Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Thank-you Note to Fragrant Hills

An e-mail to Younger Daughter's 2nd-grade teacher (with a copy to the Principal):

Ms. Teacher -- just a note to say thank you for a wonderful year.  Back in September, we were worried stiff that YD would have behavior problems again.  We couldn't have been more relieved and surprised at the way things turned out.  She learned a lot, enjoyed school, and made friends.  I'm still not entirely sure how it happened!  So, thank you for all your efforts. 


FedUpMom & Sainted Husband & (of course!) Younger Daughter


  1. That's great news, FedUpMom. I had noticed that you weren't posting as much about conflicts with the school. What do you think changed?

  2. Well, the big thing that changed was that YD didn't feel like she was expected to magically be able to read, so she didn't have all the anxiety that came with trying to fake it, which I now understand was the driving force behind her behavior problems last year.

    Also, we took on the responsibility of solving YD's reading problems. I actually don't know how much of YD's progress was from our teaching, and how much from the school.

    As to less posting, the truth is I'm burning out. Older Daughter had plenty of ridiculous homework this year, causing all kinds of stress, and I just didn't have the heart to blog it. It's the same problems and the same arguments over and over again.

  3. I know the feeling. I sometimes feel like I've wandered into Alice in Wonderland, and I'm posting blog pieces saying, "But wait, rabbits can't talk!" What's the point? Except sometimes venting feels better than not venting.

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  5. FedUp, I hear you. But I hope you don't stop blogging. I really began to suffer from compassion fatigue. Once my daughter graduated high school, I began to back off. But I've poured my heart and soul into these issues, how could I stop now?

    Every now and then, I still check into StopHomework. Glad to see you and PsychMom still pay a visit over there. But it feels like we are going in circles. I put so much effort into that blog, commented relentlessly. And the same arguments keep coming up, the same rebuttals.

    I'm on a prestigious education committee in my county. Last night, I had the chance to tell the Chairperson of the school board how legions of parents feel disenfranchised. How they appear at meetings, make their three minute speech and it just feels like a checklist. In one ear, out the other.

    Right now, the argument on StopHomework is at least compelling, the commenter intelligent and thought provoking. But I no longer have the time or heart to dredge up all the arguments. Been There Done That. Have we gotten anywhere?

    I saw nothing change in the four years of high school, despite high profile articles and books on the ravages of homework overload. If anything, it only got worse. I attended a PTSA meeting this year at the old high school and there was one gratifying event -- parents were timidly questioning homework. Apparently it's gotten so out of control, even these hyper-competitive parents are noticing. Several of them talked of teachers who post homework at 10:00 pm, demanding submission the following morning! If that was my child, I would Just Say No.

    And the principal punted. Did nothing. Told the parents to tell the kids to tell the teacher. And he questioned whether the parents had their information correctly. It's always good to start a dialogue by mistrusting some of the most involved parents on the planet.

  6. From PsychMom:

    I can't keep on with the discussion on StopHomework either...the value of children's lives is just not on the radar of our culture right now. If people think homework is the road to salvation, who am I to change their mind. But it's really discouraging, as HWB says, to make sincere efforts to speak up for children only to be ignored or placated by school staff. "How charming. She thinks children have something to say about their school or their education."
    I must say I have been impressed with our eduction minister who recently decided that extracurricular activities that some kids do, like competitive dance, 4H, cadets, and the like would now count for school credit in high school. And more trades and technology options are starting to be offered as well. They are at least trying to help kids feel more worthwhile and their interests relevant. Good to see. But always, always, there is at least one commenter suggesting that these lazy parents and kids should just get their butts to class and stop whining.

    I am tiring of the fight as well...and my family still has far to go.

  7. PsychMom, don't give up the good fight! But look at the latest comment on StopHomework from a new teacher. I see red when a teacher writes a long essay in one paragraph. I'm almost ready to circle all the mechanical and punctuation mistakes in red myself!

    I can't expect every new person on the blog to read everything I've written over there. But after all that effort, the best this new teacher can conclude is that we are whiny, spoiled, impossible, recalcitrant and how she shudders to think she'll have to deal with the likes of us.

    And here we are, drawn to the blog out of love for our kids, desperately wanting to nurture their curiosity, imagination and joy. And we get slammed for it. Boy, am I glad we're done with K-12. I don't think I could have taken another minute.

  8. The constant conflict and tension with the school system is a drag, but to me, the idea of silently putting up with what they do is a bigger drag.

  9. PsychMom adds:
    I listened to a repeat of an interview with Gloria Steinem held this year on CBC this morning. This woman is now 77...All I have to say about that is Wow.

    Anyway, she said that perhaps some of her impetus to speak up and to be the way that she is may have come from the fact that she didn't really attend school in any regular way till she was past the age of 12. She didn't say much more than that about school, but that line spoke to me. We may be taking away some girls' voice and strength by sending them to school in the early years. My 11 year old daughter is in a slump right now..she doesn't look right, feel right, know anything, from her prespective. And while I know that is "normal", I hate it...

    Yes, Chris. I'll never be able to shut up about the problems I see. But my scope is largely centered around my kid..if it helps someone else, that's fine. And if a parent needs support, I'm fine with helping. But the teachers and members of the general public who see the world in a traditional way....to me it seems they sometimes go looking for fights. I don't want to argue with them.

  10. PsychMom corrects herself.....PERSPECTIVE, not prespective.

  11. Sure, and you'll never win *everyone* over. (I wish I was better at keeping this cartoon in mind.) But I think there are more people out there who are sympathetic to our concerns than it sometimes seems.

  12. From PsychMom...
    Oh Chris I love that cartoon...that was me last week.
    I would never expect to win half over..But the issue of children and their fair treatment is such a non-issue for most people. But you are right..

    There is another front that I'm following that actually fits well with our issues here and that's the idea of ROWE's. ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment a movement started by two ladies who used to work for Best Buy. They advocate making work evolve into being a part of our lives that fits rather than making our whole lives stop to revolve around work. If I could work ROWE style, I'd work out with my workplace what my objectives are and then be given free rein to make those happen however, and wherever,and whenever I want. No more 9 to 5, no more alloted sick or vacation time, no wasting time sitting in meetings that aren't necessary, no guilt about taking kids to appointments, or staying home with sick kids. Work when you can and want to not when you should.

    But these ideas are just so "out there". How could we survive without rushhour,and gridlock? What would the people do who watch what time people arrive at work and make snide comments? How would managers know people are working if they aren't in their offices? Slowly, some firms are incorporating ROWE into their workplaces...but the rate of growth is so painfully slow...

    ..Just like our attempts at changing school....

  13. Interesting -- I just stumbled across this the other day.

  14. PsychMom says:
    Who studies Chinese travel agencies? Too funny.
    This article highlights part of the advantages, but my thing about ROWE is that it's family positive. It gives credit to all parts of our lives instead of just giving value to the world of work, the 9 to 5 world, into which nothing else fits. ROWE people probably aren't sitting playing video games a whole lot because they're grocery shopping, getting the car serviced, meeting friends for lunch, calling clients, attending a school play, writing reports, teleconferencing...etc...It all gets done all day. As the article points out, less time is wasted pretending you're working.
    The ROWE people would suggest it fits for shift workers and service workers as well because everyone has different demands on their time. With some open-mindedness and ingenuity, all tasks can be covered when the focus is on results and not face-time.

  15. I know I've provided the website before but here it is again.

  16. PsychMom -- You got a username!

  17. Living on the edge Chris, I'm living on the edge...

  18. In the Business section of the Globe and Mail today, there is an article (a couple actually) highlighting Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in The Atlantic and a possible solution for the working mother who can't have everything. A primary solution proposed is to....Chris you'll appreciate this.....lengthen the school day. The current delivery of the school day is based on mother being at home and being available at the drop of a hat to help out as necessary and come to the school in the middle of the day. But everyone knows that this is outdated.

    Clearly the solution, the update, the School 2.0 program should be to increase the hours of school days for the kids.

    I don't even get how that makes it better.

  19. Ugh. That Ann-Marie Slaughter has written some things I agree with, but this one drives me crazy. My question: If that's the concern, why not *offer* free after-school care to people who want it, instead of forcing it on everyone, even if they don't want it (which has to be more expensive)?

  20. Just to be clear, it wasn't Slaughter who was suggesting the longer school day, it was the Globe writer of the article who made the leap to longer school days. I agree with you Chris, and I think it calls for a total rethink about what we're doing with kids. It begs the questions...what is childhood all about and what should kids being doing all day. I wouldn't presume that the school system should become de facto childcare centers, where teachers are expected to provide this care.

    But then again if schools were to evolve into Family Life Centers the possibilities for what can go on at these places grow into something really different.