This Public School Stuff is Going to Kill Me

On which day of school do your children’s teachers issue their text books?  Just curious, because yesterday was day four and A~’s math teacher still hasn’t passed out the math books.

Of course, she has passed them out to the honors pre-algebra class, but not to A~’s class.  Yes, we still don’t have the math class situation worked out.  The current story is that they are keeping A~ in her current class because there are only 12 students in it, whereas there are a dizzying 25 in the honors course, and that is just.so.big! they hate to move her into it.  Because A~’s class is so small the teacher will be able to spend time with her and have her do the work that will get her ready for algebra next year (which is what the honors pre-algebra class is for).

That’s nice in theory, but it hasn’t happened yet.  No extra time, no extra work, and no freaking textbook.

Then of course, the question begs to be asked, “Why should my kid have to do extra work?  Why  not just give her the same assignments she is giving the honors kids?”

Except so far she is only giving her the work she is giving the rest of the non-honors classes, and, let me tell you, these kids are destined to remain non-honors students for the rest of their lives at this pace.  You know, that would be the pace of one assignment so far that, from what I could tell, has nothing to do with pre-algebra and is at least two grade levels below any thing A~ did last year in math.

I am frustrated.  I am furious.  A~ did an entire year of pre-algebra last year.  The middle school here?  Does not offer pre-algebra in the sixth grade.  So how much sense does it make to not put her in the honors pre-algebra class when she is the only seventh grader in the whole school to have a year’s worth of that subject under her belt?

GAH!

I have requested a conference with the teacher.

I think, however, I have figured out why several teachers have not issued the textbooks and very few have assigned any actual work to either one of my daughters:  they are too busy explaining forms to send home for parents to sign.  Holy freaking crap.  Are these people so unable to do their jobs that they just sit around generating poorly written asinine forms instead?  Every single day for four school days now, the girls have come home with new forms from various teachers for us to “go over together” and sign.

I’m about sick of it.  Just teach my kids already.  That is your job.

Speaking of “just teach my kid already,” if I really want them to sit around playing Two Truths and a Lie to get to know other kids, I’ll put a poster up in the quickie mart, and maybe one in the library, inviting all the kids their age over to play on our embarrassingly huge swing set, swim in the pond, and play games.  I do not send my kids to school so that the social studies (because heaven forbid they actually teach history) teacher can be the game coordinator.

Moving on to language arts:  O!M!Gosh!  The teacher assigned the students to write an autobiography.  First they had to do a handwritten rough draft, and then they can do a typewritten final draft.  The rough draft was going to be due today, but then I guess she realized all the non-honors LA teachers were making their kids’ rough drafts due today, so she made it due yesterday instead (way to vary your lesson plans and challenge those honors kids!).

A~ spent hours working on her rough draft (she typed it first and then wrote it out by hand to meet the requirement) (she had to type it first because we were traveling a lot this weekend and she couldn’t write it by hand in the car).  So yesterday she went in with her rough draft, and?  The teacher didn’t even collect it.  She isn’t going to collect it.  She just wanted the students to pair up and read their drafts out loud to each other to help them catch their own errors that way.

Huh?

Don’t get me wrong.  That technique does help you catch errors.  But?  These are seventh-grade students.  They aren’t going to catch that many errors that way, and they need someone to teach them what they’ve done wrong before you go collecting a final draft and giving it a grade.  I speak from experience here – sad, sad, experience.

I taught seventh grade language arts for nine weeks (filled in for a teacher who broke her leg in some excruciating, severe way).  Those kids couldn’t write.  Seriously.  It was the last nine weeks of the year, and 2/3 of them couldn’t have written, “This is a stick up.  Put all the money in a bag, don’t make a sound, and nobody will get hurt.”

I thought that was a terrible shame, considering 2/3 of them were so obviously headed for a life of crime (I jest – this is me trying to inject some levity into a very frustrated, ranty blog post—probably only 1/3 of them were headed for a life of crime), so I made them write.  A lot.

And?  I gave them as many opportunities as they wanted to revise their writing assignments.  There were a set number of assignments they had to do, I read every draft, attached a rubric to every one showing the kids exactly what issues they needed to work out and what the grade would be if they quit at that attempt, and then I let them go at it again if they weren’t happy with that grade.  A lot of the kids didn’t care.  At all.  But some?  Some caught the vision and I remember one student in particular who had been failing all year excitedly sharing with his other inmates classmates, “I’ve got my grade up to a C!  A C!!”  And he worked for that C too, let me tell you.  By the time he got it, he deserved it.

Here is the sad part (aside from the fact that the kids couldn’t write a bank robbery note):  the other middle school teachers would see me in my classroom or the teachers’ lounge constantly grading/editing papers; constantly, constantly, constantly.  They made several comments about how I must love grading papers, or deciphering chicken scratch handwriting, and how they made their kids write as little as possible because it was easier to grade worksheets.

It was all I could do not to grab a red permanent marker and write a big fat F- on their foreheads.

How fair is it to tell kids to write a paper a couple of times a year and then give them a grade on the final product when you, as the teacher, have put no effort into teaching them, coaching them on how to write well?  Writing a paper or article or book report isn’t like doing a worksheet or taking a multiple choice test.  It isn’t just regurgitating information out.  It takes practice, and practice, and help (for most middle school students, anyway).  Do you send football players out on the field without training first?  No.  Nor should you be grading a final draft of a writing assignment without giving input on the rough draft.  Rough drafts are training when you are in the seventh grade.

So, of course, I am oh so (sarcastically) thrilled that A~’s honors language arts teacher had her spend her weekend writing a rough draft that will never be seen by the person who is supposed to be helping her learn how to write better.  Maybe she’d have more time to read the kids’ drafts if she weren’t so busy helping them make ME posters.

Crap!  Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,crap, crap!  Day four, and so far their most time intensive work in school has been making posters about themselves.  THAT IS NOT EDUCATIONAL.  My daughter already knows about herself.  She knows more about herself than she wants to share with the school right now, for sure.  Also?  She is in an art class at that very school (which, I must say, seems to be a pretty good art class – so props to the old dude in the Hawaiian shirts who has my daughter, on DAY 2, drawing with perspective way better than I ever thought she could), so she really doesn’t need to be doing crafty things in ENGLISH class.

There were reasons I home schooled for so long.  Very valid reasons.  And I hate, absolutely HATE that I am now knowingly sacrificing my children’s education just so they can hopefully make friends.  But they really, truly need to make friends.  I get that.  Maybe once they have some good friends we’ll pull them back out.  Who knows.

In other news, we’re apparently buying a horse.

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt is hiding from the lady who is slowly going insane.

If you know us in real life, please don’t say anything to the kids.  I’m going to try to talk the girls into having a combined birthday party half way between their two birthdays (they are a month apart), and we’ll “give” them the horse then (since we have no barn currently, it will be boarded so the girls won’t even know we have it).  It isn’t going to be just theirs, but they are the ones who really want it, so it will be their birthday.  And Christmas.  It will also be my husband’s birthday.  And Christmas.  For the next decade.

It will be my undoing.  No, wait, not the horse.  Now I’m back on the public schools again.

And you are all wondering, “How can they afford a horse when she keeps saying it is too expensive to buy the home school curriculum?”

Damn good question. 

But even I have to admit, it’s a buyer’s market in the horse business right now, and this is a good, well trained, cheap horse.

Incidentally, I will try to stop blogging about the public schools, but I’m giving you fair warning:  it may take a while for the dust to settle and for me to get this all out of my system.

9 thoughts on “This Public School Stuff is Going to Kill Me

  1. A horse! I hope you are able to get video of your breaking the news to the kids.

    My kids are still in early elementary so their books were on their desks the first day but I’d be more than a little upset at the pace your girls are going. I hope your conversation with the teacher about math makes a difference. It’s no wonder the resume’s my hubby gets at work are so awful – no one teaches kids how to write! My kids are still in elementary school but I’m well aware that it’ll be on me to teach the kids how to diagram a sentence & how to write a paper.

    Do the kids like school or are they as frustrated about the pace as you are?

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  2. Gina

    Ach. I’m so sorry you and your girls are having such a hard time getting the school to cooperate and the teachers to do their jobs. We’re having a better time of it, but those read-it-and-sign-it-to-say-that-you’ve-read-it-with-your-14/16-year-old forms are going to kill me, too. And Annie had one really stupid assignment that cost me a giant piece of poster board and too much printer ink so she could illustrate, “40% of American women have hurled footwear at a man.” To be fair, she did get to pick the statistic. Maybe that makes it educational. I thought of another stupid thing, but I lost it. I’ll be back if I remember. It seems like it might have been a doozy…

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  3. The forms really aren’t the teachers’ fault. (I say this as the wife of a public school teacher, a teacher who really is good at what he does and does manage to teach the kids science and English and actually does grade rough drafts.) The forms are from the massive red tape and bureaucracy that is choking public education.

    My kids have all their textbooks…I think it is strange that your kids don’t have them.

    I hate those ME posters.

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  4. I remember being excited about the first day of school, and then totally depressed at how many times we had to go over the rules, or repeat the second half of the grade before. In elementary school. And junior high. And a little in high school. But, not in college! So there’s hope yet!

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  5. Oh, I do agree that there is massive red tape and bureaucracy choking public education. No doubt about it. But is it normal to have the school send home a zillion forms explaining school rules/policies/procedures and then each teacher, or each grade, to send home their own forms, restating basically the same things, and also requiring a signature? That is where I am more frustrated.

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  6. metaphase

    Sorry you’re so frustrated right now. Unfortunately, when you deal with the masses, you have to cater to the lowest common denominator. I’m sure all those forms are a c.y.a. so the school system or teacher doesn’t get sued by some idiot who said they had no idea it was against the rules to _____.
    And I’m not trying to defend your school system here, but the “two truths and a lie” and the poster may be the teachers attempts to get everyone more relaxed and participating in class. I mean, I know you knew that already, I’m just saying there’s a push to meet students where they’re at and try to teach using more than just a chalk board and paper.
    I hope it gets better for all of you (I know a horse would make things WAY better for me!). Of course no school is going to be able to give your kids the tailored, person specific teaching that you gave them, though.

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  7. Christina

    Well, considering the girls are in gov’t schools to make friends, one could argue the Two Truths and a Lie and ME posters are actually the most useful things they are doing. Totally not educational and treating the kids like 5 year olds, but at least their getting to know the other kids, right? 🙂

    Seems like my kids start getting serious homework pretty quickly here … I’ve blocked out most of the old middle school experience. (no I haven’t really but it was all so very bad it’s hard to remember specifics).

    We don’t start until next Tuesday and now I’m dreading it just a little bit more…

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  8. I have to say the pace your girls are going in school seems super duper slow. We do rules on day one (and yes, we are required to do school rules and classroom rules in each and every class). And then? The kids get homework on like, day 2. Oh and they get their books at registration, the week before school begins. Honestly? I don’t think your state can be that different from my state in terms of education. Heck, your state is way more progressive in the special ed arena. I don’t see how that school could be meeting the rigor set forth in the state standards. And, fight for the honors classes. Don’t back down!

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  9. All I can say is… Welcome to public school, sweetpea. Did you honestly expect something better? Seriously?

    Also- I noticed you said “damn.” It is my understanding that good Mormon girls only say damn when they are Very Stressed. You need ice cream.

    Congrats on the horse. That will be fun.

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