Posts Tagged ‘kindergarten teacher’

My children attended public school during the early years, so most of our fun craft stuff was done on weekends or during summer vacations. In between those times, they had to get up in the mornings to catch the school bus. They liked school. They had great teachers and the school had a great support staff. Those were the years when (for us) public schooling was doing its job.

You need to be an advocate for your child if she is in public school and you are committed to having her there, but you needn’t make an enemy out of the teacher, either. The following vignettes are stories of me advocating for one or another child (or refusing to advocate, as it sometimes happened).

The first incident was when my oldest was in 3rd grade. She was advanced, and she got to spend part of her day in the 4-6 grade classroom. I’m fuzzy on the details, but something was done that caused the teacher in the advanced class to suspect the girls were cheating. Arwen was mortified and hurt. I listened to her side of the story and made a decision: she would ride this out on her own, write an apology to the teacher, and we’d see how things progressed from there. If a pattern of accusation developed, I’d get on my high horse, but for this one incident, I wanted my daughter to understand that adults view things differently and life is not always in our favor. We couldn’t prove she had not cheated (although I believed her and I let her know I believed her).

I don’t recall the consequences the teacher created for the crime, but they were not too excessive, and my daughter survived. There was no pattern of accusation and Arwen became something of a Teacher’s pet with that particular teacher, reinforcing my belief that she was fair. I believe, in the end, the teacher came to believe her accusations had been unfounded, at least in Arwen’s case. She saw a little girl with a conscience who was willing to try to win back the confidence of a favorite teacher.

Levi had a kindergarten teacher who started sending home homework. I understand that is the norm now, but not when I was a young mother. I returned to the school in person, homework in hand, and asked for a meeting. I explained to the teacher that the homework was redundant and I didn’t see any reason why my son should be doing workbooks in Kindergarten. She held a very different point of view. We kept it civil as she pointed out to me how many children come to school and the teacher becomes the focal point of their blossoming education.

I pointed out to her that we, as a family, were constantly reinforcing education by our lifestyle and the family games we played. I used the game “Slug Bug” as my example: you get one point for each VW Beetle, 2 points for a VW Van, 3 points for a VW van with camper pop-out, and 4 if you are lucky enough to spy a VW “truck”. The game is played on the road, the only rules being: it *must be a VW (call a Chevy Van and you lose a point), *no slugging, only calling, *first to call our gets the point(s), and *you have to keep track of your own points. Of course, I kept track of everyone’s points, too, so no cheating. If my son could manage the complicated math to play the game – and do it in his head – then why should he fill out a stupid 2+2=4 worksheet that belongs in the 1st Grade classroom?

I won. My son was set free from paperwork. He moved to the top of the class in no time.

Chrystal came to live with us when she was 10. Her new life coincided with me going back to work full time. The older kids were still home and homeschooling was an option, but I also knew Chrystal was deep in mourning for the loss of her mother and the knowledge of the loss of her father years before. We gave her the choice and she chose public school.

Enter Mrs. Tenure. She had a classroom of 30+ students (thank you, Goals2000 and the constant defunding of curriculum and classroom in favor of superintendents and outside managers for school districts). By the time the December parent-teacher meeting rolled around, Chrystal hated school. She wasn’t making friends (did you know that children pick on orphans? Yeah, sad state of commentary on peer pressure) and she was not blossoming. I sat down with Mrs. Tenure, my usual list of issues in my hand. Arwen’s Kindergarten teacher once told me that “You are the kind of parent a good teacher loves to see coming. A bad teacher doesn’t want to see you coming and will hate you.”

Mrs. Tenure was a Bad Teacher. Our session ended with her heavy sigh, in her heavily tenured manner, “Well, if you want better for her, you should just homeschool her.”

Chrystal did not return to public school after Christmas break.

There were the reading issues as well. I am a Christian, and while we did not go the homeschool route due to religion, it was an underlying foundation. Arwen was nearing the end of her 4th Grade Year when the beloved teacher actually asked the students what book they would like her to read aloud from to end the year out. The vote was overwhelming: something from R.L. Stine’s Goosbumps series. Arwen was certain she should not be listening to this and complained to me.

I went to see the teacher and she assured me the books were not demonic. She even offered to let me take one home to read & decide for myself, which I thought was a wonderful gesture. I accepted the challenge (and read the book overnight). I returned it and told the teacher that she was right – nothing demonic at all about the story line. However, I felt it was way underneath my daughter’s reading level and I thought Arwen’s biggest complaint was the writing style. I asked if Arwen could be given library time to read something more on her level (say, some Rudyard Kipling)? A compromise was met.

My style of advocating was to go in with an agenda, but never to confront the teacher as if she was doing something wrong. I had questions if they had time to address them. I was willing to listen and to research (read a book, for example). But I was never going to back down on what I deemed the quality of their education.

A lot can happen in the walls of a school building. Teasing, peer pressure, fights, suspensions, cheating, accusations of cheating. Most teachers are there for the right reasons. Most education laws are there for the wrong reasons. Teachers are trapped, too. Good ones will listen to you and acknowledge where their hands are tied. Bad ones will lean on their tenure and let out heavy sighs of, “You don’t know how difficult this class is. I have four Special Needs kids and yours is only one of them. I can’t do it all.”

I don’t hate public school or public school teachers. I hate the laws that tie our hands. I will fight to remove teachers who are resting on their laurels due to tenure (they were probably resting on their laurels as young teachers, too – just no one like me confronted them early on).

Good teachers loved me. Bad teachers lost me.

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