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 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.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.