Monday, May 4, 2009

Dangling Some Red Meat

A fellow blogger, in graciously announcing my return to the blogosphere, wrote, “If the state of education is something you get worked up about easily, then Arby's new blog is so far about 75% red meat. They're planning on going back to homeschooling right quick.” I read that with a hearty laugh. Am I highly critical of the state of public education? Yes, I am. I make no apologies. As a parent, a tax payer, and a former public school teacher, I am concerned. I have good reason to be. Still, my blog is far from simply red meat dangling in front of a snapping pack of public school hating homeschoolers looking for anything that supports their preconceived notions about education. I was dragged into homeschool apologetics kicking and screaming by fellow blogger Prodoceo. There are people who are not able to and should not try to homeschool their children. Public school education is a viable option for them. Those who can homeschool their children should. After our brief foray into the Apathy School District, we will return to homeschooling on May 23rd, one day after the school district releases for the summer.

Why? Well, since you asked…

The genius who confiscated General Mayhem’s school supplies to ensure that he would be prepared for only one class each day has a policy that students may not bring home major writing assignments and complete them at home. Students are to work on their assignments in class only. When he assigned the last major writing assignment of the year, a research paper on a career, this teacher required all of his students to bring home a “Note to Parents.” This note described the assignment, provided due dates for each part of the assignment (outline, bibliography cards, etc.) and required a parent’s signature. One line read, “I will encourage and supervise him or her in the timely completion of each part of this assignment.” I am still waiting for this teacher to explain to me how I was supposed to supervise my child in the timely completion of the assignment when the General was not allowed to bring his assignment home. So far, that e-mail remains unanswered.

This problem came to my attention after the General failed to hand in his completed paper on time. I was ready to strangle the boy. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. I asked him every day for weeks how his assignment was coming. He told me he was working on it in class. He had plenty of time to complete it at home. Had I been allowed to supervise him the paper would have been completed on time.

It also appears that this teacher has a policy about not collecting, grading, and returning assignments promptly. He did not collect each part of the assignment (outline, bibliography cards, etc.) on the due dates listed on the “Note to Parents.” Why not? He wrote to me, “I told [General Mayhem] to bring them up for me to look at if he is unsure of something… I apologize that I was not able to get around to every child but as I am the only one in class it can be a difficult task to just keep up with the questions that I was receiving about how to construct the ideas into paragraphs.” Gee, there’s a great attitude for a teacher. Don’t bother collecting and grading work. Don’t provide written feedback and grades. When questioned, fall back on the “I’m only one man” defense. Do this while teaching students that due dates aren’t really due dates, they’re just days where you can come to me with questions if they are “unsure of something.” That’s preparation for the real world.

This is not simply “red meat” for the homeschooling crowd. This is public education in one of the better school districts in eastern Kansas. The unintended (I hope) consequence of this “bring no work home” policy was that it pitted the General against his parents. Every time we asked where his work was and how the paper was progressing, we were told, “It’s at school. We aren’t allowed to bring it home.” He was in a no-win situation, as he was trying to satisfy the teacher’s requirements as well as his parents’ demands to see the work as it progressed. That was wrong. This teacher hasn’t gotten it through his head that teaching our children is a privilege. He is teaching MY child. Any policy that separates me from supervising the education of my child is bad policy. I would think that if this man is as busy as he claims to be, so busy that he cannot check each individual student’s work, he would welcome the active support of parents, not actively discourage it.

We are still waiting for this teacher to return the fairy tales that were due on March 4th. They have not been returned, and there are no grades for them in the grade book. We know this because the Apathy School District uses a computerized grade book. Parents have access to their children’s grades on a daily basis. Last Sunday, in a candid conversation with a different Apathy School District teacher, I was told that the General’s language arts teacher is the better of the two sixth grade L.A. teachers. That’s scary.

I know that I can do better at home.

And I will.


Kathleen said...

Amen and Amen!

Big Doofus said...

Good post, Arby. Since I have two at home and one in public school, I know a little bit about what you've been going through. I agree that some parents should NOT be home educators. But I also think that some kids have a need to go to a public or parochial school.

Rose said...

I am amazed at how many times people think that because I homeschool, I advocate everyone homeschooling. Just last week I got a lecture on how "we can't abandon the public school system." Well, I'm not advocating that everyone pull their kids out of school. I'm not advocating that everyone buy generic diapers, but I do it, and it doesn't mean I'm "abandoning" the major brands. I also have chickens who provide me with delicious eggs. I'm not advocating that everyone raise chickens (really hard in an apartment!), but I do it because it works for me. What I do advocate, and I get the impression that you do as well, is that every family think about the goals for their children and do an ongoing cost-benefit analysis of their educational choices. If it works for you to stay in a school, go for it. If you can homeschool, fine. Education isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition.

CrossView said...

Any parent who truly cares about their child's education CAN homeschool. There are many who do not. Their children stand a better chance at an education in the public school system.

I've run across great teachers, good teachers, and downright bad teachers in both public and private schools.

Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

Please consider changing the colors of your blog. It looks to be a good one that I'd enjoy following, but these aging eyes have a hard time looking at white type reversed out of a black background. The easiest colors to read are black fonts on white (or very light) backgrounds. Since you state in your "fellow blogger's" comments that you would like to expand your audience, this is an aspect you should consider.

I blogged about the importance of readability of blogs here:
in case you're interested in learning more.


Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

Nice job, looks beautiful :-)

Linda said...

I love this stuff, Arby!! Knowing you've picked up the "homeschool apologist" ball makes me VERY happy!! You do it so well!

I LOVE the look of the new compliments to the Boss! I haven't been by as often as I would like...frankly, I keep forgetting you're blogging again! But I signed on as a follower! I think that means I'll get your updates in my email! Yay! You should be hearing from me more often now!