Tag Archives: teacher

Standardized Testing, EOC & My Child.

While the “Opt-Out” movement is growing and education reform is slowly taking place, it’s my turn to stand up (see here for why). The FSA’s are almost done. Now it’s time for the EOC (End Of Course) exams. This is the first year that they have been required and implemented for kids as young as 5. Little kindergartners having to sit through over 1.5hrs of testing on Math, then over another 1.5 hrs of testing on English.

I’m fully behind opting out of the FSA. Now the discussion starts on opting out of EOC and I must admit to getting nervous. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my kids’ spot in her school. We love her school. She loves her school. But this testing nonsense is ridiculous. Teachers are not allowed to have any visual aids available to the children, so many teachers have to cover the entire walls of their classrooms to prohibit any “cheating.” I believe that each subject has around 150-180 questions (again, for a FIVE YEAR OLD!!). Earlier this year, the kids were supposed to have EOC’s for 7 subjects but it was dropped down by the state to just two. Thank goodness. But even just the two is pressure.

“What’s wrong with a test?” you ask?

testing
Tiny sample of her weekly testing.

Don’t believe for a second that the kids aren’t getting tested every week throughout the year. My daughter has spelling tests every week, she has homework, she has online assignments that are automatically graded. So we can see exactly how she is performing throughout the whole year. In fact, the EOC has absolutely nothing to do with the child’s grade. It is administered solely to determine an evaluation of the teacher. I, for one, am not using my child as a guinea pig. In my eyes, the teacher’s value is already available in how my child does throughout the year. Not based on this one loooooong test per subject, in such a formal setting that children are often severely stressed out.

Just this week, John Oliver produced a segment on standardized testing which does a pretty good job of showing the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s worth looking at the whole thing.

However, the theory of all this rebellion is great. Now had come my time to stand up and I will admit to being nervous. I began emailing her wonderful teacher just yesterday. I didn’t want come off as all guns blazing, ready for battle. I simply asked her what does the EOC mean for my child’s grade and the response was that it doesn’t affect her grade whatsoever. I expressed my concern for the pressure and stress this puts on the little students, and her teacher, her wonderful, kick-ass teacher offered that my child not do the test, even though she believes my child would score very well on it. I confirmed that I would like my child to not take the test and she let me know that my daughter will be brought to an alternate location for the duration of the tests. Her school is not testing the kids in their normal classrooms. To save the teachers having to cover every bit of their walls, the kids are completing the tests in the cafeteria. I’m grateful that the administration is considerate enough to not put their teachers through the added crap of having to cover their walls. Man, I love our school.

I spoke to my daughter this morning. I told here there were some big tests coming up next week and without saying another word, she got teary-eyed. I immediately told her she wasn’t taking those tests, that her teacher and I had already talked to one another and her teacher cares for her, doesn’t want her to be put under any stress. Visibly, my child’s stature changed back to a relaxed little kid and she expressed how much she loves her teacher. Ditto from me, honey!

Thank you so much, Ms. Y. We love you.

In Four Short Days….

unnamedI had another stretch of time without my kids (see here for why). The calmness and freedom that ensues that alone time is great. This time it was almost two full weeks which is a very long time for a kid. However, due to the circumstances of my departure, I wasn’t thinking too much about them. I was enveloped in the moment at hand. They did great when I was away after Christmas, but signs of trouble were showing. Two days before leaving to return back to the United States, I got an email from the 6-yr old hurricane’s teacher that my girl hit a teacher twice in school. Whhhhhaaaaaattttt? I about died on the spot and was really confused. This was way out of character for her.  Aside from the immediate scare that she would get kicked out of the one darn school I was happy with, I was stunned to hear my girl had lashed out. And then, reality hit me and I knew I needed to be home ASAP. It actually made leaving the motherland a little easier. The oldest of my two was resorting to violence to work out her feelings and lashing out at those around her. She’s never done that before, but we’ve also never been in this situation before where I’ve had to disappear for a long time (to a child) with 10hrs notice.

Two days later, I walked through my airport and was literally tackled to the ground by the force of the hugs and love showered on me. I stayed on that floor for a few minutes, just hugging and kissing my two little terrors that encompass my heart, silently acknowledging to myself how lucky I am. But so began damage control.

I had a talk with her teacher the next morning and I am truly grateful that they were completely understanding of what happened, how hard my absence had been on her. When I first left to rush back to Ireland, I emailed her teacher to let her know what was going on. She was appreciative for the heads up and she told me that the tornado had been out of character all of the past week. Very little was made of her incident. It was recorded and she was given two conducts points, but nothing else was to happen. Phew. OK.

Not unexpectedly, the 3-year old mental patient is a mess. He’s been sick with a cough and snotty nose for a couple weeks now. We can’t seem to get rid of it, despite all attempts. Mind you, I’ve had the same thing for a month so I guess we have to let it run its course. But add to that my absence and I’ve had a little boy who has been a bit of a nightmare since my return. Basically, he’s now releasing all that pent up anguish and confusion that surrounded him for two weeks. We didn’t have this when I got back from South Africa, but that was for 10 days, hubby only had to work for three of those and Grandad was here most of that time, keeping them company. So a very different kettle of fish than the past two weeks. Either way, it’s all manageable and I’ll let that run its course too. Once he is confident that the old routine is back and isn’t stressed that I might disappear again, he’ll be back to his old cuddly self.

I’ve laughed over the things that can come out of their mouths though. For example, while in carpool lane on Monday afternoon to pick up the 6-year old, my son exclaims “Mom, my penis needs to come out.” Uh… what? He was strapped into a 5-point harness child seat. There is no way that he can maneuver what he wants to achieve.

By Tuesday, I was trying to normalize the routine by taking the boy to the park to meet his best friend. As I unstrapped him outside the park, my phone rang and I heard the dreaded words that it was the school secretary calling about Lilly. My heart sank and I wondered what she had done now. Instead, she told me that Lilly was at the front desk, they suspected she had ringworm, and I needed to collect her. Again, whhhhhaaaattt? Since it’s highly contagious, she wasn’t allowed back into the school until I could provide a doctor’s note confirming with treatment or denying the condition. In the end, the doctor’s office couldn’t work us in, but the nurse was kind enough to let me email her some pics of her arm, and then confirm it was ringworm, assign treatment and email me back a doctor’s note for the school. She definitely was going to miss the next day of school though. So much for the routine. I decided to turn it into a day of fun. We chilled around the house first. No rushing. Then to the park for a few hours, then onto their favorite – the numbers restaurant. Then off to Target to get some frames for the pictures of my aunt. A pretty simple and fun day for the kids and they needed it. The boy is still a little mess, ready to break down at the drop of a hat. That just means he needs lots of extra loving to make him feel good.

Today is Thursday. I’m still delirious from exhaustion and a little vertigo. Despite the eventful four days since I’ve been back, it has highlighted to me how much Mommy is needed. I’m their Mommy. Their well being, emotional and physical, is mostly on me since Daddy works god awful long hours. It’ll be good for me to get back into a routine too. The world turned upside down at the end of January for me and my stress level went through the roof.

So it’s time for us all to get back to normal and while our ‘normal’ can sometimes resemble the Addams Family, it’s still good to us.

Forget Ragged Mommy, Meet the Ragged Teacher.

Seriously, I am overwhelmed at the depth, length and breadth of information that has simply to be entered into systems for record keeping, let alone actually teach the class, prepare lesson plans, keep strictly up to date with state mandates, all the while, try to keep a jovial or at least civil face to the students.

My 6-year old in doing very well in her new school. She loves it, I love it. Still, I’m alarmed at the information thrown at them. For example, here are her courses for the year:

courses

Seriously, kindergarteners now have social study and science. I can’t even begin to describe the website portal that parents have access to. Every single thing they do, I can see on this portal, as well as how my child has performed. Guess what? The poor teacher has to input this information every day or every week. For eighteen students. I can click on each of these subjects, open up the attendance records, see the individual aspects studied weekly as well as the grade again. Holy crap. I kid you not, as a parent, it’s almost a full-time job to keep up with the information flowing forth. I can’t even fathom what the heck these teachers have to do to get it all in there. And that’s just the main portal.

Then we also use Study Island, which (oh joy!) covers the Common Core standards for reading and math. Here are both that she has to complete over the course of the year. We’ve now begun getting assignments here for homework.

Study Island1Study Island2

THIS IS JUST KINDERGARTEN, PEOPLE!!!!!! It blows me away. Again, having said all that, whatever way it’s being done must be OK for the kids because my child still jumps into the car as happy as can be. We get homework on a Monday and have to hand it in on Friday. I usually insist we blow it all out on Monday night while she’s still fresh from the weekend and that way she’s free for the rest of the week. When it comes to the online testing, I do have to fight myself to not lean her towards the correct answer. I must be doing well on that issue because she did fail a test so we redid it, with fewer distractions around, and she did just great.

Books she's covered this month.
Books she’s covered this month.

As a parent, we have to keep a reading log every night because there’s a very heavy emphasis on reading at her school. Reading can mean we read to her, she reads to us, or a combination of both. Basically, they want to ensure expose to books. They have an Accelerated Reading program and for every book a child is involved in, they complete a little test (3-5 questions) and get points for correct answers. It sounds pretty bad but with every point added, rain drops are added to a sunflower and they get to make the sunflower grow. My little girl has been gobbling up the books just to make that sunflower grow and covered more than enough this month to be involved in the monthly AR celebration.

Then, our overworked teacher also keeps up a classroom website on shutterfly to send out information or downloads. The poor woman has to be working at least 12 hours a day. In our parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago, she showed us the Dolch list of sight words that the kids are tested on at the beginning, middle and end of the year. From our old school, I know how to motivate my girl with sight words so I took the entire list and made sight sheets, Here’s the PDF list of Sight Words if you’d like to use them. Feel free. I offered them to our teacher and she was so grateful, she sent it out to all the parents. Every week, I add a new sheet to the fridge and at night, we’ll go through the words. My girl loves it when she nails a word she didn’t know before. So this method works very well for us, right now.

It’s every teacher that gets worked to the bones, day in and day out. No matter what the grade, no matter what the subject. The paperwork involved alone is mind-boggling. I can easily spend an hour every day going through the various portals and websites gathering information. And I’m not the one teaching.

So for the love of God, be nice to your child’s teacher. They don’t work 8am – 3pm, having this cushy life with long vacations and days off. They work their asses to the bone, every single day.

Aaaaaand it started. The kindergarten struggle.

KindergartenEven before Meet the Teacher, the signs were there. My spirited five-year old didn’t want to go. When we entered the classroom, my tornado did all she could to avoid the teacher. During that visit, I learned about the extra hour that has been tacked onto the school day. That alone had me terrified and consumed my entire weekend. I’m already dubious about the lack of organization in this school. Carpool on the first day was bedlam because newbies like myself were screwing it all up. No one told us what to do. Just like no one explicitly explained the extra hour on the school day. Or what activities the kids do. There has been zero communication from the school apart from a robo call telling us the date of Meet the Teacher. I feel like I’m flying blind so now I’m getting a glimpse of what things are like for my child, who has no idea what is going on.

The first day of Kindergarten arrived and I walked her to the auditorium, hopeful that she would enjoy it all. I picked her up eight hours later (yes, eight!!!!). I had dreams of delightful songs, fanciful art work, best friends for my girl. She got in the car, strapped herself into her car seat. I delightedly asked how her day was and she responded, “I didn’t get a star today. I wasn’t good enough.” Whhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt? Again she says, “I just wasn’t good enough.”  My heart breaks, my head starts spinning, I’m trying to focus on not crashing the car because of the seething rage burning inside me. This is what her first day of kindie has taught her? I’m crushed and devastated. We get home and I ask her for more details. Did Mrs.V tell you this? No. Did you make any friends? No. What happened? Nothing.

Again, I spend the evening crying (out of child’s view), cursing what I’ve done to my child. When I wake my love up for school this morning, she tried ever so hard to persuade me it was Saturday. We finally got out the door and I walked her to the auditorium again. I met Mrs.V and instead of turning into Momma Bear, I politely asked if she knew why my girl would say she wasn’t good enough. Mrs.V then explains that my hurricane wouldn’t participate in anything. When she was reading to her, asking what letter this was, my girl would respond with “No.” She apparently spent most of the day in the corner of the room, after my daughter recused herself from the activities. Her teacher said to give her some time to adjust.

I simply don’t know what to do. I know she’s a strong-willed child. A stubborn individual with her own agenda and own way of doing things. As a side note, I cannot possibly imagine who she got those traits from (insert dripping sarcasm). There’s a couple schools I’d love her to attend. One is a charter school that is very close by, but she is #90 on the wait list. The other does not have any open spots and will not accept a waiting list. I feel like we are trapped. Being new to this school stuff, I don’t know if it’s something that will iron itself out over a week or so, or not. I don’t know if it’s my daughter that is the problem, or the teacher, or both. It doesn’t help that the disorganization of the school has undermined my confidence. I keep remembering last year, when she attended another school. Unfortunately, they don’t offer elementary education. She ran into that classroom every day. By day two, she had made a card for her teacher to tell her how much she loved her. Now she is defeated. In Kindergarten. After one day.