Thursday, July 23, 2015

Because It's Just What Parents Do... Right?

Every once in a while, I will click "Like" on a Facebook post that I find... resonant, or that strikes a chord with me, and every once in an even greater while, I'll comment on one of these posts.

Now, these aren't posts made by my friends, necessarily.  Sometimes, it's a post from a page I've liked or I'm following.  Sometimes, it's a repost from something else.

Most of the time, I'm pretty quiet, even on Facebook, but then there's those times when I just... well... I have to say something.

What?  I'm Southern.  It's what we do.

Like, once, on the Amy Poehler's Smart Girls page, there was a post about school dress codes and what one girl was doing about a so-called violation at her school, and how ridiculous they could be, etc.  I couldn't help chiming in about an experience the Impertinent Daughter went through, how one of the Assistant Principals at her school (who was actually running things at the school, but that's a whole other jar of pickles) suddenly decided that girls at the junior high were no longer allowed to wear button down shirts, BUT... the boys could.  I, of course, went to find out why, because I knew the woman was nuts, but I kind of wanted to know what the logic (!) was on this particular issue.  "Because boys can unbutton them."


I promptly informed the woman that if this was a genuine issue, then parents should be notified, assault charges should be filed, and the boys in question should be suspended, so what's going on with this?

Turned out there were no actual boys unbuttoning actual girls' shirts, and I pointed out the idiocy of that and basically, by the end of the week, that particular dress code issue disappeared.

My comment was much shorter than that, but basically, that was it.  This was an issue, this is how I dealt with it, this was the result.

It... pretty much blew up, and the last time I saw it, a couple of months ago, it was edging 900 some odd likes.  Plus lots of comments to MY comment about what an awesome/brave/cool mom I was to do this, and I thought, "but... isn't that what a parent does???  Your school lays down a ridiculous rule, YOU know it's ridiculous, your fellow parents know it's ridiculous, and so... one of you steps over and says it's ridiculous, the rest follow suit, and BANG... ridiculous rule gone.

So... today, the Richard Dawkins page posted about the ten reasons the new Texas textbooks are dangerous for students, and first, I face-palmed, because... OMG, Texas, why???  And then I commented.

Now, here's the thing.  As a parent in a small Texas town, I am often confronted with the ridiculous in my kids' education.  No, I'm not kidding.  I have had a teacher openly proselytize in class when my daughter was in 5th grade.  The woman wasn't my daughter's main teacher, she was her Language Arts teacher, and she figured, "hey, I'm retiring, I don't have to worry about these ridiculous rules that prevent me from acting on the tenets of my faith, here goes nothing!!"

Yeah, that went over real well.  After going to the school to talk to both the teacher and the principal about the reason We Don't Do That In Public Schools, also with a demonstration of what would happen if they did, Mrs. I'm About To Retire decided her pension was worth protecting and stopped.

There was the time my son was in first grade and his teacher, inexperienced and so new the ink on her degree was still smudgable, told me with great pride the way she and the other first grade teachers were going to teach their students about racism.  They were going to separate the classes into girls and boys, and the boys were going to be the privileged group and be allowed things like getting to drink from the water fountains first, being able to get their snacks first, etc. And the girls would be the oppressed group and have to go second.   I had to stop her in the middle of her enthusiasm to explain to her that if they did that, they weren't going to be teaching the kids about racism.  They were going to be teaching the kids about sexism.  "But... how else can we teach them about racism?" she asked, stunned.  

"You take the kids and get them to count off in ones and twos.  Then pick a day, and  ask all the ones to wear, say, a green shirt on that day, and the twos to wear a purple shirt.  And on that day, the purple shirts get to hit the water fountain first, get their snacks first, get the swings first, etc, and the greens have to wait," I said.

"But that's silly," she said.  "Just because of the color of a shirt!"

"Exactly," I said.  "That's racism.  Just because of the color of someone's skin."

It's horrifying how long it took her to get it. 

Oh, let's see, and how about the first year the Impossible Son was in junior high, and I had to go talk to the principal because one of the assistant principals told my son, when he had some open sores on his hand, that he needed to keep them bandaged because, and I quote, "you can get AIDS from touching the tables and desks in the school."

And this woman was a former science teacher.

There was my daughter's 8th grade year, when the algebra teachers at the junior high decided that they didn't like the textbooks the district selected to teach algebra, so they decided to write their own over the course of the year and basically winged it.  No textbook.  Just endless handouts, and if you missed a handout, tough cookies.  I hate to say this now, but... in a bizarre way, my daughter was fortunate when she caught mono a second time and missed something like thirteen weeks of school.  Why?  Because she then had myself and my husband as algebra teachers.  Between the two of us, we make a pretty decent algebra teacher, I have to say.  Well, the two of us, PatrickCMJ and ViHart on Youtube, several f-listers on Livejournal, and at least three websites online.  Every day during those thirteen weeks, I was at the junior high, either picking up or dropping off schoolwork.  It SUCKED, but I learned more about the quality of my daughter's education during the two years she had mono than I did at any other time, because I  was one of her teachers.  I already knew it sucked, but you could say I found out how much it sucked at that time.

But you know what?  She passed with straight A's that year.  And she was a Presidential Scholar that year.  Boo.  Yah.

Oh, and let's not forget the madness of her third grade year, when math education in her district got weird.  That was the year her class started taking the TAKS test, and she got this teacher that all the other parents raved about being so awesome.  And at that time, I still had faith in her teachers and the school.  Until her math scores started dropping, and after many tears trying to help her with her homework, and looking at her textbook, a tome entitled "Everyday Mathematics," and actually sitting in on her class a couple of times to try to figure out what the disconnect was, I was forced to tell the Impertinent Daughter to nod and smile when her teacher explained math problems in class, and bring her work home so the Husbandly One and I could teach her how to actually do it. I told her to repeat back all the strategies the teacher explained on how to do this stuff, and ignore it and do it the way we taught it to her. 

It drove her teacher nuts.  But I told her it was okay, and not to worry about it, just repeat back whatever the teacher tried to teach her, but do it our way.  

Do you know, she was the only kid her her class to pass the math TAKS with above a 90? She got a 98.  And one of only like... five or six kids in her entire grade to get Commended?

Or how I had to sometimes fight to have my kids' teachers assign them homework in the first place!!  Why?  Because there were times that that was the only way I could find out what my kids were being taught, and figure out how to even help them when there were problems!!!

When the Impertinent Daughter was in sixth grade, the junior high principal,who barely lasted a year, told his teachers, "if you can't teach it to them in the forty five minutes you have them in class, then they're not going to learn in when you give them homework that night."

Well, you know what, dude?  In my house, yes, they will.

I am sure some of you will wonder why I didn't just pull my kids out and homeschool them.

Why?  Because I know what I lack as a teacher.  I lack the patience and organization to do it full time every single day.  And while I know a lot, I don't know everything, and I don't know how to teach everything.  I realized that when I homeschooled the Impertinent Daughter for kindergarten.  If she'd been an only child?  Maybe.  Maybe I could have done it.  But... I couldn't do it with two.  But that's a personal limitation.  When the Impertinent One started first grade at the public school in town, she was the only kid in her class who could read (she was already reading at a third grade level), write more than a simple sentence, count up to 100, add and subtract... everything the state required a kindergartner to be able to do before starting the first grade.  The only one.  And all the other  kids had attended kindergarten in the district.

I know what I lack as a teacher.  But... that doesn't mean I can't supplement what my kids are learning from their public school education.  Because... that's a parent's job.  My mother did that for me.  So... I guess I just kind of assumed that all parents do this.  My kids were watching the Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel back when they were actually educational channels.  And they were watching PBS.  My husband and I took them to the library, and the zoo, and the museums, and everywhere else we could think of, and we read (and still read) to them, and discuss things.  We read the newspaper, and the internet, we watch the news, we watch movies and historical films, and documentaries, and we visit antique stores and discuss the wild and crazy things we find in them.  We talk to old people, and we take trips, and... do everything we possibly can to expose them to as much as we can so we can raise a couple of well rounded people with open minds.

Because that's what we do.  What parents do.  Our children are world citizens, right?  So... we want them to reach out and embrace it and love it and be endlessly curious about it.

So... when I saw that post on the Richard Dawkins page, I liked it and commented on it.  I said, "I am going to try not to hyperventilate over this, then do what I have always done, go through my son's textbooks, point out the obvious omissions, go to the library, dig out books for him to read, and encourage discussion.  So tired of being ashamed of the state I live in... ugh..."

Because I am.  So very tired of being ashamed of Texas.  Very tired.

I commented on this yesterday.

The comment itself is already up to 218 likes.

Apparently, this resonated with a lot of people.  

This makes me wonder if we can get this reversed... again.

Come on, Texas.  Get your shit together.  

We can do this.  It's what parents do.  We need to fix this, because it's not going to get any better without us.

Let's go.  Let's do this thing!!!

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