Tag Archives: School

A Good Day

I am told signs from the other side are all around us but people don’t recognize them. This is one of my experiences:

This was one of many first days of school. The year before was so traumatic for Little E. But this year, she did a total 180 degrees. She was jazzed, got the teacher she wanted, had a nice friend in the same class, ready to be a fifth grader.

Her song was from American Idol, the one they played when they show the clips of who got kicked off – “Had a Bad Day” by Daniel Powter. And we have always called it her song because of when it shows up. While picking up the balloons at the florist at 8:00 a.m. on her birthday party morning, it was playing. Again the same day when we were in the Paint-a-Dream with the girls. I know it was popular but the timing was always interesting, coming up at unique but clearly appropriate moments.

I told her I would walk her to class but she just wanted to be dropped off to meet her friend. As she jumped out, I warned her that there will always be ups and downs. (“I know, mom, I know” cue eye roll.)

I turned the wheel to pull out and the song came on. I almost stopped to catch her when I figured out it was probably for me this time, telling me she will be okay this year. Then I thought about who would be trying to tell us these things. Who would use that song? It could be my dad. Never into music since Glenn Miller, quirky cute songs like that appealed to him. Or it could be Grandpa Mike, who waited years for a granddaughter after so many boys, only to die suddenly when she was 18 months old. And it could even be my mom, who obsessively worried about our futures. No matter, the message is always at the right time and taken to heart with a nod to the heavens.

American Idol has been gone for a while, and the song is now old. But it still shows up just before we realize we really need it. It is my touchstone to slow down – to stop, look, and listen for the other signs I’m missing because I am racing through my life.

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An Open Letter to my Daughter’s School District

I am a college graduate with a good secure job so I feel that I have an objective view, although how objective can anyone be when the conversation involves your own child? So I ask that you excuse my passion.

My daughter is not high risk or learning disabled. She is personable and bonded with her teachers, enough so as to get them to occasionally let her off the hook for things. She worked harder at avoiding work than doing it. She was at times bored. She doesn’t care for sports. She speaks English and she’s smart but not a self-starter, nor a high achiever, unless it is in something she passionate about. So where does she fall? Through the cracks, that’s where.

The ultimate goal of California high schools is to pass the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam.) It was mentioned frequently in the taped school updates on my answering machine at the end of the day. I think my daughter got 100% or close to it her sophomore year and she celebrated. While it always feels great to get a perfect score on anything (and I gave her some time to enjoy it), I told her that she is getting her perfect score on the lowered expectations of other people. I said she should aim higher than getting a great score on an exam that rewards the testers on being able to pass the maximum number of kids with a minimal amount of knowledge. Her goals should reflect the best of her.

I have nothing but admiration for the teachers. They work ridiculously hard for what they earn in money and respect. However, except for a few absolutely amazing ones, although all were very intelligent in their career choices, their knowledge of human psychology is lacking, and for that I blame the school district and the required prep courses for teachers.

You may say that teachers are only part of the equation and they need parents to work with their kids. And you may say you are doing the best you can with a minimal budget. I am a single working mother who has taken advantage of counselors, psychologists, paid tutors, used free library and museum offerings, made myself available at any time for homework or special projects, and driven everywhere and anywhere I could to help her, and I would do it all over again. Yet I feel I have dragged her through every semester for the last six years. I am exhausted but I will still admit I am not the perfect mother. Will you admit that you still have a long way to go?

I believe my daughter will go on to love education again, and I expect she will approach it with her own expectations, not lowered or compromised. She will survive your school, but is that the legacy you strive to leave?

 

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Earthquake Central

Summer is almost over and the Great California Shake Out earthquake drill approaches. Everyone in the state, from secretary down to the smallest kindergartner, “ducks and covers” at the exact time of 10:16 on 10/16 to prepare for the next “big one.” It seems like just yesterday I found myself sitting, hardhat and all, on the floor under my desk, thinking about how late I am in updating my emergency stash and hoping the “big one” wouldn’t beat me to it. I also remembered about how much of a time-suck this is for me.

I have earthquake bags in my car, at work, and in two closets at home. These bags contain 5 year water (yuk), freeze dried food (double yuk), and things like clothes, flashlights, emergency blankets, and toilet paper. Inside one of them is a gas turn-off tool to shut the gas down in case of leakage – something you can find hanging at most Southern California checkout lines and my girl knew how to work with it since she was just a little thing.

In the front hall closet, there is a list taped to the inside of the door listing the most important things to remember. It does triple duty for fire, flood, and earthquake and it needs updating since we’ve lost and gained some pets since I wrote it. The only possessions on my list are my grandmother’s vase, little E’s cherished stuffed dog named Sammy, photo albums, and a laptop – in that order. Anything else I can grab is gravy and my firebox will hopefully keep my important papers safe until I can get to them. As we always say, “things” are not that important when your life is at stake.

There are two hardhats in my closet, two in the car and, of course, a couple at the office. I have a bin in the backyard with inflatable mattresses and other survival gear, and a portable fire pit packed up in the garage ready to go.

You can’t pick up any of our weightier knick-knacks because they are “quakehold-ed” to the shelves (Christmas decorating is a nightmare) and nothing is on my uppermost wall shelf because I can’t find anything nice that won’t injure someone when it falls. Bookcases and wall units are bolted to the walls, and TV’s lashed to their entertainment centers like lifeboats to a ship. I have nothing heavy on the walls near our beds, and any tall furniture is purposely angled to hit something else before the floor – ninth grade Physics wasn’t lost on me!

Every year at daylight savings time, I am supposed to check, and usually replace, all the batteries that go into my numerous bags and bins –it’s built into my annual budget (don’t worry, I recycle.) And let me tell you, I am conservative in the area of preparedness. My friend has a generator – try replacing those batteries a couple of times!

Finally, my daughter has known for a long time where to go and what to do in the event of the “big one.” She has been practicing at school and at home for most of her life. For example, she knows that her uncle is the designated out-of-state phone call, don’t go after the animals because they will find their safe corner, avoid the kitchen – it’s a deathtrap – and hide under the dining room table with your arms around the legs because it will walk away.

If any of my non-west coast family ever comes to visit, training sessions are available.

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Recession and Homework

It seems the recession has hit eighth grade. At least that’s my best guess. After the third semester of  junior high school spent dragging my kid over the June finish line, my nerves were frayed and sensitive.  I mean, really…. what is the big deal with completing and actually handing in homework? Yes, my Pisces kidlet is the “floating through life” kind of girl but there is just so much yelling, grounding, and electronics banishment I can do before my Capricorn tendencies start me towards a better way – or at least an explanation or something to help me understand and reformat my approach. There just had to be a reason.

I put a label to it one night when I asked her why she didn’t care. All I got was a shrug but it was added to my mental list of reasons and stuck. She just didn’t care. I started to look towards moms and dads in my same orbit to form a hypothesis and help me understand why evenings and weekends were just so tough. After mentioning my issues, I found sanctuary. They all had the same problem to varying degrees and listening to most of them was like hitting replay on my evenings. These families were all different, some with dads, some without. A grandma lived in one house. Commuters and stay-at-home moms. The common thread was always the same….why don’t the kids care? Validation meant at least now my mind could move forward instead of floundering every night in Algebra hell.

Let’s cut to the chase on this, and remember, this is strictly subjective. A couple of teachers had told me that, after the last round of budget wars, some carry upwards of 40 kids in classes, with a possibility of more. Add to that furlough days and reduction of class help. With those kind of distractions, kids who don’t become involved are just left behind. Teachers just don’t have the time to connect with them all. So normal kids like mine who lack the competitive streak need the spark at home, or they will be lost. My mission is now clear, and turns out a little more cerebral and less combative. Well, still combative, considering hormones. But my thoughts on this are more ordered and have direction. However, the computer is still locked up until the next progress report.

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