Last night marked my very first PTA "Back to School Night" adventure. When I noted the occasion in my Facebook status, the overwhelming response from my thirtysomething friends was "oh my god, when did we get old enough to have kids in elementary school?" That was exactly my thought as I looked around the auditorium and wondered, who are all these grownups? Wait, do I look like a grownup? Aack! Mind you, Dan and I skew a tad young for local parenting communities, since we started our parenting journey at the terribly young (that's sarcasm) ages of 27 and 30. So considering that many of the folks last night started older than I did and are on kiddos #2, 3, or beyond, in higher grades than mine...yeah, they've got me by 10-15 years in some cases. I can kid myself that I'm still young... ha...
But anyway, so, PTA meeting. Lynz asked me if it was everything I'd hoped for and more (more sarcasm). You know, it was shortish and mainly consisted of introducing us to the Cub Scout pack master (who is the PTA president-elect) and approving the audit of the bank accounts and this year's budget. More on scouting in a later post.
The audit/budget approval process consisted of flashing some tables on a screen, reading the numbers, and telling us that see, all the numbers add up. Will somebody move to approve? (So moved.) Will somebody second? (Second!) All those in favor say aye! (AYE) All those opposed, say no. (silence) After this, we were informed that the numbers are all available on the school's website.
Ok, so, not to be a complainer...but were those numbers made public BEFORE the meeting? It seems just a tad silly to me to say "hey, look at this quick slide and approve it...if you want to know more, read this document later." Shouldn't those of us voting (I abstained, since I haven't officially joined the PTA yet and shouldn't have a vote, not that it mattered last night) be informed first and consent later?
Another do-first, inform-later touch: I've been waiting for weeks for information about the general rhythm of the day from Griff's teacher. Just as I was about to email her asking specifically for schedules and curricular goals and such, I heard about the BTS night and decided to wait it out. Sure enough, on our children's desks were a copy of the daily schedule and information about show and tell and such. What I can't understand is why teachers wait to provide this information? Surely the teacher, who is a veteran (and a very nice lady, don't get me wrong, and Griff is loving school) had an idea of the flow of the day before the school year started. Why not provide this information to kindergarten parents at the orientation (which was anything but) before school started? Or in backpacks during the first week of school? For people who talk so much about the parent-teacher-child connection being important, they sure don't seem to equip parents to help their kids make this transition, or give us enough context to understand what our 5 year olds are talking about at the end of the day. Argh.
On a similar note, a week ago we were provided with a field trip form that asked K-5 parents to read about the activities on the opposite side of the form and carefully consider whether our children have the developmental maturity to participate in those activities, and whether we are willing to accept the risks and hazards associated with that activity. By signing the letter and returning it to the school, we are consenting to their participation.
A standard field trip form, right? Except that the opposite side reads something like this:
Local Field Trips (less than 10 miles away)
Purpose of Activity:
To support instruction, provide cultural arts activities, support student community service projects and provide incentives for student achievement/behavior.
Supervision (Persons in Charge):
Teacher and Teacher Assistants
Form of Transportation:
Particular Risks or Hazards Involved in Activity:
Um...ok...so this is either a sample form, or I'm being asked to give blanket permission for unspecified trips with unspecified transportation to unspecified places on unspecified dates, with unspecified chaperones, unspecified developmental requirements, and unspecified risks. Uh-huh. WHAT?
Dan and I chose to not sign it and await further instruction, giving them the benefit of the doubt that this is a sample form. But then this week's PTA folder (folders go home on Mondays in backpacks) reminded everybody to return their field trip forms and told us that a list of field trips would be coming out soon. Well, you know, I'll give my permission once I know what it is I'm permitting. And if anybody asks about it, that's exactly what I'll tell them. Since it's not an issue yet, we're quietly waiting for the list.
Seriously, do parents consent without being informed first? Why would schools even ask them to do that? I know it's more convenient for the teachers, but honestly, why are we ever asking people to do this? Isn't this the exact opposite of what we teach kids to do? Get information, then sign. Don't sign something just to go along with the crowd or to make things easier for somebody else.
Ok, now the good stuff. I'll gloss over the part where on Fridays, Spanish class replaces recess (!?!) and focus on the part where Ms. Callis truly does seem frustrated that the focus on SOLs has made rest time, free play, and outdoor play rare. As mentioned before, Griff LOVES school with all of its worksheets and routines. Last week the student teacher in his classroom (Ms. Sexton) excitedly showed me his artwork in the hall. He had already shown me a pattern he had made (the child loves patterns) and told me it was an ABAB pattern and what he would need to do to make it an ABC pattern or ABCD pattern...she seemed floored that he remembered the pattern names. Last night she happily showed me the ice cream cone he created as part of a class project to make a graph of sorts showing the favorite flavors of the kids. There were columns for chocolate, vanilla, mint chip, and "other" - and there was Griff's "other" - black raspberry ice cream and orange sherbet on a chocolate-dipped cone, with sprinkles. On Monday during carpool pickup, a classroom aide, Ms. Faulks, stopped me to gush about how much she enjoys him. I cannot ever hear that enough! Just like I always loved hearing Sabot teachers talk about how sunny he seems, I'm so happy for him that his teachers in his new school seem to think that he is a bright, friendly, responsible, and happy kid.
...and now I'm out of time and need to pick Reese up from Sabot. Will update on that later.