Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The letter Aa, Aa, Aa, Aa, Aa spells blah.

Coyote laughs at something Huck does at dinner.
Huck "I must be the coolest person in the world."
Coyote, laughing, "Ah, Papa, no you're not! No one is the coolest person in the world except," he gets an awed distant gaze, "the circus kids."
Our kids have seen the Wenatchee Youth Circus a few times, you think? They LOVE Billy, the tight rope walker.

We are appreciating some aspects of Blue's school. Every day she comes home knowing more and more Spanish. Her two friends: Zulia and Soledad. They hopscotch so much their feet hurt.

Today Blue told us the Mrs. R won't let her write her name in cursive. Mrs. R told her that was only for 4th and 5th graders. The school so far is doing an excellent job doing what school does best: killing off every attempt at creativity and individuality.

Then Blue told us that she had to write two work sheets of the letter A. This was sort of disappointing in 1st grade. But second?! I said, "Let me guess, tomorrow you'll do two work sheets of the letter B!" How exciting! These teachers are really working their assess off making school a fun and enjoyable place to learn. I'm so glad they have 14 years of laurels to rest on. Must be comfy.

Speaking of which, I did have that conference and this is what I discovered. Mrs. H has spent 14 years in front of 7 and 8 year olds. This means, of course, that she knows everything, and she is always right. I don't even know where to begin talking about this nor do I know how to approach her on the subject.

First off, the laughter was confirmed to NOT have been too loud, too long, or at someone else's expense. The teachers simply didn't want kids to get the wrong idea about school right off the bat.

The school is a "Make-Your-Day School." It's a well meaning program meant to reign in out-of-control teachers. As far as I could tell with a Google, the research is all done by its progenitors.

Anyway, MYD means children make "choices" and the consequences really aren't the teacher's fault. Which means they do this double-speak. THEM: "Blue's chosen two step one's for laughing this year already!" RIGHT: Blue chose to laugh and Mrs. H chose to give her a Step One. You cannot teach kids to take responsibility for their behavior by not taking responsibility for yours.

Mrs. H also explained to me that they only have one rule. It was a 1'x1' sign posted low on the wall. Something smarmy about a learning environment that no one could disagree with and that any behavior you wanted could either be appropriate or inappropriate under that sky-sized umbrella. And to clarify that one rule, she had posted some lists of specifics. I look around to about 20 electric yellow posters detailing Steps 1-15 of every possible eventuality. She says "We only have one rule, really." And she see's me reading all the posters, "We like to focus on the rules the first few weeks of school, so the kids understand what's expected of them." "What's expected" is NOT: fun, laughter, joy, personal expression of any sort, apparently. She sounded so reasonable. But there were seriously about 100 rules posted. It would put the Washington Administrative Code to shame. And I can understand setting ground rules, but what about setting the kids up for fun, for the natural joy of learning?

"You are not alone!" She says, "Lots of parents come in the first few weeks of school concerned about that!" Silly parents, couldn't possibly have a POINT!

The class room was neat, tidy, large. The teacher seemed nice, but she had a bitter edge to her, and she spoke out of both sides of her mouth. Then she called Blue in. I'm embarrassed I let her do this. She asked Blue if it was okay to laugh in school. Blue almost cried and shook her head, whispered, "No." The teacher says to me, "Oh, she's a literalist. That's the problem." Not, "Oh I goofed." But "Oh, there's a problem with your child." And then she goes on to tell Blue that laughing is allowed, at appropriate times, like at story time. The problem was with Blue's understanding, not the teacher's communication, and certainly not with the fact that she assumes the authority to tell Blue when she can and cannot laugh.
And you can't point out any of this to the lady. Her mind is so contorted. She could not admit any mis-communication, any mistakes.

My mind is changed: I am for charter schools. Work a little ladies. Make these kids WANT to come back for 10 more years. As long as the audience is captive, they don't have to do a damn thing other than photo copy some letter sheets.

Sensing some anger? Hell YEAH! This brings up all sorts feelings from my own childhood, worries for the safety of my daughter's soul, worries about my own and how it was maimed by such idiots. I'm worried about my limited options. What can I do? She wants to be with other kids. She cried when I suggested home schooling and I want some time to myself.

I want Blue's teachers to be people worthy of her efforts and her devotion, which she will surely give them. I don't want her crushed by their lack of creativity, imagination and flexibility. My daughter will spend 6 hours a day with these people. They better be nice. They better love what they're doing.

So, as we waited for the bus this morning, I did the only thing I thought I could do. I told her her teacher was wrong and she'd likely be wrong about a lot of things. She needed to obey her at school, but she didn't have to obey her in her heart. She smiled at me and giggled. Step One: two co-conspirators for joy.


  1. i was thinking of the clearest way to question her approach to "choices". perhaps if you decide to discuss it, you could explain that you agree with the idea, but they should emphasize making a choice about behavior, not making a choice about consequences.

    in life, consequences are RARELY our choice. if i held up a bank and got caught, i wouldn't choose prison. i would probably choose, you know, returning 10% of the money with a note of apology. but prison would be a consequence for my behavior.

    if she's still not getting it, i think the story about blue's response to coyote is a great illustration.

    sorry, i'm such an ed theory dork! i could talk all day about this. :)

  2. Hey, That's a GREAT idea. I might even cite my source: First grade teacher in Oakland, private school. And, gosh, THANKS For the comment!

  3. OH Sarajoy! This is so crazy and entertaining, I hadn't checked your blog since the beginning - I miss you here in Pullman! I will call you very soon. My thoughts are so with you - I have to keep reading the rest of the updates now... who's at work right now? You're much more interesting! Julie.



Related Posts with Thumbnails