Thursday, September 22, 2011

School through the eyes of a Zombie Parent

It's always fascinating to read a story through the eyes of another character, to see the world from the perspective of a different person. I think that's why I enjoy reading sci/fi fantasy fiction so much. You get almost an out-of-body experience that let's you sit back and say, "Huh. I never thought of it quite like that before".

I had one of these body-snatcher experiences today, opening my eldest son's backpack. Ethan has graduated from pre-pre-school, to plain old pre-school this year, where he'll probably stay for the next two years. Some parents hold their kids back from kindergarten because of sports or academics; Ethan is just not going to be ready for the social scene, or mature enough to deal with the rigors of today's competitive kindergarten classroom for a while. 

You might think I say that sarcastically, but I don't! I have subbed in kindergarten classrooms, and the kids are already flex-grouped by skills, reading level, and neediness pretty soon after walking through the door. Add in full-day madness, and you've got a huge stress ball for a high-anxiety kid. Not a good match. 

Alas, I digress. So as I'm digging through Ethan's backpack, I come across yet another "letter to the parents" and start groaning. In big bold print across the top, is the sentence, "Please discuss with your child", complete with a parent/kid worksheet stapled to the back. And here you thought that preschoolers and kindergarteners didn't have homework!  That's right, they don't! The PARENTS DO.

Parent Assignment #1- before Ethan even started pre-school, we parents had our own homework, to sign up for a separate parent/child class to get our "rounding out" of the ECFE experience... OR we have to complete what is literally called a "parent homework" self-directed learning packet, or Ethan gets kicked out of the class.

Parent Assignments #2 and 3- attend a pre-school conference (during my work day), and then a pre-school open house (also during my work day), and OH YEAH you can't bring your other kids. So add in Homework #3B - find a sitter.

Parent Assignment #4- Check the snack schedule and pack adequate food for the entire brat pack, and don't forget, no nut products, and there's a milk and egg allergy too. Graham crackers it is!

Parent Assignment #5- Read the weekly/daily agenda, try to talk to Ethan about the topics covered, fill out the little post-class reflection for families and tuck it back in his backpack. Getting a 4-yr old to talk about his day is literally like pulling teeth. "What did you have for snack today, son?" (he looks at his dinner plate, picks and item, and states that that is what he ate). "Who did you sit by at snack today?" (he mumbles some name I didn't understand, but I think was a kid from last year's class). "What did you do at school today?" (cars and trucks!) Helpful.

Parent Assignment #6 - Find yet another wall space or door frame to hang the ever-growing collection of childhood art. Honestly, does anyone ever look back on their pre-school art and say, "wasn't that just the neatest thing ever?"  Maybe a couple turkey hand-prints, or poems to mom that the teacher obviously helped them to finish. This worked great last year when I had crappy wall-paper space to stick all the tape and glue-covered creations. But now that the kitchen is painted, where does the junk art go!?

So my epiphany, after having assigned my own "parent homework" at my middle school, was to NOT be too hard on the parents who didn't complete it. I have one kid, in one class, in preschool, and I'm already super tired of looking through all the scraps and treasures and instructions every night. Can you imagine how bad it must be to have 2-3 kids, with 6 classes each, and nearly every teacher asking the parent to sign something? or read something? or fill out 10 paragraphs about what is neat or challenging about their kid? AHHHH! 

I have passed through to the other side of the mirror and am looking back at my zombie self, saying, take it easy on your students' parents. They have a lot on their plates; like teen know-it-all attitudes, masters classes, full-time jobs, soccer practice, band concerts, friend drama, and maybe some time with their spouse. (probably not any for themselves). It's time to cut them a break and let them have a life. God knows I WANT ONE!!!

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