Thursday, February 9, 2012


Now that I'm a parent instead of a teacher, I have a whole different perspective on the educational system.

And, let me say, it's not the easiest system in the world to interface with.

I have so much more sympathy now for the parents that I used to talk to, the ones who seemed so befuddled and overwhelmed and inadequate in guiding their child to academic success. Because now I am that parent. And while my children are succeeding rather well, the success only comes at the price of CONSTANT involvement and monitoring on my part. And still, it is often not enough.

Often, while my attention is focused on one area, another one is slipping. And my children are excellent children. Enjoyable, open, trustworthy. I can see now just how easily a child might slip out of a parent's control while their attention was diverted. Especially if the parent was struggling in their own life, trying just to keep their own head afloat, as so many adults in our culture are.

By the time I get my children back from their legally mandated school day, they are intellectually and physically exhausted. They are worn down and need time at home to recharge and enjoy life without intense pressure. The daily amount of homework adds more responsibility to each evening, and on top of that, I have to require them to do chores around the house as part of keeping our living environment stable. And they have to run errands with me sometimes. And they want some social interactions. And that doesn't leave much time at all for me to provide extra instruction.

But I'm realizing that re-teaching is exactly what I need to be doing. I need to spend time with my younger daughter going over and reinforcing her spelling and her math skills, practicing the basics AND teaching the new concepts to her again so that she really grasps them. And constantly enticing her to read so that her language continues to grow.

And my older daughter was failing English. That's right - English. With a 38%. Sigh. Mostly that grade was the mathematical result of her missing a few days and not handing in a few assignments on time. But this is my super-smart, can't pry her out of a book to make her sleep, always scores at the top of the Advanced level on state tests daughter. Who had an A just last semester. Even now, I just checked her English grade and it has risen to a B.

But what concerns me so much is that I'm not sure that she is really learning anything. I'm not convinced that her grade actually is an accurate measure of either her ability or her acquired knowledge of seventh grade English-Language Arts State Standards. It feels to me like her teacher doesn't even know who she is. Like he doesn't know anything at all about her English use and writing, never mind her personality.

I sat down to work with her on a Persuasive Essay and realized that she hasn't learned the first thing about how to structure an essay. She doesn't even know how to form a paragraph. And I have to wonder what he is teaching for that precious hour each day.

I remember when I taught English. We wrote a paragraph every week. We wrote an Essay every month. We broke them down into parts, and we put them together. We went over and over different examples as a whole class. We talked about writing, and we practiced writing and we edited writing. And we had fun with it, with the process of it. And that was only one fourth of what we did. We also did reading and silent reading and group reading and grammar and mechanics practices. And speeches. And projects. AND played games and had fun.

A lot. Heck yeah, it was a lot. It was a big juggle. But that was my job. To teach those students all those different skills. And it's starting to look a lot to me like I'm going to be spending the next few months and the whole summer having to teach them to my daughters, as well.

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