Sunday, August 14, 2005

i service society by rocking

I was recently reading archived blog entries written by my friend cjane, and I came across her list of her own doctrine - stuff she heartily either believes, or does NOT believe, in. I find it interesting that one of her statements is:

"Having worked in the public school system for almost six years now I can competently warn the masses: Run, don't walk away from public school."

I've heard this sort of thing before.

When I met Darin, he was planning on being a teacher; most likely a high school teacher, like his dad. (And I'm familiar with this lifestyle - my dad is an elementary school PE teacher - because those who can't do, teach, and those who can't teach, teach gym.) I remember watching poor-reception tv in our first apartment south of campus (the section of town that Martha Beck refers to as: "reserved for students and white trash" in her book "Expecting Adam"; it's an area I happen to be fond of), and seeing a news story on the poor state of education in Our Fair State. D & I discussed how fortunate we were that WE wouldn't be sticking around, that HE wouldn't be one of the teachers being paid in meatballs, and that OUR CHILDREN wouldn't be going to school here. And here we are, eight years later, still living in Our Fair State. Granted, Darin works at the BYU (so he's paid in meatballs, blessings, and free tuition), but he's not a teacher. His bachelor's degree is in Spanish Teaching (minor in PE coaching), his masters is in Sociology, and he's getting his doctorate in Educational Leadership. (I understand that student teaching is far different from actual teaching, but those weeks when he was student teaching constitute the block of worst nights' sleep EVER for both of us...so stressful....)Meanwhile, he's the assistant director of the muliticultural student services office. He COULD be a teacher later, I suppose...

Digressing back to the point, our oldest daughter will begin 1st grade on Thursday. When we built our house a little over two years ago, we knew a bit about the elementary school district that we'd be living in; this school is exactly two blocks east of our house. I can see it from my bedroom window. We knew about it because my brother's wife (not then, but now) had worked there for a number of years as a "para-educator" (the title she tells me - i thought she was a recess guard/lunch lady). She had told us lots of things about said school, pros & cons of it being a year-round school, etc.. But when we were considering it as the school our children attend, that was a whole new ballgame.

li'l ~j. went to BYU preschool, which I loved. I love that secret little room you can go in and watch your child - the one the ElEd students use, making lab rats out of our children...oh well. I liked it because li'l ~j.'s my oldest, and watching her comforted ME. That little room helped me see how kids have the potential to transform - they may cry and bawl and beg you to stay, but if you do, you're just prolonging the scene. Give a kiss goodbye and LEAVE, and they'll be fine. That's a huge lesson that I learned from that little room, and I'm glad I've learned it.

One day, during li'l ~j.'s first week of preschool, "SUZIE" came over after work and told me another story from her day at work: after her tutoring was finished, she went to a second-grade classroom to volunteer; said class had a substitute this day. I happen to know this sub - she referred to herself as "the preferred sub" at said school, and also was my visiting teaching companion at the time (another trial, maybe for another blog). The activity that the class was doing was: teacher says sentence; kids write that same sentence. The first sentence out of Preferred Sub's mouth: "I seen Tom." The kids protest: Do you mean I SAW Tom? Or I HAVE SEEN Tom? No no, I seen Tom.

I could feel my blood begin to boil. This was the same week that 4-year-old li'l ~j. asked me, "Mommy, what does 'negotiation' mean?", and, "How does recycling work?" There's NO WAY I would put her in a classroom to learn 'I seen Tom'.

Now, my friend cjane's vote would be for homeschooling, which I considered for a solid twelve seconds. But, as the title of this entry explains, I have a different calling, not that of Temping. Seriously, I could not ever homeschool. I am in awe at people who homeschool successfully. My cousin Heather will homeschool, and she will excell at it - that's a fact. Not me.

Looked into private school. Selling my kidneys to afford it could only take us so far, so I felt I was at a loss.

Until my friend Jen stepped in and told me about Charter Schools. I looked into it, and found that Charter School was the way for us to go. The way I explain Charter Schools to people is that they are public schools, but get a piddly fraction of the funding other public schools get; there's no tuition, but family donations are appreciated; and parental volunteer time is required. I LOVE that. (Last year, Darin went to the school on Fridays during his lunch break to volunteer in the lunch room - playin' lunch lady.) The kids wear the required uniform (tights...), which is very general - easy to get and to maintain. And, I love that the woman in charge is the Director, not the principal - no trying to con the kids into thinking that ANYONE is their pal.

Li'l ~j. attends a charter school. Now, if you've seen the building this school is held in - save it. I know it used to be a business residence; my friend Kuulei worked there when it was. Not an ideal setting. But this is only the third year the school has been open, and plans for a new building are in the works. I cannot express how thrilled I am with the amount, and the rate at which, she is learning. She had homework, in kindergarten, Mondays through Thursdays. She had research projects. It was great. Did you know that Koalas are not bears? I didn't! Not until li'l ~j. had to give a report on them. One night, she had a math problem that read: Circle the shape that is congruent to the shape in the box. Congruent? Not only could I not remember the LAST time I heard this word (luckily li'l ~j. knew what it meant), I most certainly couldn't remember the FIRST time I heard this word - I know it wasn't in kindergarten. I love her kindergarten teacher. She is so sweet, and is from the South - her drawl rubbed off on li'l ~j. a bit, and occasionally, I'm called Ma'am. Can't wait to meet her new teacher.


I used to get really defensive and apologetic about li'l ~j. going to this school, but I'm over that now. I love it. No, I don't think we're better than anyone else for going to this school. So, you grew up in Provo? Great. You went to Whatever School? Fine. And look how you turned out? Fantastic. Great for you. We're going to a different school, and that's great for us.

24 comments:

Melissa said...

I think any school is what you make of it...there are always good teachers and bad teachers, and you do as well as you make yourself try to do...although a teacher with poor grammar is just screwing up the whole generation!

I hope Rae loves the school as much as you do!

~j. said...

She does. Every now and then, she'll say that she wants to go to school with her neighborhood friends...and then the end of July will come, and her friends go back to school (year-round). Yeah, she loves it. Plus, she and Samantha are going to be in the same class again this year! Can you believe the luck?!

By the way, Melissa, have you had that baby yet?????

La Yen said...

You know how I feel about the whole charter/private school thing. I think that if you can find a great public school, never move out of the boundaries. But a great public school requires all great teachers. If a school has even one or two crappy teachers it will never be a great school. Charter and Private schools are, generally, extrememly picky about their teachers and teachers, generally, kill to get in. I don't think that school is what you make of it--I am not willing to let Gigi suffer through crap in hopes of getting the one good teacher. I was not raised that way--my mom pulled us out of school twice to send us to better schools--I hated it then, but am so grateful for it now!
PS I sent Rae a back to school fuzzy pen...

wendysue said...

My sister just moved to San Jose, CA, and was terrified about the schools. They ended up finding a fabulous one called the Village School (you know it takes a village. .. ) anyway, there are only 150 students K-5, and parents are required to volunteer 3 hours a week to the school, usually talking/teaching/sharing about their profession/talents, etc. It's amazing how a school can change when parents are actually involved, and not just picking up and dropping off!!! My sister is so excited! They were so far out of the district for the school they thought there wasn't a chance, but my brother in law can do some major sweet talkin' and got them in. We're lucky here in Lincoln to have an awesome public school system.
p.s. LOVE your breakfast club sneak-in. . . Why do you have a fake ID? "so I can vote!". .. that's right, what would you be doing if you weren't out making yourself a better citizen?

c jane said...

I think my issue with the whole school thing is that as a child I hated leaving my house, my mom and my siblings everyday for six hours. When I got home I was exhausted and onery. More than anything, I wanted to just be home where I was safe and happy, (even though I went to a respected elementary school). I'd like to think that my future kids could have the best of both worlds, an education AND stay at home. Of course if they would rather go to school I am not going to fight them.
When talking about homeschooling, people always say to me, "Your kids won't have enough social experiences" to which I reply "I went to public school and yet, I choose to spend social time with my sisters" or in other words, in the long run my family taught me more about sociability than did any experiences at school.
Anyway, sorry to take up all this room. But before I go:
How is my dear Monica? I love her. I have heard fab things about Freedom Academy.
And your VT companion isn't short and really loud when she talks...is she?

LuckyRedHen said...

Not to use my public school knowlege against anyone (we didn't have $ to go to private schools or charters back then), but isn't koala spelled withOUT a W? ;o) I think any kid in public school will do well if he/she has a parent at home that's involved in their life. There will be a new charter school near us next fall that we've already signed up as possible candidates to try it out.

~j. said...

Yay, Shannon! You win the prize! i KNEW that didn't look right...I'll change it. :) I think you'll be really happy with the school...John Hancock is a good one in your area, but I don't like its location - right there on a busy road...

~j. said...

wendysue - thanks for recognizing the breakfast club line - i like: how do you suppose he rides a bike? hm. maybe i should have posted that to your blog about urinals.

cjane: you are absolutely right! I should have given a shout-out to a friend from NY, Sue Tillotson, who did an EXCELLENT job homeschooling her son, Ben, who is brain-injured; Ben is one of the most socially competent people that I've ever known. And, Monica & James will be here (in this area) tomorrow (Tuesday) just for a few days, with their baby, who is delicious. She'd love to see you, I'm sure. And...that former vt comp...maybe she is and maybe she IS.

waldo said...

Hey there...

Just for the record, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I hated school when I was in it, and I hate school now. Many of my peers are taking Master's courses here at the education center on Ft. Bliss, and I say "more power to you, sucker." No money on earth will get me back to school for at least six years.

And isn't "congruent" a type of prison visit?

~j. said...

w, there is a reason that people like you and me are married to the people we are married to...lots of reasons...but one of the reasons is that we, for our kids' sake, need someone to make sure that the kids GO to school. if people like you and me were in charge, well, there would be lots of little dropouts running around. Thank Heaven for Jen & Darin and all of their degrees.

cabesh said...

I too have heard horror stories about the school near you. The funny part? The person telling the story usually doesn't seem to have a problem with the punchline. I do!

I also student taught in Utah for 6 months (on the cohort program) and swore that I would NEVER teach in Utah.

P.S. Your former VT companion, I used to VT her. Every time she misconjugated a verb I cringed! She probably thought I was always in pain.:)

Jennifer said...

Okay, I think any area has its problems with public schools. However, I had the opportunity to teach 2 semesters of cohort in the Jordan school district, and I taught fourth grade for a year at a great school in the Provo school district. Although the pay stinks, I think that, overall, Utah (and Provo especially) has really good teachers and schools.
I think with parental involvement, which can include requesting certain teachers over others, most public school experiences can be positive.
With that said, I agree with you about the public school a block away from us. I've already informed Ryan I plan on moving before Nathan goes to kindergarten, so we can be in a more spacious house AND a better school :)

David Trusel said...

Jenny, I seen your blog and it was real good.....:-) Dave

Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson said...

Jenny,
I had the best elementary school experience. I want that for my kids, but that was in the 80's...the 80's were so innocent and nice. Now I haven't a clue what to do. I think you made a good choice with Rae. Claire has 2 years until I have to decide, hopefully I will know then...good blog. Check out my cousin's (Jayne wells) www.jayniemoon.blogspot.com

~j. said...

yay, Dave!!! THANK YOU for commenting... and thank you, Stephanie, I will check it out.

babybeluga said...

Jenny,
I got a little bit confused when my eyes were playing tricks on me while reading the paragraph on homeschooling--for some wierd (though entirely un-Freudian) reason, I kept reading "homosexual" rather than homeschool. The line, "I am in awe at people who homosexual successfully," threw me for a bit of a loop. I understand now, and appreciate everyone's insight. Not that I have kids--nor am I married--nor have any prospects presented themselves yet--nor am I even very cool, but I have thought a lot about the subject of homeschooling and have tentatively decided on that route when the day comes. But I know next to nothing about charter schools--thanks for the blog and I'd like to talk about it more sometime. Love you and Darrin and kids much.

~j. said...

you're welcome for the blog, babybeluga. And, please don't take this the wrong way, but: who are you? I clicked on your name and saw a lack of blog...should i know your code name??

babybeluga said...

Babybeluga is code for Tanner. Ever hear the Raffi song--babybeluga? I don't know why, or when, but that has been a password, username, etc. etc. etc. for a long time now. Sorry I missed you guys at the baby blessing. I was planning on going, but my car's engine had other things in mind. I think I just need to buy a horse.

~j. said...

Welcome, my dear, dear friend Tanner. I miss you so much. I wonder how you found access to a computer, as I hear that you currently live a lifestyle that includes ONLY bathing in rivers. Coming to Provo any time soon? I hear there are busses that drive solely from Rexburg to Provo & back. Now, THAT sounds like so much fun. Anyway, no, I've not heard that Raffi song. Poor, poor me. love you!!!

Lorien said...

Hi Jenny!

Without getting on a pro-public school rampage, as I am prone to do, let me agree with those of you who said parent involvement makes all the difference. It does and this year I've made a goal to spend more hours at my kids' school.

As for the "those who can't do, teach" comment, I must say I hate that one. I hope it was a joke. Teachers are given far too little credit (and pay). I admit there are some bad teachers out there. But there are some amazing ones too, and yes, even in public schools! Anyone who thinks teaching is easy and that anybody can do it if they have half a brain, hasn't ever tried to keep 15 to 30 kids engaged in quality learning all day. Nor have they considered all the record keeping, assessing student learning and needs, modifying and improving instruction to meet those needs, and reporting these results to parents--all WITHOUT a secretary. For what it's worth...

~j. said...

Lorien - thanks for visiting!

First of all, YES, IT WAS A JOKE!!! it's actually a line from a movie, School of Rock, which is where the title of this blog entry comes from as well. (I rarely have an original thought - most of what comes out of my mouth came from a movie.) And, I was teasing my dad. He knows it was a joke.

I know I have made these comments elsewhere, on other education-flavored blogs, but I'll say it again here, for the record: I could never be a teacher. I teach at home, and I teach at church, but that is so different from teaching at school. I know so many people who majored in Elementary Education by default - they really didn't know what they wanted to do, so why not just be a teacher? JUST? That really upsets me. I know that proper teaching skills can be acquired, but I also think that the profession of teaching is taken FAR too lightly. Someone once told me that in Finland, teachers make as much money as doctors. And that's as it should be, so say I.

You are right - it's not easy. And, I know, I KNOW that there are very high quality teachers at public schools. For example: my dad, my dad's two best friends, my uncle, 2 of my aunts, my father-in-law (retired), my late grandfather, and some of my closest friends (some of which are former teachers of mine). What I wouldn't give to have my kids in their classrooms! But I can't customize their school, taking the teachers I'd prefer from all over the country and create a local school where I happen to be living at the time. And so, I looked into my options, and we're very happy with the school we've chosen - it fits our family very well.

I hope we're still friends. And I hope to see you sooner than at Melanie's party. :)

Lorien said...

Whew. I'm glad I just missed the sarcasm or irony or whatever. I'm also glad you found a school that fits your family. I'm really excited about my kids' classes this year. It's a great feeling to look forward to a year and to be excited about the opportunities your children are going to have, isn't it?

Yes, we need to get together sometime. We need a lunch or something.

~j. said...

lunch - yes, let's. ARCTIC CIRCLE, ANYONE????? (you know, i've only been there once, and that was to get chris's bday gift...)

AzĂșcar said...

Kuulei is my friend!! We *insert giggle here* attended Provo public schools together and we turned out alright :) I live in the same ward as her in-laws, so it's fun to run into her sometimes.

This entry hit home as Joe, to whom I've been married for it seems like forever, decided to drop out of the Electrical Engineering program and go into Math Ed. He hopes to teach secondary Math in Provo schools. Teaching Math seems like ever-lasting purgatory to me, but he thinks it will be heaven.

Let me know how the charter goes, I'll be looking seriously in just a few years at our options.