Guest Blogger: More from “FedUp Mom”

Today’s guest blogger is “FedUpMom”, the mother of a 10-year-old who attends a public school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. This is FedUpMom’s second post; you can read her first entry here.

More from FedUp Mom

In my last entry, I wrote:

1.) “Your daughter is lazy and stubborn; you are emotional and over-involved.” Absolutely right. And those are our good qualities!

I meant this as a joke, but like a lot of jokes, it contains a kernel of truth. When you bring any complaint to a school, the principal and teachers will immediately try to persuade you that it’s all your fault. In the past, I’ve tried to defuse the situation by admitting that I might be partly at fault, and my child might be partly at fault, but the school is also at fault. This has gone over like a lead balloon. Actually, the only thing I’ve ever said that’s gained me any traction at all was this gem:

“We’re going to apply to private schools.”

This is the best advice I can give to anyone struggling with their public school. Find a promising private school and go ahead and apply. First of all, you might get lucky and get your child in to the school; you might even get financial aid. Second, your public school will know about it immediately because you will need official transcripts from them. In our case, as soon as we started the applications process, the public school became totally accommodating. This is especially effective if your child has some desirable quality, for instance, good scores on standardized tests.

2.) “A lot of our parents want more homework!”

This used to slow me down, but increasingly, I see it as a red herring. The bottom line is that nothing a parent says makes the slightest difference in how a public school is run. Parents don’t make policy. While it may be true that some parents want more homework, the school has no way to know whether they’re in the majority, and they make no effort to find out. And if some parents want more homework and others want none, how about an official opt-out policy?

I found that if I complained to the teacher and/or principal I could always get a deal for my child. One of the best-kept secrets at our school is that the homework is negotiable. But the negotiations are very unpleasant and had to start all over again every time my daughter got another teacher.

3.) “Our kids are so pressured these days. It’s so sad.”

When I say to the principal or the teachers that kids today are stressed out and don’t have enough time for themselves, they invariably agree, in a helpless, throwing up the hands way. But they are not innocent bystanders! The schools are complicit in this problem, and it can’t be solved without change in the schools.

And for variety, here’s a couple of doozies that I heard from the psychologist (ouch!) at the public middle school my daughter will attend next year, if hell freezes over:

4.) “Kids should self-advocate.”

How is that supposed to work? It’s difficult enough for parents to advocate for their kids. How is an 11 year old supposed to advocate for herself in a system that’s spent years intimidating her?

5.) “Now’s the time to look through all those extra-curriculars and start weeding them out!”

… to make more time for homework, of course. What if your child gets more benefit from the extra-curriculars than she does from the homework? What if these activities are important to your family? What if you want your child to have down time? One of the parents piped up that her child probably wouldn’t get home till almost 5 o’clock. The psychologist said, “that’s why organization is so important!”

12 Comments on “Guest Blogger: More from “FedUp Mom””

  1. Timmy Mac says:

    “That’s why organization is so important!”

    Yes, because that’s EXACTLY what we need – fifth graders with Daytimers.

    April 16th, 2008 at 9:18 am
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  2. Anne says:

    Actually, the only thing I’ve ever said that’s gained me any traction at all was this gem:

    “We’re going to apply to private schools

    Sure to get them to lift their eyes up
    and finally look at you during your appointment LOL

    April 16th, 2008 at 2:11 pm
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  3. Homework Blues says:

    “A lot of our parents want more homework!”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    LOVELY! Then give it to them!

    LBJ

    April 16th, 2008 at 4:24 pm
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  4. Mary says:

    Your statements are so very true – I have heard the same comments from teachers and administrators at my kids school – Most parents I talk to HATE homework, they just don’t know what to do about it –

    April 17th, 2008 at 1:48 am
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    April 28th, 2008 at 2:29 pm
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    April 28th, 2008 at 2:30 pm
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    April 28th, 2008 at 2:30 pm
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  8. maddie says:

    home work needs to stop it is just an addition to all the stressors we have right now with frinns family and boys also sports so it needs too stop we are young and want too have fun !!!

    May 8th, 2008 at 8:11 am
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  9. Allison says:

    It always saddens me to read what a low opinion many people have of teachers. As a public school teacher myself (13 years), I must take exception to these harsh words. I listen very carefully to the parents in my classroom, and try to incorporate as much feedback as possible. It’s difficult to “differentiate” classroom practice as much as I would like to, based on anyone’s input– parents, the board of ed, my principal, my colleagues, the students themselves, etc. Teachers are pulled in many directions, and we try to do our best for the class, individually and as a group.

    That said, I don’t give routine homework (apart from reading), and to my amazement… there are parents who have complained bitterly about the “no homework” policy. I’ve been sticking to my policy though.

    So what should my principal say when they threaten to take their kids to private school?!?

    May 11th, 2008 at 8:39 pm
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  10. Sara Bennett says:

    Allison: I wish there were more teachers like you, who don’t give routine homework (other than reading) and who listen carefully to the parents. In The Case Against Homework, my co-author and I tried very hard to show our respect for teachers. We realize you have a difficult job and that most of you do your best.

    That being said, though, I have come across many teachers (and so have the thousands of parents who have contacted me) who seem to have a low opinion of parents. We are always being told that we’re too demanding, or our kids are perfectionists, or that our kids spend too much time on pursuits they enjoy, and that all of that homework they’re assigning is valuable. And, I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it can be to talk to a teacher who believes passionately that homework is the most beneficial thing a child can be doing, especially if you’re a parent like me, who has done a lot of research and knows that just isn’t true.

    In any event, you sound like you know that homework isn’t very beneficial. I hope you never give in to the parents who clamor for more.

    May 12th, 2008 at 9:55 am
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  11. FedUpMom says:

    Allison — I hope you will read my most recent post, “How we left the public schools”, for a fuller account. It was really a mental health decision.

    Teaching is a very difficult job and I have enormous respect for those who do it well. When my daughter started public school, I had every expectation that my job would be to back up her wonderful teachers. I wanted to be a contributing member of the school. I gave money, I started and ran a popular chess club for two years, I never criticized a teacher until this past year. It was a long journey for me to become the total cynic I am today. If it’s any consolation, it wasn’t because of teachers like you. And really, my abiding anger isn’t toward the teacher, it’s toward the principal, who is in a position to improve the situation but does nothing. — FedUpMom

    May 15th, 2008 at 2:29 pm
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    August 5th, 2008 at 11:30 am
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