Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back to School

I went to Fragrant Hills' Back to School Night last night.  I haven't been to one of these events in several years, but Younger Daughter wanted me to go, so I went.

The evening began with a talk by the principal.  In a 45 minute speech, she said not one word about academics.  She said a great deal about making the school safe and inclusive, but nothing about curriculum, teaching or learning.  I'm  worried about getting YD up to speed in reading and math, and nothing the principal said addressed any of my concerns.  And this is a principal I actually like!

Next, on to the 4th grade classroom to find YD's letter to me (standard procedure for Back to School Night around here.)  The teacher explained her homework policy -- there's homework every night, including a reading log to be signed by the parents (you know my feelings on that one).  After three missed homeworks, the child has to stay in from recess with the teacher, "and it's not fun".  Terrific -- once again, she'll be punishing the children of uninvolved parents.   On the plus side (I guess), she did say that if you didn't have time that night to just write her a note.

She remarked that 4th grade is an important step for the kids because it's when they start to get letter grades.  Ugh.

She walked us through an arithmetic trick where you do a bunch of calculations involving your phone number and wind up with -- gasp! -- your phone number.  In the midst of this she remarked that she's always telling the kids, "it's not two hundred AND fifty, it's two hundred fifty!"  Huh?

I left feeling, as usual, frustrated and out of step.  I'm not on the same page as these folks.  Heck, I'm not even in the same book, or the same country, or the same mental universe. 


  1. It's never about the academics, is it? I remember looking at school website after website and struggling to find information about elementary math and reading programs used by the districts around here (turns out it is all Everyday Math and TERC Investigations but that information wasn't easy to come by) but it wasn't very hard at all to find the football schedule. Go figure.

    I attended a conference for middle school math and science teachers and ended up sitting near a group of 6th grade teachers who reported that not a single one of their students knew their multiplication facts by heart and were frustrated by the impossibility of teaching those students fractions and long division. They were brainstorming ways to convince students that they might need that knowledge (your smart phone battery might be dead!) but what they didn't talk about was insisting that the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers take responsibility for requiring kids to learn math facts instead of handing them calculators or waiting for the spiral to works its magic or whatever it is they do.

    Around here, the big plan is to address the achievement gap by shifting attendance boundaries, but we are absolutely not going to talk about whether Everyday Math and the reading program plus Reading Recovery might be part of the problem.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the bookmarked article--and feel vindicated in my belief that my kids should really learn arithmetic without calculators!