Sunday, September 13, 2009

Being both a mom and a teacher

Is hard some times.

Because I never can quite figure out the exact line, where knowing what should be done, and how children should be treated, when it comes to my own children has been crossed.

The first time I noticed it, or had a hard time with it was when Kelsey was in 7th grade. Until that time we had never really had a hard time with Kelsey's behavior or with any of her teachers.

Kelsey was always afraid of getting me in trouble. All on her own, but still.

Then the first report card for her 7th grade year came home in October.

On her report card, under conduct for her math grade, she recieved an unsatisfactory. Which was the first time we had ever heard of any problems with her behavior in the class or any class.

At the time I was teaching 6th grade at a school where the principal expected us to contact either call or email at least 2 parents every day. Yes I said every day.

I knew Kelsey was going to a totally different school, with different expectations, but I didn't think it was too much to have expected a call, a note, something about her behavior if it was bad enough to deserve an unsatisfactory grade.

I contacted the teacher both by phone and email, and finally had to contact the principal to get an answer. And my answer was that basically she was acting like a 7th grader, no better, no worse.

Needless to say I was not too impressed, but I handled it professionally and fairly calmly. By the time it was done both the teacher and the principal knew that I expected more, better, whatever communication with the teachers.

The next big incident was last spring. Kelsey was asked by her media specialist to video tape one of the school programs, the morning of the program. since she video tapes for the football team, and some times for the basketball team she jumped at the chance. Especially since Natalie was going to be part of the program.

When she asked the "instructional coordinator" (ic) where to set up, she was informed that she could not video tape because she was not in "the dress code of the day for students participating in the program", black pants white shirt. Kelsey tried explaining that she just found out that she was needed, but the ic didn't want to hear it.

The media specialist tried to go and get Kelsey a sweater to wear over her top so that she was closer to being in the dress code for the program, and was told by the ic NO, one of HER GIRLS would do it.

There was a lot more that went with it, and I wrote a long long email to our superintendent, the principal and the IC, but after talking with my mom never mailed it. About a week and a half later, our superintendent was released from his contract, and by the end of the year the IC was gone too. I know that it wasn't related to what happened with Kelsey, but from what I heard Kelsey wasn't the only child that the IC treated like a second class citizen because of her race.

Now this Friday happens. I must say right here and now that I truely admire Kelsey's new principal (he was the middle school principal last year, and now oversee's both schools). I also admire our interim superintendent. Neither one puts up with much crap from anyone. The kids don't necessarily like the principal, because he doesn't put up with much crap, but thats what makes him a good principal, also because he is fair.

On Thursday in Kelsey's spanish class, there was a scuffle. Not a fight, not even a really incident from what Kelsey said. Two boys were discussing basketball, and it got heated, one boy slapped (yes, like a girl slap across the face) the other. The teacher broke it up, and it ended there.

Now I am sure it put the class in an uproar, as these things tend to do. But the teacher did not send either boy to the office, she gave them "detention".

It was such a non-incident that Kelsey who tends to come home talking about everything didn't mention it to either Jerry or myself. Natalie knew about it, but neither of us did.

We get in the car to come home last night and Kelsey tells me about this assignment that her spanish teacher had given them because of the incident on Thursday. They are expected to do a 3-4 page (yes PAGE) paper on ethics. The spanish teacher gave them 4 pages of articles on different ethics breaches (including an article on the Joe Wilson's outburst), with a front and back page with questions that they have to address in their paper.

In the directions for the assignment the teacher says: "What happened in class Thursday is unacceptable. This assignment is designed to make you think about your actions and involvement in the incident, and if you were not involved, it is designed to inspire serious reflection on your part as to how you can contribute to a classroom environment in which this does NOT happen again. This is a homework assignment, due Monday. I will grade the assignment and give you a grade on your essay. Read the attached article and write a 3-4 page essay answering the following questions."

Then there are 12 questions the kids are to read and answer.

I asked Kelsey what did she do, what was her reaction to the incident that garnered this type of assignment in Spanish. She said she just sat there. Which I am sure, she probably did react in some way, but she said she didn't get out of her seat. If she did more, then I would expect that the teacher would have contacted me, either via school email, or phone call, don't think its too much to ask.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. Because I know for a fact if I had tried something like this, either overseas, in Florida or in some protracted form now, I would be called on the carpet, and probably by the principal and the superintendent.

As soon as we got to the house, I called the school and asked to speak to the teacher, who had gone home for the day. So I asked if the principal was available. I figured if the incident required such a grand punishment paper (that yes is for a grade, but its written in English, not Spanish), then he would know about it and the paper.

Turns out that until I told him about it, he had not heard of the incident. I told him everything that I knew, Kelsey was in the house and I didn't want to go in and have her talking over me, and he even said it was over the top. While as teachers we can give punitive assignments, they still have to meet one of the GPS standards. Which as far as I can find it does not.

The principal is checking into it all for me, and is going to contact me on Monday about it, which is all I really wanted. Kelsey will still do the paper, because as I told her she can not afford to have this as a zero if the teacher manages to come up with a standard that it meets. Plus I don't want her teacher to have reason to hold an even bigger grudge than what I am afraid that me contacting the principal will cause. I know that I don't hold grudges against parents and thier kids if the principal is called, I put myself in their shoes and I deal with it. I also don't get called all that often, and 9 times out of 10 its a miscommunication that is easily solved. I don't think this is the case here. I read the assignment page myself, I just wrote what she wrote on it, what do you think? If it was that big of an issue why am I the one telling the principal about the incident? Why did he not already know? If it was that big of an incident why were the boys back in class on Friday?

I have already decided that if I feel that Kelsey is being punished because I contacted the principal in this class, I will remove her from the class. I am not sure where she would go at this stage in the game (they have a 4 block schedule, where in a semester they do an entire years work). But the different things that Kelsey and her friends have said about this teacher make me feel like it is possible that she may take out her frustration on Kelsey for me calling the principal.

I hope not, but its possible.
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