Sunday, March 28, 2010

some are good and some are...

I have the utmost respect for the teaching profession.

I feel that teachers should be at the top of the economic pay scale. It is my opinion that their monitary compansation should exceed that of sports figures, actors, lawyers or even doctors.These are the people in charge of directing the future. Our kids are the future. And our teachers are developing the minds of tomorrow.

My mother was a teacher. For 45 years.

She loved her job. And her 'kids' adored her in return. She took her profession seriously. She was an instrument of change for many of her students. She cared. She cared about the future of these kids. She cared enough to follow through with each and every student to make sure they had the tools available to succeed. And when they did, that was her reward. She felt proud.

There are good teachers, like my mom, and there are...well, not so good teachers.

I normally don't bitch....much. Or at least I try not to. I'm a tolerant person and don't get ruffled too easily. I accept quite a bit before going postal. But I'm pushed to my limit when it comes to ignorance. All ignorance. But especially when the ignorant person is one educating my child.

My daughter has been very fortunate thus far to have what is adding up to an excellent education. She went through the Montessori program from pre-primary through third grade, which I loved. Last year we switched schools to a more traditional form of education.

We enrolled in a Catholic School.

For the most part, this school has been great. It's in close proximity to our home and has come highly recommended. The majority of teachers are on par with my mom. A few might even be better, if that's possible. Her teacher in 4th grade was one of those. She was trained Montessori, so my daughters transition from 'feel good, warm fuzzy' Montessori to a 'desk and uniform' school was easy. During one of the teacher/parent conferences she said, "Your daughter gets it. Many of these other children just look at me. They don't want to know how to get to the answer, they just want the answer to memorize so they can score well on the test."

The school is signed up with Edline, an online site that keeps the parents informed of their childrens scores and progress. Many of the teachers don't always keep the information current with assignments and such, so I got out of the habit of checking it on a regular basis. I trusted that if anything were amiss, I'd be informed.

The school has a homework policy that if a student misses two assignments in one week, you are required to attend 'homework lab'. It's a detention of sorts. We lovingly call it 'the hoozegow'. Boo has recieved a couple of homework labs. For stupid mistakes like forgetting to bring her textbook to class. I asked "Why?", just carry it with you. "But it's SO HEAVY...." she whined.

But rules is rules and off to the hoozegow you go. For four days. For each offense. Omitting Fridays, of course. No teacher wants to stay after school on a Friday.

The hoozegow actually had my vote. Instead of coming home with a couple hours of homework, she got it completed at school. I like it. It frees me from having to hover making sure her work's done. She likes it as well, sort of. Since she was focused and got her work done at school, it allows her to be able to play with friends or watch TV until dinner instead of sitting at the table with me helicoptering above.

I thought it time to check Edline the other day. I hadn't been on in awhile and I knew that Science has been a challenge this year. The teacher is a challenge. She gives time consuming projects and grades hard. Bear works deligently on them, but two in a row have resulted in not so great scores. I was pleased that she aced the last one. I have an idea that Boo's never going to be a scientist, she's far too right brain. I see the effort she puts in to her work, so I'm not too bent out of shape about her overall score. A recent project handed in required them to make a model  made up 'creature'along with a paper describing it. Its environment, its symbiotic relationships, its predators, etc. It was to be written in a letter form like one you'd write to a friend. I thought she did a great job. I looked over the checklist and she touched on each point that was to be addressed.

She got a D-.

Even with the subpar grade the teacher attached a note asking, "I love it! May I keep your creature?"
Um. "Well sure.", I thought," Perhaps you can give her another ten points on her score and then you can keep it." 

I scrolled down through Bear's classes and learned that she was failing math.

What? Failing? No possible way. Fractions and decimals are the fare du jour. She understands them quite well. Her test scores have been high. Her homework scores, however, are not.

I saw a missing assignment that received 0 points of a possible 100. And then about a week later another 0 of 100. Followed by another one, and another and another and another. 700 total points were completely missing from her grade.

My knee jerk reaction? "Boo! What the *%#@!!" But of course, as a good mom, I didn't say that...exactly. What I did say was, "Boo? Is this right?"

"Is what right Mommy?"

"This score. Is this right? Where's the Simple Solution problem score?"

"Which?", she replied. "Oh that. I didn't get it, plus I didn't have to do it."

Homework assignments not given or that don't have to be done sounds eerily similar to 'the dog ate my homework'. 

Our school has the children in 5th grade changing classes every period. They have hall lockers like in high school where they store their books. And like in high school it is their responsibility to make sure to bring all materials needed to each class. They have 3 minutes between classes. This has been the source of some of our hoozegow issues. Bear will show up minus a book, or a workbook. Remember, we are talking about 10 and 11 year olds.

One of my friends daughter doesn't use her locker for anything except her coat. She carries everything in her backpack. Everything. She is too afraid to not have the materials needed at any given time, so it stays with her. Not an entirely bad idea, per se, except that her backpack now weighs 45 pounds. Lucy only weighs 82 pounds. Her grandfather even picked it up to move while visiting and said, "What's this? Her backpack? I was in WWII and our knappsacks didn't weigh this much!"

This has been a point of heated conversation when us moms get together for coffee. We are searching for a solution. Not only do I see a future with our kids having serious back problems, but instead of teaching them responsibility, I believe it is teaching them anxiety. They will have enough of that as they get older. I thought of rolling backpacks, but the school does not allow them.

So why exactly is Bear missing the same assignment week after week? While pondering this I start to get a little angry. At what point does her teacher, when imputing zeros instead of any other score, contact the parent? Or the student about the missing assignments!?

How long does a teacher let a 5th grader continue down the path of failing without making some sort of attempt to correct it? What kind of pleasure is she getting from failing a child?

It's not like I'm unavailable. It's pretty easy to reach me. We filled out forms with every possible forms of contact at the beginning of the school year. From cell phone, to house phone, to e-mail. Even twitter. You want to get word to me? NO problem. Heck. Why not go the old fashioned way and just send a note home.


I sent an e-mail to the teacher. It wan't was actually very nice. A 'what can we do about this- there seems to be a breakdown- may I have the problems assigned so she can do the work whether she gets credit for it or not' e-mail.

One day.
Two days.
Three days.
Nothing. No response.

So I called the principal. She was flabergasted. "We don't run things this way here. I'll get to the bottom of it." 12 days later, we had a meeting. All of Boo's teachers showed up to the conference room.
And yes, we got to the bottom of it.

Surprisingly, the math teacher pushed over an ammended update from her gradebook. She removed all of the missing scores which then gave my daughter a pretty good grade. She went from failing to an A-. I didn't ask her to do it. She did it on her own. Me thinks that she realized she dropped the ball. You don't, as a teacher, not address a glaring problem that has been happening since January.

It was at this meeting that over two weeks since my inquiry did I finally get the missing assignments I'd asked for. It turns out that the missing assignments are work that Boo has done already. They do a page of Simple Solutions math each evening. Some weeks the teacher assigns 5 problems from the Simple Solutions book that some students got wrong or had questions about. They are to do this assignment on a separate peice of paper, show the question, the answer and the work how they got the answer.

I went back and looked through her book and corresponding problems assigned. Bear had completed each the first time successfully. She was confused and thought since her first answers were correct, that she didn't have to complete this assignment. It would be redundant. Her deduction came from instructions given for test scores. In this same class you are allowed to complete incorrect answers from a test and hand it in for extra credit. But ONLY if you scored less than 74%...otherwise you can't turn it in. It's not accepted as credited work. So since hers were correct, the first time, she didn't do them. And in turn got zeros.


Prior to this conference, I'd never met her math teacher. The last set of teacher conferences they sent word that there was no reason for her father or I to attend. There was nothing to discuss. It was all bubbles and unicorns. And no offense to this particular teacher, but during the meeting she never looked me in the eye. Her gaze was always over to the left. Or over my shoulder. Never in the eye.

Plus she fidgeted.

She's young. She's doesn't have children. She's unmarried. She probably just doesn't understand or have the experience. It's okay. At least now I know what to expect. And what to look for.

I had a teacher in high school that I thought had it out for me.

Miss Steel was my trigonometry teacher. I had her junior year in 5th period. 5th period was split in to 4 sections. 5a, 5b, 5c, and 5d. I had trig 5a, lunch 5b and c, and then back to class 5d. Ineveitably, I would be coming down the hall, steps away from the classroom door when the bell would ring. Miss Steel would deliberately slowly close the door just as I got there.

And wouldn't let me in.

I would stand there defiantly in the hall, looking into the classroom until the hall monitor made me leave...but I hated Miss Steel for this.

Even so, I got an A.

I asked her at the end of the year, "Why do you hate me so?"

"I don't hate you, Nancy. I just expect more from you."

And so it goes.

Boos' teacher knowing she can do the work, expects more from her.
And more she is going to get.

She is Boo's Miss Steel. Boo will have her as her math teacher next year as well, so we're on track with her expectations now.

But a phone call would've been nice. Or a note. Or an e-mail. Or a tweet.

I'd have loved to be a fly in the principals office when she called the math teacher in to explain where the communication breakdown was with Bear. That would have the makings of a classic priceless Master Card commercial.

Problem solved.
I've learned. I check Edline everyday.
Boo's learned. She double checks every assignment now.
And I'm sure that the math teacher has learned something as well. Hopefully.

Now, onto the next predicament. What's up with these backpacks....



  1. Hey Nancy, glad you got this one sorted. But the teacher is an ass. Period. You nail it when you said (on a different subject) "Instead of teaching them responsibility, I believe it is teaching them anxiety." This is another example. She's done it, and can do it, but is being punished with Process. At eleven. That's wrong on so many levels. Indigo.

  2. I used to be a teacher and I completely understand where you are coming from. It's amazing to me how things have changed even in the few years since I was teaching in public schools. Far too many demands and way too much pressure is put on the students, teachers are overwhelmed and underpaid, and the backpack issue is a big deal. Why doesn't Boo's school allow the type on wheels? Seems like a strange rule to enforce. Anyway, when I was in my first years teaching, I definitely made some mistakes, but I appreciated the parents who were truly involved and concerned about their child's education. Far too many parents have no involvement whatsoever, leaving teachers completely unsupported and overwhelmed with the mounting responsibility of having to raise the kids in addition to teaching them math, science, etc.

    Great post. :-)

  3. I have had 3 go thru the school systems and teacher quality has run the gamit from exellent to useless. You have to stay on top. We have the fourth in 2nd grade and when they introduced the teachers at the beginning of the year it looked like the cast of High School Musical. That teacher turned out to be pretty good while on of the older teachers was insane. The backpack issue is another issue. They are kinduv insensitive to that. It's pretty much Deal with it. Its good ya got a handle on it. Good Luck.

  4. It's the same thing with both of my sons' teachers. My eldest is a junior in high school and my youngest is in 8th grade. Our school system uses an online grade program as well. Some teachers have the grades up by the time the kids get home from school. Others wait until the end of the week and do them all at once. Since my boys are little bit older I've made it their responsibility to check their grades and if something is amiss, they are to talk to their teachers immediately. The boys do a good job. That's what you have to do - stay ontop of things. Teachers are human and can make mistakes.

    Down here in FL the schools are all open (outdoors) hallways. No lockers at all. Winter coats aren't required and the lack of lockers cuts down on drugs, weapons and such. The students are issued a set of textbooks at the beginning of the year to keep at home. The teachers keep a set of textbooks to be used in class. The students are responsible for bringing notebooks, binders, workbooks, lab books, and current reading books to class every day. The system does work but their backbacks still seem very heavy.

  5. My son, a professional musician now, got a D in music in 10th grade -- while far and away being the best musician they had.

    He went a full quarter without turning in any homework at all but instead helped the guy next to him do his.

    The teacher never said a word.

    And then WE had words (and I moved The Boy to a two-year arts school for 11th and 12th!)


  6. Oh, boy do i hear you on this one! 3 kids and a million years of school between them; I am so tired of fighting battles. I've heard at every age since literally first grade that now they're old enough to handle the responsibilities given them. Like there's a magic button that gets pushed when they turn 7 or 14 or enter HS. My daughter is 15 and I am still fighting ridiculous battles, trying so hard to be nice, keep everyone one my good side, her good side. And she is my responsible student; I'm not asking for miracles here. As you've seen teachers are busy and they do drop the ball.
    Good for you Nancy, for being an active parent and speaking up for your daughter! Teachers would tell me they can't do something because of how many students they have. My reply is always, "I'm her/his parent; it's my job to worry about this stuff." I saw some teachers give up on my very frustrating son in HS, and then be mad at me because I wouldn't. Hello??
    Ok, I'm done.

  7. Oh the number of backpacks I TORE UP in my youth lugging EVERY book I owned from class to class. *sigh* what I finally did was put the first 1/2 days books in the bag, then at lunch left them in the locker and took the second 1/2 with me. Be grateful they can carry bags, at my nephews school the bag has to stay in the locker.

  8. That's an awful situation, on all sides. I know more than one teacher that's dedicated to their job and loves it-and I'm always happy to be in their class and learn and listen to what they have to say. I wish there were more teachers like that; sadly, some of them just seem to sit there and go for the paycheck, not for the joy of it.

    I'm glad Boo got her grades back up, and I hope it won't happen again!

  9. Oh Nancy...I'm feeling this way a little bit: when to get involved, when to give them the tools to get the day, when to fight like hell.
    Such is that of a parent, right?

  10. Wow. Something similar happened to me. I learned through a parent teacher interview my son was failing Grade 2. It turns out he couldn't read up to par. They waited til half way through the school year to tell me. If I hadn't visited the interview I may have never known in time. Crazy. What alot of rules, and things for little ones to remember. Crazy.

  11. You hit the nail on the head when you said it was a good learning experience for all three of you - parent, teacher and student...not easy though. I agree you should have been contacted and now you know to be proactive with this particular teacher. She's young. Maybe still learning the "ropes" ? By the way, I like the way you handled the situation.

  12. I think Boo's teacher, though lacking in organizational and social skills, is showing her how life will actually be. Unfair. And no one will explain it to her. And the quicker she learns the rules, whatever they are, the longer she will survive. Good for Boo! Good for you, getting everyone straightened out.

  13. Hello. I'm new to your blog. I believe this will be my first time commenting. This just struck a cord with me. I am going to school to become a teacher.

    I am also curious to know how that conversation went regarding the lack of communication. Did this teacher feel that with the updates she was doing her part? Did she try to explain herself? Of course there is no excuse for not responding to your request for the assignments! And I agree that you should have been contacted BEFORE it became a glaring problem.

  14. Frustrating, isn't it? I had a similar thing happen several years ago. I prefer to nip things in the bud instead of waiting until report card time which was what happened to us! And the heavy back packs are a big problem.

  15. way to go! you did the right thing by not letting that teacher slide. it really shouldn't take THAT long for a teacher to contact the parents when their child is not doing well in class!

  16. This must have been a difficult situation for you to handle but thankfully you have come out of it quite successfully it seems. There seem to be so many things that are wrong with today’s education system.

  17. Sometimes communication is not their best asset. We have to make sure we are vigilant in their education. Glad you got it straightened out. (((HUGS)))

  18. The teachers I have encountered are so used to being right, getting them to admit to anything other than perfection is a tough call.

    Well done on getting a result here.

  19. Good job on following up with the Principal. My kids go to public schools where the wheeled backpacks are not allowed - supposedly they mark up the floors.

  20. You know as a 1st year teacher it is difficult to know what to do sometimes and when to contact parents. However, when you see more than 2 failing grade for a student I say call. Some just do not communicate properly what their expectations are but it's one of those professions that takes practice - at least the 1st year. Now if she's not a rookie, then she needs to get on the ball or fired.

  21. I had a teacher out to get me in 2nd grade. Bitch made me cry on many occasions and even once suggested that she was like our mother because we spent more time with her than our respective mamas. True story.

  22. I felt my mum hackles rising reading this as I can very much connect with this. Sounds funny but my eldest just started kindergarten and my husband and I have had our worst fears confirmed that the "dumbing down" of a very bright kid is in the making...we've had various issues and trying to talk to the teachers is near impossible as they think they are the educational expert and our child is "no more special than any of the other thirty kids in the class". Yowch! Well we're making sure that at home she is!

  23. I know Boo's pain all too well.

    At least you got it all straighted out.

    My dreadful teacher was Ms. Bonner, GRRRR!!

  24. I have never understood why anyone would wait until it was an "F" situation before addressing it! This is kind of like the performance review that comes once a year. If you have an employee who isn't doing well, why on earth would you wait a year to address the situation? Parents need to be kept in the loop, plain and simple. This worked out, but I'm sorry your daughter had to go through the stress of it, and you too!

  25. My mother is a Montessori teacher and has been one for years. I get the method - it seems to be so effective... perhaps too effective for public schools to even think about it.

    I don't understand two things about schools these days - the overcomplicated grading/procedural stuff... it's as if they know they are failing to teach children even basic life skills - like how to read a map and figure out how to get from here to there ... without electronic aids, so they just do things to confuse/smokescreen this failure...

    Nor do I understand the backpack baloney. I don't recall ever carrying one.

    Mostly, to me, it seems like everyone is trying to blame everyone else for ... just getting away from the basics. My parents were stern (perhaps too stern) role models - my Dad was beyond pragmatic. They had three sons that are all deaf or nearly so; a couple Ph.d's and a college professor teaching math - my brothers and I maybe overeducated but they started with the basics: checkbook balancing, simple plumping and electrical repairs and so on... things that one uses daily, day in and day out.

    Where has that "focus" gone these days?

    Umm, not to be picky but you too are a role model for your children. "It's environment, it's symbiotic relationships, it's preditors" should be "its" and not "it's" and it's spelled predators... :)

    I agree wholeheartedly with the premise that good teachers should be paid (far) more than our idolized, but fundamentally "useless", athletes playing professional baseball, football and the like. The "value" of what they do (fleeting entertainment?) is minimal and short-term at best. Thanks for posting this entry. You have a way of making people think.

  26. @Renee- Funny you said you were a teacher. I could SO see you as a teacher! And no...this girl, although young, has been with the school for several years. As I talked to more parents of older kids that had also had her as a teacher, they experienced the same issue with her. Although they never spoke to the principal on it. Hopefully she'll realize that this is something that she needs to be more focused on. Communication. :-)

    @Pine Lakes- I even thought about having them split the textbooks in half. That would cut down on the half! Do you know the science textbook alone weighs 8 lbs? I know. I weighed it. Great idea about the duplicate textbooks. I better get on the fundraising committee!

    @Pearl- That's awesome about your son! My ex husband is a really good artist, but he had a teacher in jr. high that told him he wasn't good enough to persue it as a he out away any notion of following his dream. Unfortunate. It's too bad that true talent isn't recognized. And nurtured. I'm glad YOU did!!!

    @Intense Guy- Can you tell that punctuation was never a strength for me? Thanks for straightening me out. :-)

    Footnote: The teacher sent me a note apologizing for letting it get to that point. I think I might frame it.


  27. I totally feel you. My son is in a 5th/6th grade combo where they split them up into different classes through out the day (periods). My opinion is that 5th grade is too young to do that. Next thing you know they will want to get the 1st graders ready for middle school as well. It is too muh pressure on the students- especially the ones who are not mature enough to handle this type of situation (like my son.)
    Having grades posted online is great as long as it is done correctly and consistently (often it is not- I hear parents from different schools complain about it.) I know a couple of people who have gotten angry at their children only to find out the teacher has not updated the records. I can sympathize with the teachers when they are swamped- but they need to warn the parents! How many children have recieved a toungue lashing as a result?
    Glad you got things straightened out. I have a lot of respect for teachers also- but I get frustrated with the bad ones...

  28. I think school is so much harder now than it use to be!!

  29. Gracious, this sounds so confusing, and stressful for the little ones! I often see tiny kiddies trudging to school with HUMONGOUS backpacks and I definitely agree that you should do something about it! (Also, I'm wondering why your school won't allow backpacks on wheels? Are they dangerous?)

    As to the teacher... hey, as you say, you've learned your lesson, that's the most important bit - in the better case, the teacher has learned hers, as well. :o)


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