Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sonshine's First Day Of Kindergarten

Sonshine went off for his first day of Kindergarten today. I bought him some new shoes, again. I swear that kid can't keep track of his shoes to save his life. He'll go out to play with them on and come home without them. Or, more commonly, he'll come home and put one of his shoes away, and kick the other one all around the house until it gets thoroughly lost. This is the last pair we are buying him in this size. If he loses them, he's going to school barefoot.

We went to Sonshine's Kindergarten orientation yesterday. I might as well not have gone. Bagel spent the entire time crying loudly to distract himself from having to actually fall asleep outside of his crib or carseat. I'm getting so frustrated with Bagel-- nothing is ever good enough for him, and everything we get wrong results in a screamfest of frustration. If we serve him the same food we're eating, he gets frustrated because it's not what he wants; but if we feed him something else, he gets frustrated because it's not what we're eating. He wants to drink what we're drinking, but when we give it to him in a plastic sippy cup instead of a glass, he gets mad. But if we give him a glass to sip from (holding it ourselves, of course) he tries to take it out of our hands and knock it down to the floor. Mealtime is always one long screamfest, because we are all just incompetent waitresses who can never get his order right no matter what we do. If that kid was paying for his meals, he would never leave us a tip.

Anyway, Sonshine loved the orientation because he got to meet his teacher and play out on the playground while Bagel was screaming. He saw some of his friends from the neighborhood, although none of them are in AM Kindergarten with him (they're all in either PM or all-day). I wish they could have put him in PM Kindergarten so that he wouldn't have to be away from home so many hours three days a week, but what can you do? Welcome to the People's RePublic Schools, where nothing a parent has to say about their own child's education and welfare really counts. Damn, I miss the charter school. If I went to them and said "He's not ready to be away so many hours a day, it will give him behavioral problems, can you put him in PM Kindergarten instead?" they would have said "Sure, no problem." Here, it's "We'll put him wherever the hell we want to put him, and you'll put up or shut up. Oh, and we'd appreciate it if you'd volunteer in the classroom and bring us a roll of paper towels." Next thing you know they'll be asking me to have him "evaluated" for ADD because of his behavior problems, the very same ones they caused by being so inflexible about putting him in PM Kindergarten.

The other thing that is frustrating me to no end about this school is that the teachers and the office don't seem to be in communication with each other. I can't tell you how many language surveys, emergency contact cards, and technology release forms I've filled out, even though I filled out one for each of the kids at the office when I registered them. They wouldn't let me register my kids without them, and that's fine, I expected that; but I didn't expect that I'd have to fill out a separate copy for EVERY ROOM in the school that my child enters. How hard would it be to walk over to the office, pull the files of your students, and XEROX the frickin' papers??? Do they really need me to fill out a separate form for the lunch room telling them my daughter has food allergies, when I already have one on file at the office? Do the teachers not have access to the language survey forms and the technology release forms? Do they never see their own students' records?

I'm a great believer in public education, but I also believe that local control makes the difference between a school and a school system. The difference between a school and a school system is like the difference between "cheese" and "pasteurized process cheese food." Local control allows the former to be carefully crafted and honed to the needs of the students, while district control makes it more of a factory process than an individual education.

What I don't understand is why, when (as is natural in any rigid system) people start falling through the cracks, the "cure" for that seems to be more systematization. Got high school dropouts? Start another program! Low test scores? Make the teachers take more education classes (that'll learn those lousy students!) I wish districts would quit trying to make all the decisions and would just let teachers do their jobs. They're the ones with their boots on the ground; they know their students' educational needs better than any mugwump at the district office, and they're the only ones in any position to do anything about these needs. Yet constantly they have their hands tied for them by the district (through choice of curriculum and programs, policies, requirements, etc.), which then turns around and complains that the teachers aren't getting their job done. If teachers' unions were really doing their jobs, they'd be pushing for more competent district leadership and less district micromanagement, instead of more pay or a higher number of paid sick days or passing resolutions on gay marriage.