August 23, 2008

Homeschool Meets Public School: Day 6

This whole public school experiment has been going well until Friday. Melissa came home and told me this story:

In the middle of one of her classes, an adult came over the loud speaker listing names of students who were to come immediately to the auditorium. From the tone of the voice, the kids were all hoping their name wouldn't be called. But Melissa was one of eight freshmen. So she gathered her things and went to the auditorium. There she was told she "didn't understand high school," "this wasn't junior high anymore" and if she "didn't shape up" there would be consequences. She was told that one of her teachers had turned in her name as someone who wasn't getting her work done or not doing things right.

After obsessing over homework instructions and practically acing every pretest, the only thing she received was a check mark for not having her planner one day. That's a little spiral calendar they give each kid at the beginning of the year. This particular teacher went around and checked for planners one day, and it was the day hers fell out in the car as she was leaving for class. But she had her homework done and her text book and everything else the teacher had told them to have. No one had ever said planners were mandatory and worthy of public humiliation and a condescending lecture from someone she's never met.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics there were 49.1 million public school students in the 2005-06 school year and I assume those statistics haven't changed much. That is A LOT of children stuck in a system with adults who do not know them. How could they? There are at least 30 students to every adult, and in high school, 30 different kids get rotated in and out of the teacher's classroom every hour, five days a week.

Even if they wanted to, the teachers can't know each child's hopes and dreams, their fears or their passions. They can't keep track of what motivates each child and what crushes them. They don't know how many hours that child worked on their homework or what disturbing thing happened to them earlier in the day. And if they could accomplish this superhuman feat, how could they accommodate all those individual needs on the hectic schedule and requirements they are forced to maintain?

Back to Melissa's story: All this adult knew was that some teacher somewhere had given these children a "demerit" for something and it was his job to put some fear into them as an early intervention, an attempt to guarantee success in high school.

But what it really did was make her fear and resent the adults for unreasonable requirements and over-reaction. One day she is happy and excited about school; the next day she wonders why bother? Isn't that the complaint most people have about kids these days...their slacker attitudes? I wonder where that all begins.

What if we could have an education system with a small number of students for each teacher who spends 24 hours a day with those children, bonding in such a way that the teacher knows, respects, and even loves each one, becoming an expert at his or her interests, needs and motivation.

Oh wait, that's homeschooling.


Anonymous said...

Oooh man! That makes me mad! How could they... especially to such a sweet child as I'm sure Melissa is?!

Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts on this matter.

Michelle Glauser said...

That is pretty lame. I hope Melissa has better experiences in the future. For the record, my public school experience was awesome. It seems like most home-schooled kids go to universities, and I feel like that's where I didn't have contact or motivation anymore. Luckily I made it through and I'm continuing on for my master's, but my grades from my bachelor's career reflect badly (not that they're horrible, but a B+ average is considered mediocre).

Genevieve said...

Was the teacher who listed Melissa made known for sure? I certainly hope so. I hope the school isn't modeling a cowardly, tattle-tale, you-may-not -defend-yourself, approach to "communication."

Luckily, Melissa has had a strong emotional and educational base.

Jena said...

Genevieve, yes, they told her who the teacher was who gave them her name.

Melissa is doing well now. She has a mature attitude.

Everyone, thanks for your comments on this.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Oh, how discouraging to your daughter!!

But it makes me all the more excited about the tiny charter school it ends up our sophomore daughter will be attending. (This is breaking news--as of just last week--and a total God-thing!)

Weighing the options...2600 kids in her high school...or 220? She's not happy, but we sure are!


Traci said...

Poor Melissa. I have a friend who's (or is it whose? I can't remember) daughter just started high school (she's been homeschooled all the way until now). I asked her if she loved it. Love is a very strong word, she replied. About noon she is ready to go home. That's enough for her she said.
Hope things improve for Melissa!

Laurie said...

Good for Melissa for handling it with grace and decorum. She'll be a great role-model despite their poor teaching skills. ;)

Knittingmama said...

Oh, for goodness sake! That is why kids don't like school; there is so much extra "stuff" to get through. I'm glad Melissa has such a cool head and a good attitude. I probably would have turned around and walked out.

I need some coffee said...

What a wonderful opportunity to teach Melissa that there are people like that all around us and we are to be a shining light of Christ's Love.

I had to talk to one of my son's teachers last year. The class as a whole were disrespectful to a sub. My son and one other boy were in trouble for the whole thing. The Sub was new and the class has several strong leader type personalities in it. I didn't talk to her about the lack of control of the class. I asked her if she really said "I don't believe you(boys), I believe the Sub more."
I asked her how long she has known the Sub. She said she has never met Him. I asked her if in the 2 years you have known these boys have they ever lied to you. She publicly apologized to the boys. I believe the schools forget they are standing before men and women not children. The class at the end of the year all signed a card of thanks for her patience with them.Everyone learned something.

Jena said...

Here's a little update: I talked to the principal today and she said she got a list of kids who had a 66% or less in this certain class and decided she needed to jump in there and talk to them. She said she didn't know exactly why their grades were so low (this was day 6 of the whole year, for goodness sake!)but thought the issue needed to be addressed. I asked if she realized it was only forgetting her planner once, and she said she didn't know that.

Melissa has said more than once this week that she likes school and she actually got a 100% on the first test in that class--she thinks she was the only one. :)

Anonymous said...

Actually, that kind of focus on irrelevant details seems pretty common. I'm not sure if it is just because they have to focus on something and that is easier or what. A friend was saying that her son was disappointed with his marks when he started grade 9 last year. She encouraged him to talk to the teachers to get guidance on how to improve. For PE he was told that he needed to keep a neat notebook. I was dumbfounded when she told me. What the heck does the ability to keep your notebook neatly have to do with your abilities in physical education?! I guess that's why the overreaction to the planner thing doesn't surprise me.

I think you might be on to something with the link between this kind of thing and kids' slacker attitudes though. Heck that stuff gives ME a slacker attitude.

Lilly said...

Wowza...just read this post.
Having just spent the last two years teaching in public education, I agree with your summary 100%:
public education = good intentions in an impossible situation

So thankful I'm not in that overwhelming environment anymore!

Thanks for sharing!

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