Monday, August 9, 2010

Trying to get on board to go back to school

We're pretty much ready. I was able to get free backpacks, complete with supplies, through our after-school program and the girls are so excited. We have the desk all set up and ready to go. At Sylvia's registration, I picked up all of her textbooks. The girls have arranged (and re-arranged) their backpacks in anticipation. One more week.

One more week to get my attitude straight about school. One more week of wondering if Sylvia's school has straightened out her schedule so that she can switch to the elective she actually wants this year. One more week of no homework! One more week of not knowing who Riley's teacher will be this year. One more week of hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Both of my daughters will be taking part in "Promotion" ceremonies (the new term, since commencement and graduation are officially inaccurate) and while I'm sure I will be emotional in the moment, right now, I'm starting to count the days.

I am burnt out. Summer was not long enough for me to get geared up. Usually at this time, I'm counting the days until school starts.

My oldest is going into 8th grade, and my youngest into 5th. In the last 8 years, I have had some amazing experiences in education and some appalling ones. I had one parent tell me, during Multi-Cultural Night of all things, that she was transferring her daughter to another class because there weren't enough white kids in the current class. I have sat at a birthday party of Riley's classmate and been completely ignored for three hours. I have cried in a Vice Principal's office because my children were on the waiting list for after-school care, and I had no one to watch my children after school. I have written letters and emails to school Boards, participated in rallies for more school funding, spent hundreds of dollars on gift wrap and chocolate, had countless phone calls with teachers, have argued with my children about homework, have set timers for homework, have written posts on homework, have used the word "homework" more in the past 8 years in relation to my daughters than my entire scholastic career (including college, which I completed as a single parent, working full-time). I have taken minutes for the PTA meetings for the last school year (after finally finding a PTA that didn't treat me like an apathetic parent just because I work), I have read to my child in kindergarten (making special arrangements at work to do so), I have read to my children at night, I helped at Arts Day last year, been to a state PTA convention, baked goodies and brought donuts and pizza to parent meetings. I have worked with incredibly smart, inspiring people who are helpless to actually reform education, and have endured well-meaning, but misguided approaches.

I'm exhausted.

I'm not trying to sound like a martyr here. I have done everything in the name of what's in the best interest for my children. It's my job, and I'm not complaining about actually doing it.

I'm saying I'm frustrated. I'm frustrated because it seems unless I quit my job and homeschool my children, or pay endless amounts of money to tutors, every year, the system gets worse and worse. They tell us that parental involvement is the magic elixir, and yet, parents are actually powerless to reform the system. The PTA can't raise funds to save a teacher's job because the PTA is not empowered to pay teacher's salaries. The PTA no longer involves teachers, either, and should consider changing its name. And some PTAs just aren't all that effective, too caught up in power games to focus its attention where it should be.

While I agree that parents have to be involved to show that their children's education is important to them, schools need to start treating parents as partners rather than assistants.

This post was inspired by Yahoo! Mother Board's monthly topic, Back to School.


Amy said...

I hope that you find this year to be more refreshing and less frustrating. Good luck with the new adventures to come!

Blue Shoe Farm said...

I hear ya. I am going to transfer jobs and homeschool one of our children who is not running seamless through the education cog. One child was fine with standardized everything, one child is not. I believe the public education system is not changing fast enough to match the needs of all students in 2010. Unless, as you say, we hire tutors. We send them off to private school. We quit work and homeschool. These options are not available to everyone, or even most. Sending you a big good luck and internet hug.

MindyMom said...

You're WAY ahead of me. I'm putting off the supply shopping until the last minute I guess.

I hope you and your kids have a very possitive experience this year!

Danielle said...

I always say this since my daughter isn't at this point yet, but you do so much more than I imagine I will do. I hope I am as involved as you but I fear that I will be pushing her from the sidelines. Doing as much as I can from home with out being a part of the PTA. I wish!

Jen said...

Your rant about education is why I'm involved with starting up a charter school. I believe the education system is irretrievably broken. I don't blame the teachers at all; they're working under difficult conditions. My kids aren't thriving at the school they're at despite my involvement.
That said, I can't wait for school to start next week. I'm exhausted.

Pippi said...

I'm tired of hearing people tell me that public school is free, as if I have no reason to worry about finances if I can get them enrolled. HA! I am convinced that the universal view of school as a babysitter has impacted the school's view of their purpose in the kids' lives.