A worm in the apple

apple_wormI’ve had a love-hate relationship with my daughter’s school from the beginning. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s hate-hate. It started last year when she was ready for kindergarten, but the school deemed her too young. They wouldn’t even let her test into school. That pissed me off, but she spent another year in preschool, where she learned more “sight words” than anyone else in her kindergarten class. Just in case you haven’t heard of them, “sight words” are words they want kids to memorize, mostly small words, prepositions, conjunctions and articles.

This year, I signed her up for kindergarten. Finally. But  I had to put her on a wait-list for full-time kindergarten. And pay tuition. For PUBLIC school. Honestly, I thought, if I was paying tuition for public school, why couldn’t they accommodate everybody? Why couldn’t they just form another class? As it turned out, they could, but they needed a quota in order to do it. And they didn’t get it.

How do they get away with tuition in public school, you ask? Good question. They do offer free kindergarten, for what they call a “half-day.” “Half-day” kindergarten is 2 ½  hours long. Full-day kindergarten is 6 ½ hours long. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that, even in kindergarten,  2 ½ is not half of 6 ½.

My daughter was already going to preschool for 4-6 ½ hours a day. To go to “half-day” kindergarten would have been a step backwards. Plus, between dropping off and picking up both kids from kindergarten and preschool, I would have had a whopping 90 minutes a day to work. Don’t worry, the district said, she’s second on the wait list. I didn’t want to hear that, either. I was supposed to be happy that she had JUST missed making it in?

She did wind up making it into full-time kindergarten, thank God. I was really happy about that, and I’d heard really good things about her teacher. We were invited to an orientation in late August. but it happened to fall during the week we’d be on vacation. “Don’t worry,” they said. “The teacher will tell you everything you need to know.” And she did. She left me a message saying there was nothing I needed to know.

As part of the invitation to orientation, her teacher explained that all of the school supplies she’d compelled us to buy would go into a communal supply, and if we could contribute more supplies for the less-fortunate children, that would be much appreciated. Well, I’d already bought the school supplies, and my super-excited daughter had put her Kidecals all over them. Plus, I’d bought the princess notebooks and fairy folders because I thought I was buying them for her. Had I received the news that school supplies were communal ON THE SCHOOL SUPPLY LIST as I should have, I’d have bought the generic, cheaper notebooks and more of them, to contribute to the kids who didn’t have their own.

So far the school and her teacher were batting zero, in my opinion. Since we missed orientation, I took my daughter to see the school the day before kindergarten started. Her teacher was there and she took my daughter around and showed her where she’d come in on the bus, where to line up and where she’d sit in class. Score one for the teacher.

A few weeks into school, there was a “Curriculum Night,” where parents would visit school and find out what their children would be learning. Well, it turns out my daughter’s class was excluded from that event because they had discussed curriculum at the orientation. The one we missed when we were out of town, where they discussed all that “nothing” that I needed to know.

This week was the first week of homework. The teacher sent a note saying that kids would get math homework on Mondays, and it would be due on Fridays. My daughter brought home a packet on Monday and went right to work, drawing 1’s and 2’s, which, incidentally, she’d done for years in preschool. She finished half of it, and put it in a safe place – which in our house is hard to find because with two kids under six, stuff gets lost. It just does. But it was a really safe place. Well, on Tuesday, our house cleaner came (don’t judge me, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever spent money on, ever, and the price is very reasonable) and after that, we couldn’t find her math homework.

We looked everywhere, I mean everywhere. My husband has this bizarre ability to find things. If you lose something in our house, you call him. And when he’s on the hunt for a lost item, he’s the human embodiment of the Tasmanian Devil, so we just stay out of his way. Well, he looked. And looked. And looked. No math homework. No problem, I said, I’ll just get her another copy. I emailed the teacher, who said that the district only gives her one copy for each student. A couple of friends said that sounded like bullshit, so I called the school office. It was bullshit. The office said that it’s not district policy or school policy – it’s classroom policy. I had no love for the teacher that day.

Another mom informed me that there was a website where I could download and print homework. I informed the teacher that I had access and asked her for the lesson number. I went on it and Lesson 11 was not there. I could access Lesson 10 and Lesson 12, but not Lesson 11. At that point, I’d done all that I could. I gave up. My daughter would take her first zero.

I asked her what happened when she didn’t hand in her homework and she said the teacher told her “That’s okay, it happens sometimes.” At least she said that. At least she’s being nice to my daughter, if not me.

I will get the chance to have it out with her. We have our parent-teacher conference on Monday, although I can’t imagine how she can evaluate my daughter after five weeks of school. The scheduling was a fiasco too. In two weeks, the kids have “”half-days” all week for parent-teacher conferences. Incidentally, these “half-days” are longer than “half-day” kindergarten, but all “half-day” kindergarten is cancelled. Our original appointment was for that week, at 2:20 p.m. My son would be at preschool, but my daughter would be off from school, and all of our babysitters would either be in school or at work. What in the hell was I supposed to do with my daughter during the conference? And, my husband raged, was he supposed to take the whole day off so he could make a 2:20 appointment? And we’re the more-fortunate parents. My job is flexible and my husband gets paid days off. What are the less-fortunate parents supposed to do?

In any case, we did reschedule and I’ll have childcare for my daughter. I don’t want to walk into the meeting feeling hostile, but at this point, I really can’t help it. And I don’t want an antagonistic relationship with my daughter’s teacher either, but it seems that ship has sailed.

I’m not against teachers. I respect teachers. I have lots of friends/relatives who are/were teachers. My husband wants to be a teacher. I know they have really difficult jobs and they’re not paid nearly enough, despite my late dad’s claims that they all made six figures and never worked. But this mismanagement has gotten out of hand. And I don’t want my feelings, which I cannot hide, (seriously, no matter what I do, everybody always knows what I’m feeling) to affect the way the teacher treats my daughter. So either I write down some questions and rehearse them until I sound neutral, or I can let my husband do all the talking. I’m going for option two. I’m from New York and very direct. He’s from Virginia and very diplomatic. We use both to our advantage. In any case, I’m just grateful that my daughter is having a better experience with school than I am.


3 comments on “A worm in the apple

  1. I find it odd that she wouldn’t give you a copy of the homework…this is KINDERGARTEN…right? …and were all kindergarten classrooms excluded from curriculum night…or just yours? I might even e-mail some questions beforehand. Let her know that since there was no curriculum night for her class, then she needs to go over the curriculum with you at your meeting. The town I work in also charges for full day kindergarten…it’s terrible. Thankfully, the town I live in has free full day kindergarten for everyone. Good luck with your conference!

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