lam said...

Oops...I forgot to add that I love both of the boys' teachers. I really, genuinely do. But what happens if/when they end up with teachers I don't love. What's the point of continuing then?

Michelle said...

Well, there's always private tutoring/supplementing after school to make up for lack of challenge at school itself. Which, of course, brings you right back to the homeschooling argument.

You are a loving parent who has and will continue to support the boys' learning opportunities in all environments. The As entered school light years ahead of their peers academically and A2's commentary is evidence that you have been doing the right thing for them all along, even before they entered school.

(And seriously? Sorting by color? Pre-k, sure. Kindergarten? Really?)

The question to ask is whether or not continuing is beneficial to the boys and their learning. If so, continue. If not, consider the alternatives. (Mmm, important life decisions condensed into if/then statements!)

Lam said...

I believe the reason that A2's classroom covers such basic content is that we are the district's only magnet school. That means that Kindergarteners enter with anywhere between a full Kinder year already under their belt (but parents didn't want to pass up on their lottery win since Kinder has more openings than the later grades) to absolutely zero preschool. Serving the ENTIRE district means a huge range in SES, prior academic/content exposure, etc. It's not fair to skip out on basics just because a few kids already know what they're doing so Kindergarten (there is no GATE specification for classrooms until 1st grade) proceeds painfully slow at times. This is actually of less concern to me since I believe it's more about learning to initiate and sustain appropriate social engagement at this age.

I'm learning that, between the 2 sides of the coin, I'm much more bothered by small groups taught by parents than a large group taught with uniformity by an accredited teacher regardless of the individual differences.