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!”