When my kids were in kindergarten, I'd volunteer in the cafeteria during lunchtime, cursing whoever invented the vacuum-sealed fruit cup. I never once encountered a five-year-old that could manage to open mandarin oranges without adult interference. In second grade, it was helping with math centers that got me up to school once a week. And on every elementary school birthday my kids celebrated, I delivered classroom doughnuts to mark the occasion. That's a lot of trips to Greenbush. And a lot of trips to school.
But I'm finding, as my kids get older, I don't get inside their schools nearly as much. My youngest is in fifth grade and just starting to enter the age where she'd prefer I did not, at risk I might say something embarrassing, volunteer in her classroom. I only go to middle school for band concerts or dentist appointment pick-ups. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've crossed the threshold at West High.
But this week I will walk the halls of all three of my kids' schools. Because this is the week of parent/teacher conferences.
Along with our daughter, my husband and I will be sitting down, for the final time in our parenting careers, with an elementary teacher. The teacher will likely tell us about SRI levels, WKCE scores and various other measurements. But hopefully, if past history proves true, we'll also happily hear of a different kind of "assessment" -- the one that our 10-year-old is kind and respectful to everyone in her class.
In middle school, we'll get together with our seventh grade son's science teacher, who will share not only his own observations of my kid's lab observations, but also the written observations of my son's math, foreign language and geography teachers who will not be in the room. I'll be frustrated for sure. I'd love to ask in person about how my son's Spanish accent is developing or if he'll be ready for algebra next year. But I understand the logistical nightmare this level of personalization would cause and accept the need for middle school efficiency.
The concept of efficiency is taken to dizzying heights in high school, though, where teacher conferences kind of resemble the speed-dating episode of "Sex and the City." Now, instead of concentrating on just one "relationship," my husband and I will race from floor to floor, spending no more than 5 minutes with each one of my kid's seven teachers. I'll admit I was a bit skeptical last year. How could the totality of my son's history, English or biology experience be whittled down to just five minutes?
I learned though, five minutes can be more than enough time to find out that your child is actively engaged in class, needs to write more neatly on tests and should find a way to dial back his natural tendency to "over participate." In the hands of an excellent teacher and communicator, more time isn't necessarily better.
It isn't lost on me that, from a calendar perspective, this could have been my Thanksgiving post. But this year I didn't feel like writing about turkey or stuffing. Instead, this week, I'd rather reflect on the fact that parent/teacher conferences are the only time of year when I get to spend a block of time -- whether it be 5, 15 or 30 minutes -- discussing my very favorite "subject," my kids, with a caring, trained teaching professional.
And that is certainly something to be thankful for. That, and the fact that no one ever asks me to open fruit cups anymore.comments powered by Disqus
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.