Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Flashback - The Time I Became One of THOSE Parents......

Sixth grade was not a very good year for Sweet Girl. I don't know how ANYBODY gets through sixth grade unscathed. It was the beginning of middle school, naturally, and math had never been her friend. She had some less-than-nurturing teachers (I don't remember them being particularly HARSH, they just didn't go out of their way to bond), and on top of everything else her home life wasn't the best in the world. Let's just leave it at that.

I had a parent-teacher conference early in the spring about her math performance and to see what I could do to help her. If I had been a better parent, I would have spent more time with her working on her math, but I didn't, and I guess one of these days in the distant future I MIGHT stop beating myself up over it. I witnessed her frustration, but I was frustrated myself because I couldn't see WHY she couldn't do math. It came so naturally to me, and I wasn't able to step outside that part of my persona.

In that parent-teacher conference, I expressed the sentiment that "failure is not an option." All of her teachers agreed with me, saying, "No, no, no, failure isn't even in the picture." Imagine my surprise when two weeks before the end of the school year, AFTER I had paid (in installments) for three weeks at summer camp, I received a note that said if Sweet Girl didn't go to summer school, she would be retained in sixth grade.

I don't know, I'm not the most educated person in the world, but shouldn't there have been SOME indication between those two events?

ANYWAY, Sweet Girl was relegated to the gut-wrenching experience of having to go to summer school. One day when I picked her up, her teacher said she was having difficulty. She made the surprising (at least to me) suggestion that I come sit in class with Sweet Girl and observe.

I suppose the point of that was to "shame" Sweet Girl into doing her math correctly (like she was making bad grades out of defiance?), because it wasn't a behavioral problem at all. The girl just didn't know how to do fractions. Or some of those other math-related things.

I went to class with Sweet Girl for a day (or two?), and I don't think it had the intended effect, at least not at first. She LOVED having me there, because it meant I could explain things to her and she wouldn't have to ask her teacher and draw attention to herself. I resisted the temptation to answer her questions, because I thought it was important for her to ask her teacher.

During one math lesson, I looked around the room and thought to myself, "Hmm... Those students over there don't look the same as these students." They didn't seem to be doing the same activities. After class I asked the teacher about it, more in a curious manner than a confrontational one.

"Oh," she said, "those students are eighth graders. They're studying social studies."

Excuse me? Sixth grade math and eighth grade social studies in the SAME ROOM at the SAME TIME with the SAME TEACHER?

I thought I may have misunderstood, so when I got home I called the principal who was in charge. She listened to my story, verified that teachers had to double up on subject matter, sympathized that Sweet Girl was still having trouble getting the math concepts, and offered me a solution: In addition to coming to the morning session, Sweet Girl could sit through the afternoon session ALSO, and maybe between the two she would get it.

That wasn't satisfactory to me. So I called the superintendent.

He was also very polite, sympathized with my situation, and explained that having teachers do double duty as far as subject matter and grade levels was the only way they could provide free summer school for middle school students. I said I would happily PAY for summer school if it meant my child didn't have to struggle with fractions while the Civil War was going on in the other part of the room. (Seriously, many days there was a movie going on for the eighth graders, and the sixth grade math students were supposed to tune that OUT? Sweet Girl would rather learn about a war than fractions any old day.)

I never thought I would be one of those parents who would call the superintendent and complain. I felt powerless for my child and myself, and it turned out that my actions had no impact whatsoever anyway. Sweet Girl made it through summer school and didn't have to repeat sixth grade, but the whole ordeal was horrible for her. And it was yet another thing that I couldn't fix as a mom. I hate those.

No wonder she still doesn't like math.

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