Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yet Another Quandry

Here I am, once again faced with another decision regarding L's education. As I mentioned in this post, L has two different teachers this year. I didn't update you on this, but I did in fact, talk to the principal. I didn't go in with a complaining-fix-this-now attitude, but I did go in and speak with him as a concerned parent left out of the loop.
The principal at our school really should have been a politician. Really. He always has a smile on his face, and he works very hard I think at making it seem genuine. No one can be that happy all the time to be talking to disgruntled parents and dealing with children that are causing problems or having issues. He likes to placate the parents, tell them what he thinks they want to hear without out-right lying. He paints a glorious rainbow over the situation every time.
I guess I shouldn't complain. At least he's approachable. I just wish sometimes he'd be a little more honest and less, I don't know, "everything is perfect at my school". He does know my face now though. Not sure if that's a good thing or not, LOL!
Anyhow, he once again, painted his pretty picture with words and gushed over how good these two teachers are. He explained (and not very well), that L's class was not so very different than the other grade three classes, because the other classes' teachers leave the classroom for planning time for a grand total of six hours per week. In his mind, every class has another teacher for basically what adds up to a full day over the course of the week. L's class just happens to have another teacher for two days a week.
But that's not exactly true. You see, all the classes have gym with another teacher, and library, and computers, and whatever else (like media literacy). So the teacher can use those times for their planning time. So it really doesn't add up, if you see what I'm getting at.
But back to the issue at hand. The principal also said that he purposely placed L in that classroom because of his reading and writing issues, as he feels that those two teachers would be the best ones for him. He made a point to say the issues that my husband and I spoke to him about and were concerned about last year were what prompted him.
Basically, in his very political way and without so many words he was telling me don't I dare complain because it is for L's sake he is in that class almost at DH's and my request. In a manner of speaking.
So I decided to leave him be, and see how it pans out. He was settling into the class now and he did seem to like his teacher. He brought home this ginormous project to do over the course of two weeks that was basically a front page of a newspaper with all these sections to fill out about himself. That was like torture to L, all that writing. Long story short, there were many tears, many hours put into this and in the end, my wonderful sister N skyped with us and helped L to complete the project in no time at all. I love her!!
After that ordeal, I decided to write the teacher a note and have a meeting with her. I needed to know if this was going to be a common occurrence; what were the expectations of a grade three student and how much was I supposed to be helping? What was the amount of homework she would be sending home? I needed to make it clear to her that this was very stressful on our family, and that L just isn't ready for that level of work.
So this morning I trudged into the school at a rather early hour. The only kids at the school yet were the ones training for cross-country running. The principal met me at the front door and asked me if I was going in to see Mrs. G. I said yes, and then he said he'd walk with me. I guess my face belied terror because he laughed and said not to worry, no one's in trouble! Ha ha. I don't know why I reacted like that but I guess I just immediately think the worst when the boss or the principal wants to talk to you. Gut reaction I suppose. I always have a hard time hiding anything on my face. You can read me like a book.
He said that they were going to be moving a few students out of the class and into another classroom. He asked me if I would be ok with L being one of them. Now I'm confused. Didn't he just tell me last week that he placed L in that class for his own good? That his words, specifically, were, "Honestly, if my son were in this school I would definitely want him in this classroom." So why now is he giving me the option of moving him out? Did he think I was complaining? Did he think I was hoping for a transfer? In all honesty I kind of was, but only to another certain teacher's room, the teacher R had for grade three. Not to this other teacher's room, Mrs. V. I don't know her any better than I know L's teacher, plus she is pregnant. Which means she'll be leaving soon and he'll have yet again ANOTHER teacher! What if she's terrible? But maybe it would be better to have just one teacher for consistency's sake. What if the teacher turns out to be Mrs. B, who R had for kindergarten and is a long term supply teacher? She was amazing. Then I would be kicking myself. That's a stretch though, a big what if.
I did go in and speak with his possibly temporary teacher. She seemed nice. She definitely appeared to be on the ball. She was easy to talk to, not patronizing in any way (like L's last teacher was) and not fake. She seemed like she could be a real hard-ass if need be, but I didn't get the impression that she was overtly mean.
I just don't know what to do. I'm so confused. I did call another mom, whose child is L's only friend in the class. I gave her the head's up about what was happening, and told her that I was up in the air about it. I also think that the two of them should stay together, because I would feel bad for L's friend if we left him behind, and even worse for L if the friend got moved and he didn't. Then he'd really have no friends in that class.
Which brings me to another issue. L has been upset that he has "no friends" as he puts it. No one to play with at recess except his buddy J (who's in another class). Perhaps moving to that other classroom would rekindle some friendships once again. When I say his only friend in the class, I really mean that. For some strange reason, none of the other boys except for the one have ever been in L's class before. Not even kindergarten. So it's almost like starting from scratch for him.
What to do, what to do. DH will be no help. He'll likely tell me to do whatever I think best, since he has even less insight than I do into what the teachers are like. I'm thinking I'll ask L what he thinks. Maybe he can't stand the teacher, Mrs. V. I need to talk to the other mom again, see if she has any more thoughts. And lastly, I need to speak with the principal again, tell him how confused he's made me and ask him why he would even give us this choice.
I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More School Aggravation

It never fails to amaze me at how worked up I get around this time of year, every year. I've always had a hard time accepting the control that school brings into our lives. My loss of control, namely.
When your child is a baby, and little, you have so much control over their lives. What they eat, where they play, what they play with, who they play with, when they sleep, and more importantly, by whom they are cared for. I was, and still am, a SAHM. A working one at that. I never had to put my children into daycare thankfully. I wanted it that way. I wanted to be the one to raise them, to experience all the firsts with them, to spend all the wonderful (and miserable) moments with them. Other parents are not so lucky. They have to go out into the working world. Some do it for money, some do it because they love their job. Some are not bothered that they can't spend all that time with their child. But most do spend a lot of time searching for the right provider. They want to make sure their child will be safe, will be loved, will be amused, or entertained, or stimulated or taught, the RIGHT way. The way that agrees with their own parenting philosophy.
So when my son R started JK, it was a huge shock to my system. What do you mean I don't get to choose the teacher? What do you mean I have no choice about what days he goes to school, or how he is disciplined/reprimanded (not that he needed it) or when he eats and plays? It was hard for me to accept that that piece of control I had over his life was gone. I had to let go.
Most people who know me well, know that I do not like being told how to raise my child! After all, I MADE them! I carried them, I sacrificed caffeine and alcohol for them, (and chocolate when they were nursing), I sacrificed my much-nicer-body for them, and I gave birth to them. I don't even like my husband telling me what to do, or how to handle them. I love them more than anything in this world, so I should be the one to decide what to do in relation to my kids.
I have learned to let go more (I think.) It might have more to do with the fact that they are so much older now and more self -sufficient. I do realize that if I try to control them too much that they will resist and rebel more.
All this is leading up to the one thing that pissed me off this morning. Every year there is something for me to hate about school, some little thing that I resent. Another small piece of my control lost. But this morning I was angry. I still am, really, and I'm hoping that my DH will pick up the slack here and become just as outraged as I am. I doubt it though.
So here's the thing:
Every year the kids bring home tons of paperwork at the beginning of the year for us to sign. I deal with it all, since the forms don't require two parental signatures. And every year a form comes home about student accident insurance. I always decline. What's the point right now? My boys are not very athletic or adventurous. R usually joins the chess club most years, but he's not on any teams. L is not a team player, so it would shock the hell out of me if he told me he had joined a team. He did give choir a little go last year, but that's only because they were told there would be a pizza party at some point, LOL! He didn't last long with that, and he just likes to do his own thing. I'm ok with that, because they both have extra-curricular activities outside of school.
This year, I received two forms about insurance again. Only this time, the two boys' forms were different. R's had three options: 1)Yes, we have purchased the Student Accident Insurance, 2)We have our own Extended Health/Dental coverage, and 3) We decline. L's form did not have the third option.
What? I was confused. How am I supposed to sign this form saying I have insurance, when I don't. I'm not purchasing the money-grab insurance the school promotes. What for?
*And in case you are American and you don't already know this, we Canadians have "free" health coverage. (I put free in quotes, because, well, we do pay for it with our high taxes!). It doesn't include dental, but if we have an accident, I can take my kid to the hospital and I don't have to pay a dime (well, for parking I do, but you know...)*
We don't have extended health coverage for dental and whatnot. I work for myself, and my DH has been in and out of work for years, and is now in school. Health coverage through your work only comes when you are a fulltime employee that's been there for a while. We just take our chances mostly that we aren't going to need that kind of insurance, and if we did come across that situation, we'd find a way to deal with it. I guess DH's nan is kind of like our insurance, because she has PILES of money, and we know that despite her stubborness, she'd never let her grandchildren or great-grandchildren suffer with no teeth, or no wheelchair (god forbid!) or whatever OHIP doesn't cover.
So, back to the forms (are you still there?). Long story short (too late) I was told when I phoned the school this morning, that the form with three options was the wrong one and was sent out in error, and the form with only two options was the right one. And basically, it was the school board's decision (not the school secretary's, so I wasn't going to yell at the poor lady) that any child wanting to participate in ANY extra-curricular activity, INCLUDING chess club, had to have insurance. So basically, no insurance, no fun.
I really resent this! How dare they tell me I have to have some type of insurance in order for my boys to join a team or club? Are they really going to go and tell them when they show up for the club, "I'm sorry, but you can't be here, because you don't have insurance." I can't even imagine the look on their faces. R would be pure red with embarrassment (an inherited trait from me, unfortunately), and tears would be threatening. How would this affect their social life? I want them to feel free to join any team or club they want. I really don't want them to be like me, socially awkward and so not the joiner in school.
But in order to do that, I'm being told to purchase insurance. And I don't care how much it is, it's just the principle of the matter! It doesn't seem right. Even if it is only $20/year. So in essence, I'm losing more control, and this time it's over my money! Using my children's happiness and enjoyment is like blackmail!

Monday, September 12, 2011


I'm not sure if I mentioned this in a previous post, but this year L has two different teachers at school. He is in grade three, and it's kind of an important year, so I'm not quite sure how to take this news. Not that we've had any actual "official news" about it. Only what he and the other boy in his class have mentioned.
I am frustrated. It seems that every year I am fighting with the school about something to do with L's class placement. Or I'm upset but silent about it.
In JK, L had the most amazing teacher. She made all the difference in my choice to leave L in school. He was so young when he started, just 3.5 really, as his birthday is late December. He was just a baby, to me, and never been away from me. He really struggled with being away from me. And having school every other day for a full day each time was hard on him. He was still napping at the time too! If it hadn't been for his wonderful, caring teacher, plus the EA in the room (she was amazing too and helped all the children, not just the one or two she was assigned to), I am sure I would have pulled him out and left it for the year.
So the next year, we happily started SK and got to know his new teacher. She was young. She obviously didn't have children herself and had limited experience (from what I could tell) with children that young. She was coming from teaching grade four, apparently. Let's just say, I didn't agree with her philosophies and how she approached the children. She wasn't mean...just....not motherly AT ALL. And I'm sorry, but a kindergarten teacher needs to be motherly.
As the end of SK approached, I expressed my desire to her that L not be placed in a certain grade one classroom. Any other teacher was fine. Of course, he was placed in the one teacher's classroom I didn't want. And his best friend from kindergarten wasn't in his class either, because the teacher felt it would be beneficial to split them up.
Beneficial to who?? They weren't trouble-makers. They weren't co-dependent on each other. They just needed some comfort of a familiar face, each other. They were two little boys with similar personalities and similar birthdates that got along really well with each other.
So we struggled through grade one with the teacher that, when you mentioned you had her to other parents they gave you the sympathetic look like your pet just died. She wasn't mean, but not a strong teacher at all. She was flakey and phoney and when you spoke to her you felt like she was being very condescending and that she was wanting to be anywhere but in your presence. Again, another single woman with no children of her own, although she would have been much more suited to kindergarten. On top of all that, his classroom was a split class, a strange gr.1/SK split. My L is very distractable. He can be distracted from a task by the wind. Imagine trying to make a gr.1 child work and focus, while kindergarten children are playing around him.
He came out of grade one with the teacher telling me that he wasn't where he should be in his reading and writing. Well, go figure.
The morning gr.2 started I was hopeful, optimistic and rejoiced that we would get a fresh start. However, I quickly learned that he had been placed in her classroom, yet AGAIN!!
DH and I couldn't believe it. How could this be happening? We went straight to the principal and complained.
I was distraught. I had even written a very nice and hopeful letter to the principal the previous spring asking very nicely if L could be placed in a certain teacher's classroom, one his brother was in before, and the teacher I knew to be fantastic and amazing and that would get him up to where he needed to be.
I don't think he even read that letter. In a very patronizing tone, the principal told us that that classroom was full, save one spot, and that that spot would only be given to a girl. RRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!! He could take L out of the classroom and put him in one of the other classrooms, both strong teachers I knew well, but both teaching splits. So we had to weigh the options. What would be better, have him in the weak teacher's class, or have him in a split? (Again, very distracting for him). Since his best buddy was in his class this year, we decided to stay where we were. I'm still not sure that was a good decision....
This year, again, I was hopeful. Positive that things could only be good. We had had three shoddy years. Our luck had to change.
The first day of school dawned, and in the line-up to go in, we learned his teacher was not going to be one of the other three that I knew of, but a different one. Ok, that's fine, I thought, I don't know any of R's teachers either with him being the oldest and being the "guinea pig". I have no expectations this way. L was dismayed to learn who she was, as he knew her from in the school. Apparently, she normally teaches all the students something called Media Literacy. I'm not really sure what that is, or why we need it, but whatever.
As the afternoon came to a close that first day, I learned more disheartening news. L was to have not just this M.L. teacher, but another as well, because she still has to teach M.L. two days a week.
I'm not really sure that having two different teachers is the best thing for L to have. He needs consistency. I'm sure that these two teachers are fully qualified and all, but they are two different people, with two different teaching styles, two different personalities, and two different philosophies. Who will teach what? Will they both teach a little of everything, or will they split up the subjects? (Which would be best, I think). If L only likes one of them, will he be miserable a few days a week and happy the other? It's only inevitable that he will have a preference for one over the other.
The thing that I'm most perturbed about, is that the school itself hasn't even bothered to send out an official notice of this. Were they not going to tell us this information? Did they not think it important enough to have the courtesy of letting the parents know?
I am frustrated, as I said. And weary. I know if I go in and complain and question, I'm going to get the same old patronizing speech as usual. Last year, about two thirds of the way through the year, we sat down with the good ol' principal and his sidekick VP and had a chat about some issues occurring with last year's teacher. After venting our frustrations and again reiterating our dismay at having the same teacher two years in a row, the principal assured us that next year he'd make sure L had a good teacher, and was in a good situation.
Yeah, thanks so much buddy.
I wish I had recorded that conversation so I could play it back to him.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Star Wars, Re-re-re-re-released.

You've got to be kidding me. Again? How much money has this franchise made off of suckers that buy these movies over and over again?
Nevermind, don't answer that.
Because we are one of those suckers.
I just found out today that Star Wars: The Complete Saga is being re-released on Blu-ray on Sept. 16. You can get it for the one really low price of $79.99.
I really don't think we'll be rushing right out to buy it, even though DH has always been a huge Star Wars fan, and even though both my boys are also Star Wars fans. Maybe if we were still young and childless and had extra money lying around we would, but now we're smarter than that.
I hope.
So let's see...we've now owned four different copies of the Star Wars franchise. If we got this one, it would be the fifth. We have the three original movies in their original wrapping on VHS, the way they were made the FIRST time, without all the CG stuff added in later. Stuff the purists would like.
Then we owned the series when they came out with the digitally re-mastered version of the original three, but without all the CG stuff as well.
After that, we owned the next VHS release with all the CG stuff added in plus the next (or actually previous) three movies in the boxed set.
And finally, we got the DVD boxed set, complete with extras and a whole additional DVD on the making of, etc.
Well, maybe it will make a good Xmas gift.