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Don’t Complain. Especially If You Are A Part Of The 80%.

I recently saw a Facebook post written by a teacher where she described two different interactions with parents regarding school supplies.

It’s a post from last year, but now that it’s that time of year again, the post is resurfacing.

In a nutshell, one parent was complaining about how much money she had to spend on school supplies for her kid, and the other parent was completely supportive and understanding about the whole thing.

As a parent, I get it. With five kids in the public school system this year, we will spend between $100 – $200 getting everything on the school lists for our first, second, third, sixth, and seventh graders.

As a former teacher, I also get it.

When I first started teaching, there was money in the budget for most supplies.

We got paper and pencils and crayons and scissors and tissues and almost everything we would need for our students. And then, as budgets were cut, those things were some of the first to go. And gradually, students were responsible for more and more supplies until eventually, they were responsible for pretty much all of them.

It’s not a fun position to be in as a teacher or as a parent.

But here is the thing…

Parents.

You do have some say and some influence in this department.

But it’s not by complaining to the teacher. It’s not by complaining to the principal, either.

Your influence comes at the times that most parents choose to be ignorant and oblivious.

Every year there is a vote on our town’s school budget.

The first five or six years we lived here, I was completely uninvolved politically. I was as clueless as you could possibly be.

If there was a budget vote, I couldn’t even tell you when it was.

Ignorance was bliss.

Until my kids entered school and I saw the f*&@ing supply lists.

HOLY SHIT.

They were massive!

How many goddamned glue sticks does one kid need?

It took me a few years to educate myself with respect to local politics.

And I don’t have the exact numbers. Not even close.

But here is what I have learned:  the percentage of people with children who vote on school budgets and who attend Board of Ed and PTA meetings is embarrassingly low.

And I know it’s not just my town. It’s every town.

It’s something like less than 20% of parents who vote.

But it’s 100% of parents who complain about how much money needs to be spent on school supplies.

You know where your influence is? It’s at the polls. It’s at the Board of Ed meetings.

But you have to be involved. You have to speak up.

And you also have to approve budgets.

The last time one of our budget increases for the school was shot down, the increase in taxes per family was something like $38.

Thirty eight dollars.

A year!

You could be involved, know what’s in your town’s budget, speak up regarding what you are unhappy about, and approve a $40/family increase that could pay for a lot of those supplies you complain about having to buy, or you can remain completely uninvolved, bury your ignorant head in the sand, and shell out two or three or four times the amount of a proposed tax increase at the beginning of the school year depending on how many kids you have in the school system.

Those school supplies you are paying for? They aren’t the teachers’ faults.

They are the parents’. The 80% of the parents who don’t want to be bothered participating in the decisions that will affect their kids in school in the years to come.

And waiting until your kids are in school is not early enough! But the time they are in kindergarten, there are decisions that have been put into place that could take several years to reverse.

You need to get involved well before your kids are ready for kindergarten!!! You need to get involved as soon as you are a taxpayer!

So before you complain this year about how much money you have to shell out for your kids’s school supplies, first you might want to consider a few things.

Did you vote on your last school budget?

Did you vote in your last local election?

Are you even registered to vote?

If not, you really have no right to complain about anything.

And instead of spending time bashing school systems and teachers in an angry Facebook post about how much shit you have to buy, maybe you should focus your energy on being a responsible citizen, filling out a voter registration card, and educating yourself on what is going on in your town.

 

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A Thank You To My Daughter’s Teacher

I’ve been pretty vocal about my feelings regarding the direction public education has taken.

And how I felt about Number 5 starting kindergarten was no secret either.

I did not have faith that first day she climbed on the bus.

 

Sometimes we moms overreact a little bit.

But other times, we just know.

Our gut tells us exactly the right thing.

I just want to say something.

My gut was seriously off base.

I could have relaxed a little bit.

Because Number 5 loves school.

LOVES IT.

She is happy and excited and engaged and flourishing.

Every day she wakes up and asks not if she has to go to school, but if she gets to go to school.

She comes home eager to read, equipped with her special witchy poo finger.

reading finger

 

She proudly tells me how she is a superhero with super reading powers.

And she honestly believes it.

She is writing up a storm.

 

kindergartenwriting

Not bad for a five-year-old.

Now I’m not saying that my feelings regarding elementary school these days have changed.

I still have my concerns.

But I think I should probably admit that what Number 5 has learned in two months of kindergarten is way more than what I would have taught her had I kept her at home this year.

She’s had the perfect mixture of structure and down time.

She comes home not exhausted and drained and miserable, but happy and excited and confident.

So, to her teacher,

I think I should say that I was, um,

wrong.

And thank you.

You are helping my daughter to become a better version of herself.

And for that, I will always be grateful.

 

 

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Education starts at home. And it might finish at home, too.

I’m thinking about homeschooling the kids.

There.

I said it.

I know.

You think I’m crazy.

In January I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was overloaded, overwhelmed, and completely exhausted.

Now I’m supposed to be streamlining. Cutting things back. Doing less.

Homeschooling won’t exactly lighten the workload.

But I have been thinking about this for a long time.

Not like a couple weeks.

Or months.

I have been tossing this idea around for a couple years.

And now I’m seriously considering it.

Here’s why.

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past year.

Thinking about our financial situation.

About what I want to do with my life.

About finding fulfillment.

And some degree of balance.

Public schools are no longer balanced.

Not even close.

There is no time for creativity.

Children are not given opportunities to develop their strengths.

All of our focus is going into working on the things they suck at.

So they meet a goal in those areas on a test.

Don’t get me wrong. If a kid can’t read, or write, or add, or subtract that needs to be fixed.

But you can’t drill a kid into the ground for 7 hours a day.

And then send more drills home.

And do that for 12 years.

And then release them into the world and tell them to follow their dreams.

Twelve years of pounding a bunch of useless, standardized crap into kids’ heads does not teach them balance.

It teaches them to do something they hate over and over and over.

Until they fucking lose it.

And then, as adults, when we inevitably do fucking losing it, we seek the help of a professional.

Who will tell us that yes, hard work is important.

But that we need to make time to exercise.

We need to meditate.

Take care of our mental health.

We need to spend time with friends.

We need to do something that makes us happy.

Something we are passionate about.

We need a hobby.

We need down time.

We need…

balance.

And so, with half of our lives already behind us, we might start doing whatever it is that we love — we follow our dreams.

Well I don’t want to do that to my kids.

I want them to do what makes them happy starting…

NOW.

That doesn’t mean all fun and games.

But my kids are not really being encouraged, guided, or taught to be productive, innovative, and compassionate members of society in school.

The are being taught to be robots.

I think all public schools are in trouble and moving in the wrong direction.

And I’m not even talking about the school shootings.

 

Two years ago, if you had told me we’d need a police officer in an elementary school, in suburban Connecticut, I’d have said you were crazy.

Then 20 first graders were gunned down six miles from my house.

Last week, in a different Connecticut town, a high school student was stabbed repeatedly and killed.

In her high school.

Who do I blame for this downward spiral?

Parents.

Sure, there are still good parents out there who have expectations and standards.

Who impose consequences and limits on their children.

Even when it’s really hard to do that.

Even when their kids are relentless in their attempts to wear them down.

But then there are the other parents.

The ones who can’t handle the responsibilities of being a parent.

Or worse, who just don’t.

They refuse to take a look at themselves, and they look to blame anyone they can.

They sue teachers and principals and school districts.

They make excuses for their kids and argue over grades and enable their children and wear teachers down to the point where they quit their jobs.

They bury their head in the sand rather than get help for their kid.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a kid in therapy than a kid in,

um,

jail.

Or the ground.

And this has caused public education to deteriorate to a place where I am beginning to feel irresponsible sending my children to school.

The parents who don’t want to take responsibility are now affecting my children.

They are affecting the quality of my children’s education. And their lives in general.

And that is not okay with me.

For the past couple years I have been counting down the time until all the kids were in school.

Where I would have a little more time to do the things I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time to do.

Homeschooling wasn’t exactly a part of my master plan.

But as a parent I need to do what is in the best interest of the kids.

Number 4 has been asking me to teach her how to sew.

She actually just asked again this morning.

“Mommy? When are you going to teach me how to sew?”

Well, as soon as I finish helping you finish these ten packet pages requiring you to write a master’s thesis to explain how you came up with your fucking answer.

So when am I going to teach her to sew?

That’s a good question.

Because there’s not much time left once she gets home from school.

What about the other things we don’t have time for?

Things that I think really matter?

Because I want her to learn how to play piano.

And the guitar.

I want her to know how to knit and cook and play chess and change a tire and use a hammer.

I want her to learn more than one language.

I want to teach her the importance of giving back. Volunteering. Taking care of her mental health.

Of pushing herself out of her comfort zone, both physically and mentally.

I want her to learn that she is always a work in progress.

That she is not done working once she scores a certain number on a stupid test.

That she is capable of doing anything.

That she has the ability,

and the right,

to follow her dreams and do what makes her happy.

And I don’t want to make her wait 40 years to do it.

 

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