Friday, September 21, 2012

Back-to-School for the Parents, Too

What exactly does "outstanding" mean?  Gotta go to back-to-school night to find out.

Like a good parent, I noted all the back-to-school nights (4, for anyone counting) on my calendar.  I especially highlighted the middle school ones, that’s where I thought I’d have to really pay attention.  Geometry, Spanish, Social Studies (which isn’t Social Studies anymore, its American History), English, Computer Programming (way beyond the Keyboarding classes of the last millennium).  Tests, quizzes, homeworks.  Report cards with As, Bs.  Got it.  Even trying to follow my girls’ schedules and race from Math in the 100s to English in the 800s and be in my seat by the time the music stopped playing, inducing a 30-year-late déjà vu, I got it.  Middle school – check and check (two middle schools).

Let’s move on to elementary school, that should be easy.  For the past 8 years, I’ve been going to back-to-school night at the same elementary schools, to the same multi-purpose rooms, even the same classrooms and teachers a few times. Addition, subtraction, some fractions, a terrarium, a spelling list, reading comprehension, BCRs, being a good citizen.  You’d think I’d have the elementary thing down by now, right?

Yeah, I thought that, too.

Core Standards and State Standards and Curriculum 2.0 and learning skills and measurement topics and integrated curriculums.  What, what, what?  Oh, and a new report card that will not have As and Bs, not even Os and Ss, but ESs and Ps.  No, no – this isn’t how this is supposed to go.  We can’t change the rules on my last kid!  I’ve already stocked up on Styrofoam balls for the caterpillar and put aside popsicle sticks for the building structure thing and almost figured out how to explain “borrowing the 1” without us both ending up in tears.  How am I supposed to know if they deserve to go get ice cream on report card day if there’s no column for an ‘A’? And just to keep us parents on our toes – for those of us with kids in different grades, no, it won’t be the same curriculum design or report card.  You remember as a kid building a house of cards and your kid brother coming over and blowing it over and all your neatly stacked cards flying all over the place and you trying to figure out how, or if, to bother re-building it?  Yeah, that’s how I felt. 

Apparently, along with the new curriculum training, the teachers and Principals and Vice Principals have also been trained to recognize that look of utter confusion on the face of parents as they try to explain – again – that the kids will still be write a sentence and count by 4’s and work in a group, they just won’t be getting a letter-grade as we’ve been used to since… forever.  They maintain their patience and calm voice as the try to explain – again – that yes, the kids must still do their homework, even if its not graded.  They are quite matter-of-fact when they explain that if your child is disruptive in class, they will move onto the yellow, or even red, chart and you will get a note home.  As I unfold myself from my child’s little teeny chair behind her little teeny desk, I feel somehow comforted.  Despite my confusion, the teacher in the front of the room knows what she’s talking about.

And if I don’t understand what’s going on, I guess I can always ask my kid.  Maybe she can tell me whether she deserves an ice cream on report card day.

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