Yesterday, Alec Couros went “Back to School” to “Meet the Teacher” of his first grade daughter. Here is what he saw:
Here is what he Tweeted:
It reminded me of the night I met Tucker’s first grade teacher, and the first words out of her mouth were something to the effect of “First grade is where we learn the rules.”
If I’d had Twitter back then, I’m sure I would have Tweeted something similar to this:
Alec’s Tweets registered a slew of responses which, to be honest, I found to be a fascinating read, so fascinating that I decided to capture the bulk of them here. (Start at the bottom and read up if you want to get the flow of the conversation.) They really are worth the read as they capture not just the emotion of a whole bunch of teacher parents who are met with the same reality when they go to their “Meet the Teacher” nights but also the complexity of what to do about it. It creates a dilemma; do we corner the teacher and give her a new view of the world, look for another class or school, march down to the principal’s office, or lay back, do what we can to help that teacher and fill in the blanks at home. We’ve tried them all, and none of them seem to work very well.
I want my kids’ schools to prepare them for the world that I and many of us see them growing toward. I want it desperately. (Emphasis mine.) But it’s not happening. For Tucker, it means handing in all of his sixth grade assignments in cursive (emphasis not mine), and it means another year of 50 lb backpacks filled with less that real world text books and a slew of worksheets that he’ll work through and forget. (Tess starts school on Friday so we’ll see what her realities are.)
So, while Alec struggles with his realities, I’m once again struggling with mine. And for what it’s worth, here’s what we’ll do to make the best of it once again this year.
1. We write an e-mail (or a letter) to each teacher introducing our kids and ourselves, letting them know what our hopes are, what we’d love to see our kids doing, and what we’ll do to support the classroom. We also introduce ourselves, and talk a little bit about what our worldview of education looks like. Finally, we offer to continue that conversation and help make it a reality in the classroom in whatever way we can. And we cc the principal and headmaster (since Tess is in private school.)
2. We co-school as much as we can. I found the Tweet by @dschink to capture it pretty well:
“We’ve always considered public school ed our kids receive as supplemental to the ed we provide at home so we don’t go crazy about it.”
Problem is, at least in our case, co-schooling is pretty scattershot, not as deep as I’d like it to be, and frustrating at times for our kids. In other words, I feel like we do our best to engage our kids in the bigger conversations, but it’s the reality of both parents being self-employed that it doesn’t always work that well.
3. We opt out when we can. I’ve written notes to teachers in the past when my kids get the first 10 problems of the homework right excusing them from the next 20 same old same old problems on the worksheet. Gets interesting responses sometimes. Also, this year, we’re 90% sure we’re going to have Tucker opt out of the 6th Grade NJ ASK assessment. Enough is enough.
4. We occasionally send links with resources to specific teachers and cc the principal.
I’m sure we could do more, but my radar to meddling parents may be a bit too sensitive having been in the classroom for 20 years previous. I know how difficult it is. I don’t want to make it more difficult, but I do want to try to strike that balance. Hard sometimes.
Wondering what other strategies might be working for you?