Bear With Me While I Obsess: School Tours Round 2

You are wondering right now if I’ve quit my job so I can focus full time on obsessing and complaining about my kids’ education. Rest assured, I have not.

My son emptied out his desk yesterday and brought home a meager 10 or so sheets of paper from the past few months of school. One was a holiday card he had written to us. It said “Dear Family, I hop you hav a grate krismas. Merry Krismas Ha Ha.” Heartbreak. If there was one word my son learned how to spell over the past 6 years, it was Christ. I can’t believe he left the Christ out of Christmas, addressed the card to “Family” and signed it “Ha Ha.”

Why do I have to do another round of school tours? Why is getting into a good school a “lottery”? What about those of us who never win things? The chances that I will win my kids a seat at a decent school are slim. The only thing I’ve ever won is a 6-week pass to a Stroller Strides class, and I’m pretty sure I was the saddest, dumpiest looking mother there and they set my raffle ticket aside for easy identification. This would be the quickest way for them to banish me from the smiling fit momma club, knowing I’d never follow through on 6 classes.

I’m drawn to unconventional ways of learning and institutional rule breaking. I’ve visited a couple of magnet schools focused on the STEM model of learning, an art magnet school which incorporates the arts into the district’s core curriculum, and a school for gifted and talented children. Next week I will visit a Christian school. I can’t decide which school is the best fit for my kids – I mean, will they be scientists, artists, social activist/engineers or pastors? And worse, will I once again fail to secure a spot at ANY of these options, and then they will just be regular kids? The last part of that sentence should be read in your sarcastic voice.

Last year, I was really excited to visit a dual language immersion school. At the last minute, I had a work trip and my PILL (partner in lawful living), had to visit in my place. Unfortunately, the school brought up unresolved trauma for my PILL, who excitedly reported back to me that the kids there are required to spend about 60-70 percent of their time in the “second language.” It brought him back to his early days of kindergarten when nuns beat him for not being able to speak English.

As I’ve been lamenting these past several weeks about my neighborhood school, I’ve also been reaching out to different parents to see how their kids’ experiences are at their various schools. All of their kids are loving their schools, yet all of them mention the difficult transition between the current school and our former private, small Christian daycare.  At this daycare, the teachers were amazing, learning was active and interactive, and according to my son, they didn’t have rules, had recess at least seven times a day (with access to 14 uniquely themed playgrounds) and could talk about God as much as they wanted. Two meals and snacks were included as part of the fee. I got to see my son’s teachers every morning and every night when I dropped him off and picked him up. He brought home enough school work and art work to fill a storage locker. His eyes sparkled most days and at the end of the year, he was honored as the “Number King” for writing his numbers past 5,000 over the course of the school year. Now he blends into a sea of khaki and blue and his teacher constantly reminds me that she can’t easily keep track of 20 kids and communicate regularly with all the parents when she has a class that large. Twenty? I will leave this here.

In conclusion, I’m praying for a miracle. That I will somehow find a school that my kids actually enjoy in their post daycare lives. And that I don’t have to have the “I’m going to drop of out school” conversation that I had the other night with my 6-year old for another 10 years.

An Ode to Siri, My Trusted Co-Parent

The other day, I felt like I might have landed on a brilliant invention. An app you can use to have those difficult conversations with your child. Instead of having conversations about drugs, sex, and Donald Trump with your kids, why not just create an app to whom you can delegate that responsibility. I mean, there is an app for practically everything these days.

This flash of brilliance was brought on by my increasing reliance on Siri to engage with my children on challenging topics. Prior to discovering the vast knowledge that Siri possesses, I was trying to answer these difficult, and sometimes, ethically gut-wrenching, questions on my own. Now, when I’m weaving through difficult city traffic trying to make an appointment on time and my son asks me when the sun is going to explode, I just hand my phone back to him. It’s better that way anyhow as I won’t be tempted to respond to texts or check Facebook comments while driving.

Siri is proficient in discovering the biggest anything on Earth. From dinosaurs to trucks to sea monsters and poop. She can also find the smallest house or the oldest man on Earth. I have no doubt that she might have played a crucial role in finding Osama bin Laden.

biggest-biggest

The other night, when I briefly grabbed my phone from my son to send a text, Siri was in the middle of looking online to find out “what is the biggest boob on the Earth?” He swore up and down that he was saying “poop” and Siri got it wrong. He’s 6 years old, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

This morning, as I got out of the shower, I heard my daughter chatting with Siri. She was saying “Show me a picture of a bear eating a man.” I quickly threw on a towel and descended on her, snatching the phone without warning. She would have had nightmares for weeks.

However, it was on the way to church today that I concluded that Siri might truly be the best source of information for our family. My daughter yelped from the backseat that she had just swallowed some gum and asked what would happen. Naturally, I wanted to hand the phone back to her and say, “Here, just ask Siri.” It was here where my PILL, or Partner in Lawful Living (as opposed to Partner in Crime – you can draw whatever conclusions you’d like from the acronym) preempted me. According to him, now that she had swallowed her gum, she had to be very careful whenever she had the urge to pass gas. Should she fart while she was in Church Party, it was very possible that her back-end would blow a bubble, her leggings would expand, and her fart would smell like Juicy Fruit. And it would be embarrassing. My son joined in, full of tips on how to reduce the size, sound and smell of a fart. Apparently, this was not something he had learned from Siri, but had thought up the techniques himself and tested them and they worked. Tried and true.

After witnessing this conversation, I was determined that Siri would have had the edge on answering this question “correctly.” Although I did conclude that in the end, interactions with Siri, my PILL, and my forthcoming app will still all require adult supervision.

 

 

 

School Meetings and My Pagan Daughter

The long awaited meeting finally occurred and I hope some forward movement will happen regarding my son’s school situation. I went into the meeting in a state of hyper vigilance. I probably could have felt a speck of dust land on me, but I wasn’t nervous. My son’s teacher had already made cultural and economic differences an issue prior to the break, so I was prepared for some undercurrent and was particularly aware of how I was being perceived. My son is biracial but few people are aware of it based on his appearance. From what I’ve observed in my interactions with his class, he is one of two white “appearing” children, the other being a girl. On further thought, being one of the perceived culturally different kids in class could pose some barriers that might not be there if he blended in. I do know that his teacher is wrestling with her feelings about me and after I was invited to share our story about what was going on, she pushed back from the table, her body tensed and she sat back in her chair. I recounted the points I had shared earlier in email, what I was observing, and what I needed moving forward. Even though I felt emotional at times, and I am prone to bawl my head off in any situation, I refused to fall into the “white woman’s tears” syndrome in this context where I couldn’t afford to distract people and lose sight of the issue.

I know that school personnel in general are subjected to a lot of crap from parents. Based on earlier conversations with me, I know my son’s teacher went into this situation on the defensive due to that fact, as well as her perception that I am culturally ignorant and economically privileged (although if the latter is true, we would have never met in the first place because we would have lived in a nicer part of town with a higher performing school). I’m not sure if the meeting today made any progress on how we interact in the future and the perceptions we have of each other, but everyone at the table did agree to communicate more frequently and treat the resolution of the concerns as a partnership. Other staff will be looped in as to what is going on with the teasing and name calling, the principal has scheduled a formal “restorative” conversation with one of the boys who is at the center of the conflict, and my son’s teacher, at least for the next couple of weeks, will shoot me a brief note at the end of the day about how the day went and anything out of the normal both in terms of my son’s behaviors or others’ towards him. While the meeting was productive, the climate was awkward and tense between all of us in our different roles, contexts, and assumptions. I hope that what we have initiated can be a positive experience moving forward where the elements of that climate can transform. I appreciate the questions and concerns that have come my away about my son’s school situation and wanted to provide this update for people who are interested.

On a lighter note, my daughter has started signing her name accompanied by an image of a pentagram, or in some cases, the pentagram simply is her signature. Kind of like what Prince did in the 90s. “The child formerly known as.” There are several “mainstream” ways this can be interpreted (like my daughter, the pentagram appears to have been associated with Satan) so I am somewhat amused. I will leave you with a sample:

n-star

Circled Pentagram

A circle around a pentagram contains and protects. The circle symbolises eternity and infinity, the cycles of life and nature. The circle touching all 5 points indicates that the spirit, earth, air, water and fire are all connected.

-taken from http://www.angelfire.com/id/robpurvis/pentagram.html