Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Backpack Ate My Homework

That's my son's planner for this school year. I've loved the large size of the Aspire student planner, and also the format -- each day is a column, with subjects running down the side. It's been a great way to communicate with his paraprofessionals, keep track of his homework, sign off on assignments, and report on where in his backpack the completed homework may be found. But ... oh, that backpack, that two-ton thing full of folders and notebooks and books and what-all. You can see from the shape of this poor planner what riding around in that backpack does to his school supplies (and also, his paper-picking habits). Paperback novels for English class are faring even worse. Folders disintegrate. I've had to replace spiral-bound notebooks that come unwound. A couple of calculators have just been demolished. Does your child's backpack eat his school stuff this way, or does my boy just pull and push and drop and cram in a way that shortens those paper products' lifespan? We need some sort of iron-plated, extra-tough, quadruple-reinforced school supplies -- though that would just make the whole thing heavier, wouldn't it?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Be True to Your School

Point of etiquette: When talking to another parent, is it okay to say bad things about the school that parent's children attend? Should you at least take that parent's "temperature" first, make sure they also want to badmouth the school, before you rip into it? If the parent clearly is happy about the way the school has served his or her children, should you not back the hell off and not talk at length about how violent and underfunded and miseducating it is? Would it not be bad manners to go on in that vein, particularly when the other parent starts to defend the institution? It seems pretty clearly so to me, yet on evidence of many conversations with one family member and a discussion just this weekend with a parent I barely know, not everybody feels that way.

You know, our school district is not perfect. I've certainly had complaints. There are things I wish were different about the huge high school my son attends and my daughter just graduated from. But you don't sit down next to me and say, "Well, I couldn't wait to get my child out of THAT school" or "We have to move so we can get our kids out of THAT school" and expect me to smile and nod. It doesn't matter if you don't mean MY kids when you talk about how undisciplined and unruly the students are, and you're not talking about ME when you say that all parents are uninvolved and lazy, and you don't mean OUR teachers when you say they're underfunded and unable to do their jobs. It's just rude. Isn't it? Am I oversensitive? Is there any way to hear that kind of conversation and not feel judged for letting my child stay THERE? Or furious when the speaker implies that, oh, well, for a kid like YOURS it's okay?

If you've been on the receiving or the delivering end of this sort of thing, share your thoughts in the comments.