When School Fails the Child

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I had one of those dreaded meetings today. Just like many other times, the short time revolved around the teacher defending her teaching techniques rather than how we could work together to come up with a plan to help Chase be more successful in the classroom. I don’t know how to tell teachers that none of this is about them personally. Every year, another teacher is replaced by a new face. What I do find disturbing is their unwillingness to budge from their ways. As a parent of a kid who struggles more than most would understand, I have had to admit to myself that he just does not learn like other students. Teachers make assumptions about him based on other children and I really think it’s unfair. One obvious example is this teacher told me when she tells the students to brainstorm what the answer might be or why an experiment might turn out one way or another, he just sits there and writes nothing. Instead of asking why, she jumped to her most obvious conclusion. When I explained that Chase does the brainstorming in his head and a few minutes does not allow him to get his thoughts from his brain through his pencil and onto his paper, I think she finally understood. He is often misjudged in the classroom and so many things could be cleared up if the teacher simply asked. I get they have a lot of students but he is just as worthy of learning as every other kid sitting at a desk in a class. It’s not his fault and I wish teachers understood the amount of sacrifice, anxiety and extra hours these kids put in just to keep their heads above the water. It makes me sad that it’s the same conversation every single time. My heart breaks every night before I go to sleep wondering what ball will fall on top of him the following day. It’s always something and the anxiety it causes all of us is excruciating beyond belief. Shout out to parents who know this struggle. My love and support go out to you because I know the toll this takes on you too. Sometimes I wish I could do a reality show on this subject. One that might actually change what is going on in our public schools and give these kids the break they need to survive a school system who will never meet their needs. 

You Are Wrong

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There are days I get so angry that I don’t see in myself what I so readily see in others. I preach about building others up and at the same time I fail with my own child. How often do I tell him what he gets wrong? How often do I bring up a conversation about something that has resulted in his failure?  How many times can a kid hear, you are a screw up and you can’t do anything right? How many times can you beat a kid down before he just stops trying to get back up? How many times can you say your best is never good enough? Is this the only voice he ever hears? Could it be? Here is a perfect example in this email that I received yesterday from his teacher.

On Quiz #3 Chase didn’t include the reasoning and evidence part of the explanation. He touched on one of the three but did not explain why those results occurred due to molecular level interactions (which is the standard). On the second question he did a great job at explaining why water had a stronger surface tension than ethanol however that is not what the question asked; the question was about why ethanol had a weaker surface tension than water. 

 The result? A 45. Call me crazy but isn’t explaining why water has a stronger surface tension than ethanol the same as explaining why ethanol has weaker surface tension than water? 

Am I like this teacher too rigid and closed off to see his right in this so called wrong? Am I more focused on proving myself right than allowing him the opportunity to be right?

So many questions. So much guilt. So much struggle with trying to be a decent parent. Maybe I am too hard. Maybe the teacher is too hard. Maybe the world is becoming hard. Maybe parenting is too hard. 

Lord, help me to remember how important my voice is and to use that voice to make my child feel good about himself. Help me see more opportunities to commend him and hold my tongue when I have the urge to criticize. Please help me make him feel more like an A instead of a failing grade. Take my hand and guide me in raising this child and elevating his self esteem. I know I cannot do this alone.

Amen

Yes, Virginia, the  School System is Flawed

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I could be way off but I really believe it takes more than one person to make or break something. I am seeing all this speaking out against Betsy Devos. I don’t know anyone personally who has had a worst experience than myself when it comes to the public school system. I can tell you from experience that if you have a child who has learning disabilities or simply difficulties, the school system is a total failure. I have lived in three states and experienced schools at the elementary, middle and now high school level. I think people forget where the funding comes from and who decides to what and where the money goes. I can also say with confidence that the entire system is broken. I don’t care who is in charge, the change has to happen on a large scale level and I haven’t found a school system yet that even cooperates with the way the system is set up. The schools I have been a part of actually receive funding to help kids like my son and even though he has a 504, they refuse to follow it. Last year I had a teacher refuse to supply him with notes even though it is an accommodation on his plan. When I spoke with the principal, he supported the teacher not to give notes because this man was so brilliant he taught from his head. By law, that school was required to supply those notes. When I asked for a textbook or something that would possibly help him, I was told they had no way of getting their hands on one. I volunteered to sit in a class during state testing and counted 34 old textbooks in the course I needed help with sitting on a shelf and not being used. They flat out lied to me in that meeting and had the resources there all along. They collect money everytime they pass go. I can tell you the money isn’t being used for  what it was meant for. I haven’t found one school who held any interest in doing anything to help him and they ignore and spit on his accommodations. So what does that have to do with DeVos? Do I think she or anyone else has the experience or knowledge to change the current problems in our education system? No I do not. But I do believe we need to gut the whole process and start completely over. It takes more than one person to raise, build or maintain a village. People need to wake up and admit the problems are much deeper than we pretend them to be. I don’t have any answers but I do agree the public school system is widely flawed.

Mom, Is An 82 Okay?

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I am super hard on my kids. I expect a lot but I no longer expect more than their personal best. This push for better, brighter, smarter, perfect is becoming an inner battle I must fight from the inside out. I cannot tell you the number of parents I know who absolutely freak out over anything less that an A. Newsflash everyone! Not every kid is capable of A’s. As a parent who is more involved with my child’s schoolwork than most, I can honestly attest that sometimes the amount of information taught in class is not enough tobe successful on tests. This expectation that you can give kids an overload on informationin a short time folllwed by an exam where you are expected to APPLY what you learn is setting these kids up for failure. Not everyone can make those connections that are obvious for a select few. All I can say is, yes Chase, an 82 is just fine. 

The Best Thing My Daughter Learned In School This Year

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I’m feeling really grateful today. It’s been a long tough school year and today is finally the last day. We can finally let it go, leave it behind and finally move on. There is a ridiculous amount of information these kids are expected to learn in school. It’s almost like middle school and high school classes are almost equivalent to my college classes and sometimes the kids don’t have the maturity or comprehension to understand the depth of the information. 

My daughter had one particular teacher who has taught her more than any other. He is a stand out and I am grateful she had the opportunity to be in his class. Throughout the year he has offered several opportunities to improve your grade separate from the excessive tests that seem to be an obsession in our schools today. If he told them he would have a paper graded by a certain date and he didn’t follow through, they would get extra credit. He taught them by example to be accountable by putting himself on their level and holding himself to the same standard. 

The truth is, we have come to believe we are here to judge people. We feel obligated to label people and force our beliefs and lifestyle on the ones around us. If they don’t obey, we feel the need to punish and make an example of them. I say we are not here to teach people lessons at all. We are here to love, support and lift people up. When we can help, lending a hand to someone in need is one of the nicest lessons we could ever pass on.

Today my daughter forgot her physics packet. She is not the compassionate type and is resentful I do so much to help her younger brother in school. She really believes I should back off and let him fall on his own behind. Today though she asked me to bring her the packet she left at home. I could have thrown her own attitude right back in her face but I didn’t. I drove that paper right over and you know why? People make mistakes. We forget things no matter how responsible we think we are. Who am I to think I need to teach her a lesson? When she came out to the car, she handed me a token for a free drink at Sonic. Her teacher had sent it out to me as a thank you for driving her paper across town. Did she learn a ton of physics in there this year? Probably not but what she did learn was one good deed deserves another and that kindness really does count. There are no words for the gratitude I feel toward this man. That is the kind of lesson parents only hope our children will learn in school. All’s well that ends well and if this is the last and only thing she will ever learn from her junior year, I am extremely grateful.

Let It Be

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I am constantly bombarded with friends who are obsessed with their child’s scores. They are scrambling to do everything to increase their child’s ACT or SAT score. I say, let it be. Why try to extend ourselves beyond who we are? If I am only five feet tall, no matter how many times I have people try and stretch me, I will still only be five feet tall. I am a hater of perfection or the path for striving for this false sense of superiority. My kids are good enough just the way they are and with the scores they are able to achieve. It’s that simple. I find it ridiculous that a students education is based solely on a single test. I promise how they answer those test questions does not represent the students creativity, knowledge or uniqueness. Everything is a joke and I’m not falling for it. I will spend $1000 on a family vacation before I’d ever consider spending it on a course designed to maybe improve a score. My priorities are just different and that’s okay.

What Does Reading and Driving Have in Common? You Won’t Believe It!

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You know that old saying, save the drama for your mama? This mama is sick of drama. Everytime I turn around its something else.

Chase took his 8th grade reading test on Tuesday. The kid has been a wreck ever since. Upon completion of the test, a raw score pops up, yet there is no published passing score to date. Usually these standardized tests are a complete joke and I don’t put much emphasis on them but this year the situation becomes a little more serious. See in Oklahoma, one of the worst ranked states when it comes to education, the school system teams up with the DMV and 8th graders who do not pass their reading test cannot get there drivers permit until they do. The catch? I do believe you can only take the test once a year. Some will argue this is a good thing because reading a book on how to drive well, requires reading.However, this test is based on vocabulary, literary terms and analysis and comprehension of pieces that are just over a 14 year olds head. Someone please explain to me how identifying the mood and theme of a piece of writing has anything to do with driving a car? Enough is enough. This is taking things one step too far.

It’s Time To Make A Choice

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When I was a kid, I loved the weekends. We would sleep in and mom or dad would make pancakes or eggs. We would sit at the table and hang out while catching up after the busyness of the week. There were no cell phones or laptops. Heck, there wasn’t even internet in my town until I was much older and still we never had a computer in the house.

Now a days, weekends are filled with laptops on every table. My husband spends hours catching up on work and email and my daughter fills in answer after answer on physics packets in between writing papers for AP Language Arts. My sons weekends are filled with studying, searching for answers on study guides and five weeklong projects and a new theme paper every single week. 

What in the world is happening to our lives? Does no one have respect for anyone’s time anymore? People need a break, a pause in the unfortunate normalcy of the nonstop week. Will kids be smarter and better because we jam work down their throats on weekends too? Will the small profit to a company be a trade for stress, depression, high blood pressure and obesity from countless hours at a table typing letters on a device that robs us of moments of our precious lives?

Weekends should be a time to rest. Recuperation is necessary both physically and mentally. How can we perform at our best level if we are expected to be on 24/7. I think it’s a shame. Our time to talk, to love and bond are being replaced by ridiculous science projects that don’t do anything but frustrate the hell out of everyone. Chatting with our teens has been replaced by sitting near them while they try and finish up their work. And relationships? We have become threesomes- 2 people and a technological device.

Shame on schools and corporations and shame on people like me who allow it to happen. At the end of our life, we will be dead. We cannot take our work ethic, our job, our degree or our money with us when we go. Think about that when you decide how to spend the few hours you have this weekend. Make them count! Be the change you wish to see in the world. Make a stand. Say no.m

Are You Insane?

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They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

I have another meeting at the school today to discuss new accommodations for Chase. They aren’t really new ideas but rather worded in a new way they hope will be more specific for teachers to understand. This is their sneaky way of getting away with doing nothing. If we continue to talk about ways to change the 504, we never then have to focus on how to enforce it. Usually on days where I have to sit down with the same administers that have caused me nothing but grief, I have an increased amount of anxiety and border on melting down into a full blown panic attack. Today is different. I have a new calm and a new confidence and they can no longer shake me. The meeting is pointless. The world will not be fixed in one day and certainly their word will not mean a thing overnight either. Like it or not, people are predictable and often they repeat the same patterns over and over. They are not really willing to change but always eager to talk a good talk. Today I am going to listen without interest and without any hope for change. It’s like that trip to the dentist every six months that you aren’t psyched about but cannot avoid. You just go sit in the chair, stare at the light and hope the time passes quickly so you can get up and leave. That is my approach today. I will not get worked up or upset by people who do not mean a thing. These people have shown their true colors and are never going to change despite the millions of times we set aside to meet. Wish me luck as I allow my thoughts to fade into the light. They will no longer tell me who I am in there. I am strong, I am confident and I am a mom who would do anything to make sure her child gets what he needs. I know now that so don’t need their help to make that happen. I can do it all on my own. 

What Goes Through Your Head at Midnight?

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I was up last night thinking ridiculous thoughts. This constant pressure of work, work and more work sits on top of me sometimes and weighs me down. I missed valuable hours of sleep picturing a giraffe with bunny ears. Maybe an elephant with a giraffe neck would be easier to make. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind. We just got the instructions for another time consuming, useless school project. I won’t bore you explaining the details. I will let you see them for yourself. As if we don’t struggle with the work we already have to do. As if we don’t already sit at the table from four to nine every night to keep up with homework and studying.  Now this? At what point could they have decided the project was enough? Couldn’t we have done only one animal and proved the student understands the concept? Is it necessary to make a model a certain size and out of recycled materials? Let me know what you think.