Thursday, September 23, 2010

Emotional? Me? Never


Yesterday was Hank's open house at his new elementary school. Well, let me correct myself. It was called "Curriculum Night" but I assumed it was like the open houses I remember from my childhood in public school. You know. The school is open in the evening, you wander in, look around, and meet your child's teachers. You get to see their room, their cubbie, and what they're working on. Good stuff. Nowadays, given that it's like breaking into Scotland Yard to even enter the school, an opportunity to meet his teachers in person and see his little classroom seemed like a particular treat.

The first sign that this was not going to turn out the way I hoped was the "agenda" that Hank came home with last week. I don't want my time overly scheduled. I just want to meet my kid's teacher, ok? Mike and I both took a look at it, and immediately agreed that we were skipping the principal's address, and all the other special activities, save for the kindergarten classroom presentation, scheduled for 7:30-8 pm. I thought that was a bit late for kindergarteners to be out cavorting, but whatever, it's only one night. I figured "presentation" meant that the kids had something prepared for the night, like a song, or other cute festivities.

Yesterday was the big day, and to be honest, I really wasn't feeling up to it. I worked, of course, during the day, and stopped off for groceries on the way home. By time I got home, it was well after 5 pm, and I was exhausted. We ate and cleaned up, bathed Hank, all the while wishing we didn't have to go. But around 7:15, we set off.

As we walked into the school, I was glad we came. It was nice to see where Hank spends his days. We get into the classroom and find Hank's seat with a bunch of paperwork in front of it. I quickly deduced that we were supposed to sit down for a formal presentation. Ok. But then I noticed something else. With a pit forming in my stomach, I remembered that the "agenda" had stated that Curriculum Night was for "parents/guardians ONLY." Now, I figured that this meant not to bring any grandparents or other extraneous friends. I thought even that was a bit odd, but the truth was much, much worse. This actually meant NO CHILDREN.

I was so stunned I was actually speechless. How were parents supposed to attend this event then? I guess they assume you'll get a babysitter (completely ridiculous, I'm sorry) or send only 1 parent while the other stays at home. I'm not a person that gets worked up easily, but frankly, this pissed me off. Like many parents, I work full-time outside the home. In the evening, especially when touring my child's school, I WANT HIM WITH ME. I don't think this is an outrageous notion at all.

So, unfortunately, once again, I got off on the wrong foot at our public elementary school. Nobody said anything to us, but I felt extremely awkward being the only parents there with our child. The teacher stood up and gave a 20 minute or so speal about a bunch of things. Most of what she had to say was good. She had some good suggestions for how to deal with the District's "wellness policy" while still allowing the children to have nice parties, like bagels with cream cheese and fresh fruit for Halloween, and fruit slushies or cheese pizza for birthday celebrations. The curriculum certainly sounds excellent, as it's reputed to be. Their lunch service is award winning, and sounds completely wonderful. The classroom was adorable, with lots of little nooks and tasks for the children to take care of.

The only thing that she mentioned that got my hackles up is that the District now has a "violence and anti-bullying policy" which, although positive sounding, actually includes little boys playing Star Wars and pretending to have light sabers in its list of punishable offense. Really? I mean, REALLY? This isn't the teacher's fault certainly, but anew, it made me pissy. What has become of public education? Have its administrators been taking lessons from the TSA? Sure, there are all these impressive sounding rules, but do any of us really feel safer? It just *really* rubs me the wrong way.

So, after that, I had Mike take an exhausted Henry home, and I lingered to meet the teachers. There is one official teacher in Hank's room, and a full-time aide. The aide was wonderful. Very warm, very sweet. I got a very good feeling from chatting with her. Then I met the teacher. *sighs* She's fine, don't get me wrong. She seems very organized, very competent, and very in control of the classroom. All positive attributes. She just wasn't *warm*. I wanted a warm and fuzzy feeling, and I simply didn't get one. She wasn't unkind. She was just very business-like, and I sensed that she was anxious for me move along.

So, once again, I left the school feeling extremely unsatisfied and wondering if we can budget for Catholic school next year. Maybe all schools have funky rules like this, who knows. Perhaps the only way around the stifling rules is homeschooling. Homeschooling isn't my calling, so I'm stuck with either public or Catholic schools. I'll figure it out I suppose, and I certainly have to give it more than 3 weeks. I just keep waiting for that "comfort" moment, and the school keeps letting me down.

I think what draws me to private school, aside from the obvious faith factor, is that I want to feel like *I* picked *them.* I feel a bit "trapped" in our public school. With our daycare, I always, always had a warm, positive feeling from them, and I loved that we did our research and chose them. Using daycare, in conservative religious circles, can make me feel like a bit of an outcast, I admit. But I think it's important for me to say that although I'd prefer not to use it , we had to use it, we made the best of it, and I'm not ashamed of it. And we selected a facility that both of felt great about and knew that our son was receiving excellent, loving care. I always felt good dropping him off and picking him up. Just being in the building gave me a comforted feeling.

Not so, our local public elementary school. Maybe I need to give it more of a chance. But I go in each time wanting to love it, and well, I just don't love it.

I walked home afterward, and collapsed on the couch. I was so tired that I was actually too tired to knit. TOO TIRED TO KNIT. This is a fairly unheard of physical anomaly in the home of the Catholic Librarian.

Please God, let next week be better...


  1. ((Hugs)) sorry to here about your issues with the school. You're right open house is no longer open house.

    The parochial school I worked at got a new principal and she implemented a lot of the same things to the school. There was a Curriculum Night exactly as you described. We used to call those parent/teacher conferences. She also didn't want parents to come to the classrooms to drop off the students. Instead she had everyone pull up to the front of the school and drop the children off. The problem with that was there was not much in the way of parent/teacher communication. Parents had those communication folders and whatnot.

    Many of them were upset about these new policies because they chose the school because it was small and intimate. They complained to the Church who ended up having a really nasty relationship with the principal.

    The principal, in turn, started spreading lies about the school to the diocese. She was real nasty to begin with. She admitted to a parent that she thought priests were weird because they were celibate and never married. Anyways...

    Needless to say when registration came up for the next year the parents didn't want to pay the 50 dollar non-refundable fee until they had some concrete answers. The diocese, already upset from the lies, was saying that they may shut down the school. They held a meeting which I was on church property at the time of and saw irate parents outside. They were so mad that some of them had to walk out. Apparently, the diocese was blaming the parents for everything.

    They closed down the school and said officially it was due to lack of students. Unofficially its because they sided with the principal.

    My point in telling you this is to keep you aware. If something bothers you, speak up about it. You'd be surprised how much sway parents have even in public schools especially if you discover that you aren't the only one.

  2. Our open houses are the same way, but they were also that way when I was a kid, too; parents only. I always thought it'd be nice if PTA could run a babysitting thing on those nights, like in the gym or something, but supposedly they need all the space in the school for the various presentations. (I guess the gym teachers can't just use a classroom because all the classrooms have their teachers in therm? Still, it's annoying.)

    It's been a long long time, but I think they were the same way at Nate's Catholic preschool, too.

    The light saber thing is ridiculous, but kind of predictable -- too many people screaming OMG STOP BULLYING leads to brain-dead administrative policies. I don't know if that's any better in the private school world.


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