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Pennsylvania, United States
What changes hath time wrought...mostly a different hair-color, a few wrinkles and loss of short-term memory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

School Woes and Letting Them Go

There is nothing wrong with you that can't be fixed by what is right with you. I can't remember where I read that. I have a feeling it was a yoga quote. There is nothing wrong that can't be fixed by what is right. I strongly believe in both of those sentences. But right now, at 1:43am, I'm having trouble finding what is "right"after feeling like I've been wronged. Being angry or upset about a past event has no purpose and only serves to cloud and disturb my well-being...I'm still mad, mad, mad and I don't want to be!

Today my seven year old son did not get off the bus from school with my 11 year old daughter. I was at my neighbor's house across the street and waved at the bus driver then realized my daughter was alone. I asked her where her brother was and she said she didn't know! [A similar incident had happened with my daughter earlier in the school year. I'll save that for later.] It was 3:50. School had let out around 3:20. [The bus leaves the elementary and goes to our middle school to pick up the 5th graders.] In my head Jacob has been missing for 30 minutes and the first hour of an abduction is the most critical. I grabbed my keys and my daughter and I headed for the elementary school (which is less than a mile away.)
I am just frantic when I arrive. I just want to know where my son is. His teacher meets me in the hallway and tells me he's in her room playing on the computer!  I'm now ready to implode. Why is he still at school??? Here's the teacher's side:

For the last few weeks my son's teacher and I have been trying to set a date for a Parent/Teacher Conference. We've been communicating by email. We had originally scheduled for after-school last Friday but that would not work and we rescheduled for this Monday. [I substitute teach in this school and every time my son rides home with me instead of the bus I write a note and she gets it first thing in the morning. That is the school's policy. Any change in regular dismissal must be accompanied by a note.] When I arrived home at 2pm today there was a message on my phone from my son's teacher: Would I like to cancel today's conference since we would have an upcoming meeting about my son's Individual Education Plan. She left no phone number or information how to get in touch with her so I emailed her that the future meeting would be fine and to send his report card home with him.  This was at 2:45. I promptly went over to my neighbor's house because she had graciously invited me over to show me how to make a mini-hipster purse. [Remembering this hour brings me pure happiness. They're so cute and easy to make!] My son's teacher insisted she was worried about me! She'd left messages on my cell phone. I didn't have any pockets and wasn't carrying my cell phone!  This infuriated me even more. A. She had kept my son from boarding the bus way before my conference time. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE BUS! IF I DIDN'T SHOW UP THEN SHE COULD WORRY ABOUT ME! B. She had shut her computer off at 2:00. School is over at 3:15. C. She called my husband who works in a city 2 hours away. D. I told her I have NEVER once indicated in any of our emails about conferences that Jacob would be present! They are PARENT - TEACHER conferences!!!  I wanted to look at those emails and she immediately said she'd deleted them. I did insist she turn her computer on just so she could see the email I'd sent her at 2:45. [I came home and checked the emails and I had not given any indication Jacob would ever be present.] E. My husband, now quite concerned about my welfare has left work early and called his parents to come and check on me. His parents were already on board to babysit while I went to a meeting at 6pm this night! So my husband gets home early and wants an explanation while I'm trying to make dinner before I leave. And unfortunately this meeting concerned the future of our districts elementary schools. F. My son was so worried about me, too. When we got home he kept asking, 'Where were you?' I finally snapped and said I was where I was supposed to be. YOU were not put on the bus.

This elementary school has become like a juvenile detention center with stringent rules about dismissal procedures, zero-tolerance policies, and silence in the lunchroom with consequences for those who talk. As one of the few parents who reads through our school manual completely and follows rules religiously I was stunned. Who does the principal ask to calm down?  (I probably was the louder one...) Not the teacher who violated school policy by not putting my son on the bus but ME!!!

And while touching on school policies: I was told if a student is taken off school property for any kind of field trip a permission slip is required. This elementary school seems to think if the whole school goes parental permission is not required. Well, the superintendent must be ill-informed because he was the one who told me this at a school board meeting over a year ago. Today the students took part in a Veteran's day parade and performed a beautiful song written specifically for the veterans. We received a note about this but nowhere was there a time or place given WHERE parents could attend or any kind of permission slip to allow participation. It must be you only make contact if you DON'T give permission. The lack of communication between home and school is reprehensible. School calendars online are sadly devoid of important dates and events and the one that DOES come home is often missing information. It's as if parental involvement is surreptitiously being discouraged.

What is wrong? There is no alternative to this public school that is acceptable. I desperately wanted to home-school my 5th grade daughter this year having taught 5th grade for 11 years in a parochial school. Our local school district for some reason that has never been clearly explained, moved all the fifth grades - 6 of them- to an inner hallway of the middle school. They still ride the bus with the other elementary students yet are expected to be acting as if they are middle school students. Recess is only on Fridays. I knew of two wonderful 5th grade teachers and assumed since my daughter was in a gifted program she would certainly have one of them. She has started playing the saxophone and will be in an elementary band. While I could easily give her saxophone lessons- having played for 9 years myself- the opportunity to play in a band is not to be missed. Hence one of the reasons why she is not in our local parochial school. While I realize now teaching in a parochial school is a teacher's dream job, not because of the pay, but because I was able to set up my daily schedule, lessons, and activities based on curriculum set by the Diocese and these were perused weekly by the principal. That said I do not want Catholic doctrine mixed up with scientific fact. I think I'm starting to ramble.

We really need a school like Collegiate Academy in Erie that pulls students from all the school districts in Venango County, k-6 & 7-12. I was hoping when I got to this point I would discover what is "right" with me, but, not to be. I could take issue with a dozen other school matters. That isn't helpful right now. I really need to get to sleep as I'm scheduled to work and will need to get up in less than 4 hours. Usually writing helps me see some sort of solution...maybe some meditation is in order. Kalesvara mudra for anxious thoughts and agitated feelings...

Hormonally yours,

Update Friday, November 16, 2012

That Kalesvara mudra, or maybe it was another one, seems to have worked. Bygones were bygones for me UNTIL I received a note from my son's teacher letting me know I would not need to help with their "Thanksgiving Feast" that I had signed up to assist months ago. Hmmm...ok...the note said she had enough "paras" [short for "paraprofessionals"] and my presence was not needed. This business where the "paras" instead of parent volunteers is a great source of agitation for a number of parents, not just myself. Why was there a sign-up to help during the school's Open House in September? She knew then how many paraprofessionals she had in her classroom so why NOW has she decided that additional parent assistance is not necessary?  Let's see... this teacher has never apologized for her unauthorized change of dismissal procedure for my son which resulted in his "false imprisonment." And I'm still the "bad guy." I think now is the time for my daughter's story of unauthorized dismissal procedure:

My son's "imprisonment" happened on Monday. On Wednesday I was subbing and had written a note to his teacher that he would be riding home with me that day. I told my daughter that morning that her brother was coming home with me so she would not be worried when he wasn't on the bus - as per Monday's experience. [My husband corroborated that I had said that to her.] So when the bus stopped and no daughter entered the house I thought my kids were just joking around by hiding. Pretty soon the next-door-neighbor showed up and I asked him where Sarah was. He said Sarah wasn't on the bus. I asked, "Are you kidding around?' He said no with a perfectly straight face. It was at that moment I went into rescue mode. I had no idea where Sarah might be. I called my friend whose son is in the same grade with Sarah to see if he knew anything of Sarah's whereabouts. I was stunned to learn that her husband was at that moment preparing to go pick Sarah up over at the Middle School. My friend is on my list of emergency contacts. First, relief. Second, astonishment that this could happen TWICE in one week. When I got there a friend was exiting the building and he whispered to me that 'your daughter is really upset.' I replied, 'Not as upset as her mother!' Sarah was in tears and I asked if I had written a note that she was not to be a bus rider? She shook her head no. I hugged her and we left. Not long after I got home an email appeared from her teacher APOLOGIZING for changing Sarah's normal dismissal procedure. Any anger evaporated as she explained that Sarah was "adamant" that she was to be picked up by her mom. I have no doubt that Sarah did this. Her teacher felt Sarah was responsible and that I possibly had had a busy morning and had forgotten to write a note. This happenstance was easily forgiven and forgotten because a teacher was responsible and honorable enough to admit an error in judgement.

In September I'd had the first panic attack when I returned home from dropping my daughter at school early so she could get to a Scrabble (I think) tournament and the bus was leaving at 7:45. I dropped her off and came home in time for my son to catch his bus. I sat down to have some breakfast and was reading the newspaper when I noticed my message light was flashing on my phone. It always happens - no calls until I step out of the house. So I was flabbergasted when the message was from the teacher in charge of the field trip asking if Sarah was coming on the trip!!! That was it. No call back number, nothing. Trying to stay focused while all the possible reasons why my daughter didn't make it on that bus crowded my brain I emailed her teacher to see if she had for some reason been left behind and was now in the classroom. No response. The reasons Sarah didn't make the bus were starting to turn sinister and I found a phone number for the middle school and tried to contact the principal. No luck, just a voice mail. I knew the school counselor personally and tried her extension, but again, just a voice mail. My heart starting to pound I tried the principal again. Same result as before. Trying to stay calm I decided to try the attendance office. No answer. I tried the principal again and this time I believe the secretary picked up. I explained to her the situation. She beeped Sarah's homeroom and asked if she was there. The kids said she was not. There was a substitute teacher in that day. The secretary thought that was the end of it but I explained just because she wasn't in her homeroom didn't mean she WAS on the bus for the tournament! I asked if there was anyway she could get the cell phone number of the teacher on the field trip. While she would not give me that number she called the teacher and Sarah was, indeed, on the bus. Complete expulsion of air from my lungs, I got up and took two Aleves for a headache that was creeping up the back of my head. By that afternoon I had an email from the teacher APOLOGIZING for the mix-up. Then she called me and we talked about it and there were absolutely no hard feelings.

That said, I feel like my son's teacher is punishing me for being in the right! I tried to joke with her when I saw her today and she could not even look me in the eye. It was black and gold jeans day and she wasn't sporting either color. (It was  Pittsburgh Steelers' colors. So no big deal.) Through what appeared to be gritted teeth she said she was a 49ers fan. So I'm rather suspicious of the previous note declining my volunteer assistance as retribution. Which is funny because I only volunteer to help the teacher. Although it is delightfully fun to see my son and all his classmates during these rare, fun opportunities. I'm always a little jealous when I read/see on Facebook, the things my friends who are "homeroom moms," do for parties at a neighboring school district. Maybe my son's teacher is planning on showing a Peanuts Thanksgiving and she may [or may not] know how watching TV shows at school irritates me. ESPECIALLY when students are penalized for leaving early or arriving to school late after a doctor's appointment. Students are expected to participate in the entire school day or they miss out on "educational experiences." Well, for all the time teachers cheat and stick a movie in so they can get work done it should not count as educational experiences and every child should get a "get out of school free card" for the amount of time a movie is shown. When I say students are penalized I mean they can't possibly earn perfect attendance it the leave even 30 minutes early. Personally, I encourage my kids to stay home when remotely ill, but they insist on going. Maybe it's just unintentional reverse psychology.

It's late and I may be rambling again. Thank goodness it's the weekend...

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