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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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To My Kids’ Teachers

This year we have a kindergartener, first grader, second grader, fifth grader, sixth grader, and high school senior.

We’ve got at least one kid in each school in the district.

And each of those six kids is different. Some are strong students, some are not so strong. Some are well behaved, some are not so well behaved. Some are loud, some are quiet, some are outgoing, some are shy.

Actually, none of them are really all that shy anymore.

Anyway, that’s beside the point.

As teachers I know you are aware that just because two kids come from the same family it doesn’t mean they are going to be alike. But while all six kids have very distinct personalities and different likes, strengths, and weaknesses, I do have many of the same expectations for all of them.

And for you.

And I just want to make sure I make a few things clear.

1) My only goal for the younger kids is for them to love going to school. The school day is long for a four, six, and seven-year-old.  And I will never force them to do homework. In fact, I won’t even ask or suggest that they do it. The school day is long enough. When they come home, I will encourage them do the other things I think they should be doing at that age. Playing. Running. Relaxing. Whatever they want. But is sure as hell won’t be homework. In kindergarten and first grade, I do not do homework.

2) If my kid is being disrespectful, I want to know about it. Right away. But at the same time, just as I do not expect you to reprimand my kid if he’s being a tool at home, I will not punish my child at home for something he has done (or not done) at school.  I will support whatever arrangement you come up with at school. If he has to miss recess, he has to miss recess. If she has her seat moved, she has her seat moved. If he gets a zero, he gets a zero. We will talk about these things at home and I will back you up. But unless it’s something really serious (like bullying — that’s a different story), w hen it’s on your turf, it’s your call.

3) The middle and high schoolers know my husband and I are always available to help them with homework should they need it. But I do not check the older kids’ homework. I don’t look at assignment books, I don’t correct mistakes, and I don’t make them show me their work. It is their responsibility. When/if they go off to college, nobody will be there to babysit them, correct their work, and force them to study. That is on them. And it’s on them to ask for help. We will encourage them and make suggestions, but ultimately, they need to take the reins.

4) I want my kids to be held accountable. Especially the older ones. If they aren’t doing the work, if they blow off studying, if they have a D average, then please give them a D. Give them the grade they deserve and the one they earned. Even if it means they fail. Cause the real world doesn’t bump your grade up two letter grades for class participation.

5) We try really hard to teach kids not to worry about what other kids say to them. To teach them to walk away and not to engage. To be the bigger person. And to stand up for other kids when something uncool is going down. But if a kid  seriously fucks with my kid at school and the school doesn’t do anything about it, well, how does the saying go? Hell hath no fury like a mom whose kids are being fucked with. Or something like that.

That about sums it up.

Thanks for all you do, and here’s to a great school year!

 

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This is going to be harder for me than it is for you.

I’ve been counting down the minutes until the kids go to school tomorrow.

So have the girls. They are super excited.

But Number 6 is fighting it every step of the way.

Every morning he wakes up, asks how many more days there are until school starts, and then as soon as I tell him, he starts bawling.

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!” he cries. “I’M SCAAAAAAAAAAAARED!!!” he screams.

The same thing happened this morning.

He’s going to the same school as last year. He’s on the same bus with the same bus driver, who he loves to death. Number 5 has moved up to a new school, but Number 7 will be on the bus with him, so he won’t be going to school alone.

I asked him what he was afraid of.

“MOMMY, snort ILOVEYOUSOMUCH snort WHAT IF I MISS YOU SO MUCH snort AND I START CRYING WHEN I’M AT SCHOOL snortsnortsnort ???”

Mom removes knife from heart.

Every instance where I wanted to strangle him in the last few weeks, (and there have been dozens of them) immediately vanished.

My poor little guy.

I started to go into panic mode.

But only for a second. Then I reminded myself of how he started last year, and I snapped back to reality.

I reminded myself that he’s kind of a mamma’s boy and he knows how to get to me and that he also adjusted just fine to kindergarten last year.

Today was the first grade orientation where the first graders can go into the building just for a half hour, meet their teachers, and see where their classrooms are.

Number 6 entered the building feeling shy and unsure.

And then we met his teacher.

She’s super cute and young and cool, and I’m happy, because I know he’s gonna learn stuff, but really I just want him to have a teacher that he loves and I feel good about this one.

And when she told him that one of his buddies from last year was in his class, his eyes really lit up.

Then we walked to his classroom and discovered it was the same room Number 5 was in last year, and then he was psyched.

And then when he saw the gym teacher, well, that put him over the edge.

I know Number 7 is the baby, and she’s the one starting kindergarten this year, but it’s Number 6 who always really gets to me.

Something about a mom and her youngest boy, I guess.

On the way home I promised him we’d read The Kissing Hand to help him feel better tomorrow.

But what he doesn’t realize is that I’m really reading it for myself more than I’m reading it for him.

And I know he’s gonna be just fine.

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We Were All New Once

If your school district is anything like my school district, once those teacher assignments come out for the upcoming school year, the feeding frenzy begins and people start interrogating everyone who has a kid older than theirs about teachers.

There are always those teachers that everyone wants to get.

There are the teachers that nobody wants to get.

And then there are the new teachers.

Nobody wants the new teachers.

The new teachers are inexperienced and potentially clueless, and there is no way to find anything out about them from someone who had him or her the year before.

This year Number 6 and Number 7 both have brand new teachers.

Number 6 wakes up every single day, asks how many days there are until school starts, and then cries hysterically because he doesn’t want to go.

I suppose I have some valid reasons to be concerned about him having a new teacher.

Number 7 calls people a PENISDUMMYBUTTHOLEPENISDUMMYBUTTHOLEPENISDUMMYBUTTHOLEPENISDUMMYBUTTHOLE every time she gets pissed, and yesterday she was running around the house in her underpants with a level of rage similar to that of Helen Keller when she completely lost her shit, trying to beat her older brother up with a recorder.

So I suppose I have some valid reasons to be concerned about whether or not a new teacher will be able to handle her, too.

But I’m not concerned.

The fact that I am about to lose my mind and need to get the kids the fuck out of the house immediately and at this point would happily send them to a classroom run by Agatha Trunchbull could have something to do with it.

But that’s not it.

There are plenty of reasons why I’m happy they have new teachers.

New teachers aren’t burnt out. They are enthusiastic and ready to take on the world and make a difference. (They may not be once Number 7 is done with them, but she’s our last one, so that’s not my problem).

Kids love young teachers. They know the latest music and they wear cute clothes and they are way cooler than the older teachers. You know, as far as the kids are concerned.

New teachers have no biases. They don’t know your kids’ siblings. They don’t compare your kids to older brothers and sisters. Your kids are coming to them with a clean slate.

New teachers are usually fairly fresh out of school. They know whatever the latest cool stuff that’s up and coming in education is. And they use it.

 

New teachers are usually more open to change.  They don’t say We’ve never done it that way. They can go with the flow more easily. They are more likely to easily understand and embrace new technology.

 

Most importantly, all teachers were new once. I was a new teacher once

And just like our kids, everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves, without bias.

You could look at it like a curse. Like your kid is getting screwed out of a seasoned teacher.

Or you could look at it like a clean slate full of opportunity and the potential for lots of growth.

I know which one I’m gonna go with.

 

 

 

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