Wednesday, April 27, 2011

why so mad?

I remember everything...really...everything. Well now I may forget to turn in a permission slip for the kids or to turn the sprinklers off, but events. I remember everything. What the people were wearing, what they were saying, where we were, the general mood of the event. Permanently engrained into my mind. This is a curse and a blessing. A blessing for me, but usually a curse for my husband...mwahahaha!

A friend of mine kind of scolded me recently about how I'm so negative about public school and as she was sure I didn't mean to be so attacking, I was hurting her feelings for her choice was public school.

This situation sent me on a course of thought about why exactly am I so ticked off at public school. Then that dang memory came in handy. Painfully!!

I remember every grade, every teacher, every friend that I had. In first grade I had Mrs. Stangle as my teacher. She was an older lady with white popcorn hair and a pointed face. She was tall and lanky. During one of our days at school, I must have had a bunch of energy and was talking to my friend Ivette, when I noticed Mrs. Stangle's long fingers on my shoulder pinching me. She told me I was being rude and I needed to stand up and apologize to my classmates. That I did, and it was painful. I felt my mouth collapsing as I said the words and tears began to stroll down my face. I was humiliated. my teacher looked at me and said, "we don't come to school to socialize young lady." more on that comment later.

 Now most children probably would not have had an issue with this embarrassment, but I did. I have always and still do have a great respect for authorities. To know that I've disappointed them is very upsetting to me. That situation wiped out my self confidence and I started to become a little more guarded at school. No big deal, but how many decades later and when I remember it I feel the same strong emotions I did then.

Around that time I was identified to be advanced. I was moved to a magnet school where I could be surrounded with peers of similar ability. I did well and most of my educational experiences were positive. Social experiences stay strong in my memory though and I'm not sure positive would be the word I'd use. I was not teased, and I had plenty of friends, but that arena breed garbage. The conversations we'd have in third grade would appal most I'm sure. Yet I got great grades and preformed very well. My parents were so proud of my good grades. I remember that.

In fourth grade my parents separated and divorced. I went to live with my dad and we moved to the suburbs of Chicago. I very quickly fell behind in school. I didn't have any help with my homework (my dad worked nights and was sleeping when I got home from school), and I transferred in the middle of the year so there were things the other kids learned that I totally missed. So here I was, a GT kid with impeccable grades left to myself in a new district and NOBODY noticed that I was struggling. NOBODY! The school let me slip further and further behind. I didn't know what was going on and I just tried to peddle through it and get by. The school didn't offer extra help or intervene in anyway. My teacher had twenty other students to deal with so I just hid and coasted by. I started to consistently be a B and C student for the remainder of my education. So much potential....

I had teachers along the way notice my abilities. Specifically my art teachers and English teachers. These are the classes I came alive in. I struggled in math so badly but no teacher ever tried to help or see what was going on. I know now what was going on, but I was a kid then. Kids don't have voices in education. Trust me! If they speak up they are marked as a troublemaker. I was always labeled precocious and frigid by my teachers. I read that word precocious on just about every report card from the time I could read. Surly there had to be a better way. My parents were so consumed with just "making it" that they left my education to school. No questions asked.

When I was in high school the social garbage was the stage for education. Education came second to the social aspect. I coasted by as a C student in all subject except Art and English. I was put in remedial math. No teacher ever offered extra tutoring, extra work, extra help. Nothing. I got scolded for not knowing answers, but a base was never laid for me in those concepts so I struggled when more was added. It was horrible. The way I felt about myself, how hard I struggled, how nobody every reached out and how I was punished by my teachers for my failures as a student, was painful.

Then there was my World Religions class. My Junior year I took World Religions and my male teacher held me after class and made a very inappropriate sexual comment and gesture to me. I escaped his grip and went directly to the front office. I sat with three people from the school while I explained what was done to me, the principal, the dean and the counselor. Their answer was simple, to allow me to drop the class. Drop the class! This Pervy Pervertson was roaming the halls with underage women making extremely inappropriate comments and gestures, and the answer was simply drop the class. If that were my child, and that happened today, we'd be rich...that's all I'm saying!

The school failed me. Over and over again! PUBLIC SCHOOL FAILED ME! Now you can say that my parents should have been more involved, and yes they should have, but the public school system failed them both as well. That's a story for another time. Oh yeah, and it failed Chris too...yet another story for another time. So I'm bitter damn it. I'm totally bitter. I did not begin to connect my issues with my kids experiences and my experience until my well meaning friend asked me to pipe down about the negativity I feel towards public school. I'm glad she did. I became my children's advocate at the school to no avail. You cannot change the system. No matter how many PTA hours you put in. You cannot change benchmarks, curriculum, or even have much of a say about what teacher your child has.

I've been doing a ton of research on Gifted and Talented individuals. Since I have children who've tested GT and both Chris and I did. It is helping me be a better teacher to my GT kids to know how they operate. In the process, I'm learning a lot about myself. My eyes are opening to who I am and why I work the way I do. It's delicious really. For the first time in my life I'm seeing that my sensitivity and intensity are not a bad thing. I'm seeing that its a higher thinking individual who asks why and how come about everything. I'm seeing that the intellectual challenge the norm and if nobody ever did that our would would be without so many wonderful inventions and knowledge. I'm seeing the traits that the world has implied are bad, are really a positive thing.

This brings me to home school. A friend of mine gave me an analogy that I it is:

Imagine you live in a world where all you eat is cabbage. Everyone loves cabbage. Cabbage is the stuff! We've always eaten cabbage. One day someone comes along and says, "Hey, try this. It's called chocolate. It tastes so much better than cabbage." the others say, "Oh no, we've only ever eaten cabbage. Cabbage is all we know. I don't know how to prepare chocolate. Everyone eats cabbage, our parents do, our grandparents did, my friends do. This is the way its always been done. Chocolate may be delicious to YOU, but it's not for me. NO I won't even try chocolate!" That's how most everyone I talk to feels about home school.

In the analogy, Public school is the cabbage and home school is the chocolate. The common consensus is that chocolate is not good because cabbage is what we've always done and it works for us. That brings me to my favorite word...mediocrity. Sure, public school works, just like cabbage works. Kids learn, they grow, they are enriched to some degree, but oh how much better it could be. How much greater could they grow, how much more could they learn, how much more enriched they could be??

I'm sure most parents are pleased with their child getting good grades in public school. My children have opened my eyes that there could be more. Their constant begging for more reading, more math, more word study, more school. Every year my kids were in school THEY would beg me to ask their teachers for more homework. They want it, and as a parent I've always tried to set the stage for their learning. I realize that my school age children may be GT, but I really think it applies to all children. A child loves knowledge and information. Their ability to learn is immense, they just need opportunity. They need someone to take the time and see how far they can go.  Public school will not give them that. I am a product of that fact. In third grade my 8 year old was being taught multiplication. At home he is learning Algebra. I would never have known he could do algebra if I had never had the thought of seeing how far he can go in math. If I left his education up to the school system he would be doing algebra as a freshman in high school. That's seven years that he would have wasted in school, bored to tears. He's learning Algebra now, I can't wait to see what concepts he grasps when he is 15. So much wasted time.

So give it a test, I dare you! I double dog dare you! Forget yourself this summer. Pick something, anything and work on it with your kids. If your kid a unit study on swimming. Famous swimmers, history of swimming as a sport, the Olympics. Do math word problems based on swimming, research and write biographies on famous swimmers. Write lists of spelling words pulled out of swimming texts, platform, meters, freestyle...etc. Paint pictures of water scapes where people swim. You get my point.

I remember one summer my kids were obsessed with eating mangos...many a mango met it's fate that summer on my kitchen cutting board. So we studied the mango...yup. We did all of the above about mangos. THEY LOVED IT. It was silly, it was fun, it brought us together as we did it all together. It opened my eyes to their thirst for knowledge and their excitement for learning....the mango! LOL!

Take a bite...a nibble even. Try the chocolate. It won't hurt you. It's delicious, and I'm sure your kids will agree!


Kari said...

Oh my goodness and you inspired me before i ever got to your blogs. You never cease to amaze me, and I'm so glad to have met you

narnianne said...

I've missed your rants! It's a good thing. :) You always bring up a point that I have never thought of, something else to chew on if you will. Always a good thing. Love you girl!

narnianne said...

Narnianne is Holli Clark...just so you know!

nuttbutts said...

i love this post....its so true. half a year of elliott in public school has shown me that educationally he is not getting anything more than he did at home in half the time. he does love the friends and the social. not that he was deprived of that but he didnt visit friends on a daily basis. your awsome...just saying :)

Melissa said...

Duh Holli! I knew it was you! I miss youuuu! Sara....exactly! Exactly exactly exactly! That's why we have Zander in activities. He see's peers of his choice and my liking daily. And I think all of you are pretty amazing ladies too...just sayin!

Tom said...

So you should watch the movie (documentary) about public schooling systems. It takes what you said about your experience in school and shows how it is an epidemic throughout the US. It is called "Waiting for Superman." I love reading your blog and have very similar views ;)