And boy do I feel like a veteran…of school advocacy that is. After the morning’s adrenaline rush (see previous post) I got to head right back into the fray, namely parent-teacher conferences. To the credit of M.’s school, they do a mass conference for all. (Teacher conferences seem to be rare in middle school. C.’s school only scheduled them on an as-needed basis.)
You enter the lobby of the gym and stop at a table to get your child’s report card. Then it’s on to the gym proper which is filled with tables arrayed in alphabetical order by teacher last name. Parents queue next to the teacher of their choice. It’s meant to be a bit like speed dating but inevitably it’s not so speedy (guilty hand raised).
We got M.’s report card and headed straight to the line for the English teacher. I wanted to hear directly from her what was going on. While waiting, Dear Husband surveyed the scene, turned to me and said, “Have I told you that I hate school? I just smiled wryly. I had noticed and could only agree.
The first words out of the English Teacher’s mouth were, “This is the wildest GT class ever.” She said she was working hard to make changes because a lot of time has been wasted on classroom management. Great. I asked if she was getting support to deal with the situation, and she said she was working with both counselors and the English team. You could just tell it was wearing on her. Husband Dear later said, all she needed was a tumbler of whiskey and a cigarette dangling from her mouth to complete the picture. She confessed she was trying to get the problem kids removed, “but moving kids out of GT is difficult…. ” Well, she didn’t have to spell it out for me. I can just imagine that several kids who don’t really belong there have been pushed up (because we’re all about STAR goals and rigor in MCPS!) only to make things miserable for the kids who really might want to learn.
What kind of stunned us, though, was her characterization of M. in class. She’s barely said a word and only recently has started “opening up” a bit. The teacher described her as shy, quiet, needing to become more social, because the social aspect is really a central part of middle school. Again, we were stunned. M. not social? Not talking? This kid is soooo social. She asked if M. is involved in any afterschool acitvities, any clubs (no). She thought that getting more socially involved was the key to turning things around. We pressed on the challenge issue and she pushed right back, implying we were being vague. Asked what she could do for M. specifically, she said she has a curriculum yay high that she needs to get through. She can’t just assign her a different book. What she didn’t see–and maybe we didn’t make clear–was that the behavior issues and the derailment of the level of the class by a few might be causing M. to withdraw. A coping mechanism/form of protest.
I asked about the conversation with the literacy coach and the principal. The teacher revealed she was *not* on board with a grade subject skip. “The 7th graders wouldn’t talk to her,” she declared, and M. “couldn’t keep up with the writing.” As for the co-taught 7th grade class, she said something along the lines of, “and you think this class is crazy.”
I really didn’t know where else to go with this conversation. We moved on to the math line. Dear Husband told me that while he was waiting both the parent in front and behind him brought up seeing if they could get their kid into the magnet. Greeeeat. So if there are all these secretly very gifted kids at this school why don’t they just group them and really teach them at the appropriate level. Instead they’re in a lockstep curriculum having to deal with kids aren’t serious about learning. This time it was my turn to say “I hate school.”
I was bracing for the math teacher, who M. indicated was her least favorite. But she actually turned out to be quite pleasant, unless she was laying it on thick for us parents. Here the story was completely opposite: and M. had been socializing with one girl to the detriment of her grades. She also hasn’t been turning in her homework. I turned the talking over to Dear Husband and he shared how M. doesn’t want to ask for help and homework can be a battle. He and the teacher promised to be in better communication and Ms. Math Teacher said she was going to arrange to have lunch with M. I’m sure that will go over just swell.
I had a conference call to get ready for, so we left without seeing any other teachers.
So there you have it. I’m in a quandry. Not sure what is next. But I have to say I’m not feeling the love right now.