Mom Message: To the Schools (revisited)

I repost this now, a little less than a year after it originally posted, because there’s some irony here. Now that our school district is online only, parents are now more involved than ever before. Schools, teachers, administrators are now communicating with parents like crazy. It’s amazing how things can change in a year.

Originally posted September 30, 2019

I never intended to write anything like this here now that I’ve changed my blog up to supporting stories, but sometimes I need this to be my platform.

My oldest child started Kindergarten at the end of last month. It’s been a big month of changes, from having to get up earlier to having to go to school earlier to having to eat lunch with peers instead of mom and sister to missing out on his much loved quiet time. It’s been a big adjustment for me, too. I’m used to having my babies with me almost all the time. Um, now I’m kind of missing having one child semi-separated from me 5 days a week. I’m used to being the one to be there for them every step of their young lives. Of course I’ve always known I would have to let him go sooner rather than later. Of course I knew I would have to hand over his care into the hands of teachers I might be lucky to get to know, but likely not know well. I feel all too familiar with them all now. I’m thankful to the teacher he has, the teacher he says he likes. After all, she’s teaching him things I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start with. She was awesome. I miss her. Though his First Grade teachers are turning out to be pretty awesome as well.

This year, my son’s school was given a generous donation. To celebrate and recognize the organization, the school planned a big event. As parents, my husband and I were thrilled that his school was so blessed, especially since it meant they could update their science lab. Hmm, I wonder when my son will be able to get back to school to use it.

A few weeks ago, at Back to School, everyone was hinting about a big event, about a big donation. It seemed like a big deal. We got fliers and calls and emails about it. We were invited to attend this big event. I lost track of how many times we were told about it. Yes, yes, it’s a big deal. It’s an awesome thing for the school.

About a week and a half before the event, I heard singing in the Kindergarten yard. How cute, I thought. A week later, I saw them all gathered in the shade, practicing the same song. I also heard one teacher say they had one more day to practice before their performance. Huh? My son never mentioned a performance. The teacher never mentioned anything. The school never said anything. Maybe they were just singing a song for another classroom or something. The next day, the day before the event, in the afternoon, the teacher finally sent a message asking us to dress our kids in school colors, telling us our kids would be performing at the big event, and letting us know they would be celebrating Johnny Appleseed on Friday.

I get that teachers are busy. I understand they’re there to teach our kids and don’t need a bevy of parents buzzing around them. I understand they need us to trust them. I get that they are human and sometimes things fall through the cracks. I GET IT. Now we’re regularly called in to class at some point so they can make sure we know what our student is supposed to be doing and to ensure we know where to look for resources.

But parents are also practically begged to help out, to get involved, to show their kids they care about their education. We’re told students do better if their parents are involved. Boy, are we involved! But it seems that involvement is limited to what the school deems necessary. Of course we can’t interfere with the students’ education while they’re actively trying to learn in the classroom. Of course there must be limits on what parents can do in the classroom. Of course we can’t make teachers teach our kids the way we want them to; there are simply too many students in one classroom to do that. But cutting, gluing, and sorting papers far from the classrooms just doesn’t cut it. We can get involved in our children’s education at home through more than just homework. Well, now we get to sit right next to them during class. We can help them get excited and feel supported and encouraged about the big things going on in their education. And remind them to pay attention, sit up straight, and stop playing with the pencil sharpener.

My husband and I spoke with some of the other parents the morning of the event. Some of them hadn’t even know their child was about to perform. Many hadn’t known until the message the previous day. Many were working parents who didn’t have enough notice so they could arrange to be there. Some of them were heartbroken. Some were sad. Some were disappointed. Some were angry. As a stay at home mom, it’s easy for me to rearrange my schedule. I got lucky my husband is part of the PTA and had already committed to attending the event. Otherwise our son’s dad wouldn’t have been able to attend his very first school performance. I can only imagine how the other parents who couldn’t have gone felt.

For some of the parents, this was the first time their child was in school. It was their very first performance. If I were a working mom, it would have broken my heart to not be there for my son.

I don’t know whose fault it was that we weren’t told sooner. I just know it sounds like none of the parents in any of the Kindergarten classes had been told until the last minute. I know of at least one mom who was left in tears because she couldn’t be there. I heard other parents wonder how many kids there were who didn’t have someone there for them.

Someone on the school staff mentioned to my husband and me before the event started that, originally, it was just going to be confined to the school until they knew they had enough seats. Originally, parents weren’t even going to be invited. From that perspective, I get why we weren’t told sooner. But, from another, I still don’t understand why we weren’t told our kids were going to be performing.

Even if we weren’t going to be invited, didn’t we still deserve to know our little 5 years olds were going to be performing on a stage? Didn’t we get to know they had learned to sing a song in Hindi? I just don’t understand why we weren’t told. Someone mentioned it was possible it was because the teachers didn’t know if they could even pull it off, if the kids were even going to perform. Sure, I get it. Teaching a song and getting 5 year olds to perform is a huge, daunting task.

But the school wants us to be involved. There are so many ways to be involved. Let’s not count the ways anymore. They could have told us about the performance and warned there was a chance we weren’t going to be invited. They could have sent the lyrics home so we could practice with our child. By letting us just know, we could have been excited about it with our kids. We could have asked them at pick up how it went. We could have been in the loop, in the know. Did they expect a bunch of 5 year olds with the attention span of a fly to tell us? My son would rather tell me who was being naughty that day.

And, as soon as they knew parents were going to be invited, they should have told us. They did know. They sent home a flier inviting us almost a week before (with no mention of our kids performing). As for the not enough seats? I don’t know about you, but I would have gladly stood at the back.

So, please, schools and teachers and administrators, please let us know. Tell us our kids are going to do something special even though we might not get to witness it. It would give us a chance to get excited for our kids, to encourage them, to support them. It’s a different way of being involved, but it’s how we can get more involved with our kids when we must turn their care over to someone else for several hours 5 days a week. Nope, distance learning is how we parents can get more involved in their education, and I think there are many parents who would gladly hand over their child to someone else for a few hours 5 days a week again.

Maybe I’m just complaining. Maybe I’m just still so emotionally hurt and scarred. Maybe I’m still carrying around all the hurt that bled off all the parents I heard. Maybe this is just fully isolated to my son’s school and something like this has never happened before anywhere else and will never happen anywhere else. But I’m a mom who experienced it. A mom with a Kindergartener. A mom whose child just had his very first school performance and I didn’t even know until an afternoon before.

Schools, you may get our kids for many hours a week, but they are not yours. Let us parents be involved. Let us know what’s going on. Our Kindergarteners still need us, still need our support and encouragement. Education isn’t supposed to be teacher vs. parent, so let us get involved in out of the box ways. Please tell us about the important things like performances even if we won’t get to be there. I don’t want to be the hovering parent demanding to know every detail of every day, so tell me the important things my child will be involved in so I don’t turn into a hovering mom.

I think it’s terrific my son’s school received a very generous donation. I absolutely think the school had every right to celebrate and focus on it. It’s a big deal. But schools have students and students have parents. Yes, we will have to let go and encourage independence in our kids. But, for goodness sakes, our kids are 5. They still need us. They need to know we’re there, that we support them. So, please, schools, give us that.

Okay, so maybe some of my inserted comments make it sound like I hate distance learning. I don’t; it’s just difficult managing 4 different schedules. I’m very glad to have this opportunity to be so involved, but it is exhausting.

For more of my parenting posts, stop by the Mother’s Corner.

8 thoughts

  1. I remembered this post Kat. I really enjoyed reading this. I really connected to it and all that you wrote about. I was always involved with my kids schools when they were in the public school system and thank God for that because there were some really bad teachers that harmed my children emotionally and one physically. The physical abuse was a tough one to prove since we were not there when it happened, but the school psychologist and I witnessed this same teacher my son had, get physically aggressive with another student that wasn’t standing up correctly in line for lunch. I was there complaining about a large knot on my son’s head he came home with. The schools have systems in place to protect bad teachers so nothing gets done. I eventually had to home school because we could not afford private and the district we were a part of was so bad there were many complaints about the abuse. The educational system in our country is protected by corrupt unions. There are good teachers and it is so sad that they are not able to do what they want or get the help they need. You and your husband are great parents for wanting to help be included with the education in your child’s school. To fix everything that is broken in our educational system we need more parents like you. I bet your kids are so sweet. It helps to have a good mom and dad, keeps the little ones healthy and emotionally happy and confident.

    1. It’s so terrible the things some teachers are able to get away with! There was a time when that kind of abuse was just called “discipline” and it turns my stomach to think of children being treated that way. They’re so precious and impressionable; I can’t imagine what kind of pain that brought on. Even now it isn’t great. There are definitely good and bad teachers out there and I think, because of distance learning, a lot of parents are learning that as well. I hope more parents will see what their child will likely be going into when classrooms reopen and they’ll be more likely to pause and think about whether it’s really good for their child or not. That’s so fantastic you were able to home school your children. I’m sure you and they were much happier that way!

      1. It can be hard to homeschool and I feel for single parents and parents who are not able to, that may want to. My cousin started homeschooling recently because of some of the new changes in curriculum in her district, but before they started changing topics there were some really great teachers that taught her son while growing up. He is 11/12 now in age. I love the freedom we had when homeschooling. We would take road trips to California and visit all the cool museums over there in San Diego. The kids would ask questions from volunteers that worked at these museums. They had so many real world teachers that way. One time my son was able to meet a World War two vet at one museum and he started telling our kids what it was really like to be there in history when D day happened because he actually lived it. At the sea aquarium they learned about all kinds of sea life and the environment. It was fun creating our own style and curriculum when it came to their goals. They also had after school homework and meet ups with public school kids through a city program here called PACS. We did a charter online program to make sure that they were studying the right subjects for their age and they got tested every year for state testing before passing onto the next grade level. Homeschoolers always get attacked, mostly for not allowing their children to develop their social skills but it turns out that most homeschoolers are exposed to more social skill play opportunities then public school kids.

      2. Wow, your homeschool experience sounds like so much fun! I bet your kids had a blast, and probably learned a lot more than they would have in a traditional school. It’s wonderful how many resources there are out there for homeschooling families, especially right now when more and more parents who can are turning to it. I love the idea of being able to tailor the curriculum and making education truly fun for kids. The traditional way is easy and familiar, but it really sounds like homeschooling can offer just as much, if not more. I’m so glad to know there are so many different opportunities, especially since I’m increasingly leaning towards it these days. My son does really well in the classroom, but, watching him do distance learning, it just seems tedious and anything but fun, which makes me sad because he’s only in the First Grade. Unless I’m wrong and education really has changed that much in the years since I was in elementary school.

  2. I’m glad you made it to the performance. Now that we’re distance learning, it seems that I get all sorts of emails to bring the kids in at a specified a appointment time (first it was pick up yearbooks – 2 kids, 2 different schools), then senior portraits, now today I get an assigned appointment time for my son for his school picture on a Monday afternoon at 1:15pm. I get that they assume we’re all working from home, but that isn’t necessarily the case. And to assume we can just up and drop everything else (as if we haven’t done that already) and run to the school whenever they assign an appointment is awfully presumptuous. Add to that, I don’t drive, and rely on my husband to take care of these things – he goes into the office. Just so frustrating. Here’s hoping we all make it through this mess.

    1. I absolutely agree. We’re fortunate I’m at home with the kids, but I still rely on my husband being able to go out and pick things up since we can’t risk me getting sick, and he still has a rigid work schedule, so it sometimes feels like shoving a square block into a round hole. It’s frustrating that schools think they can do whatever they want without considering the parents’ schedules. We had an uproar a month or so ago when our district announced the schedule because it clearly did not take into account the parents who still have to work, whether it’s from home or not. It was never actually addressed by the district and they’re just now starting to open up centers where parents can drop off their kids. It’s absolutely crazy and I’m just ready for this to be over. Even though I don’t work, it’s starting to wreck havoc on my toddler’s schedule and just creating needless headaches.

    1. I checked; you did! You said the law where you live requires parents to sign off on everything your child does. I must admit I’m still jealous about that, but I think that now parents and teachers will realize just how much we need each other to teach our children and maybe that parent-teacher-school relationship will improve.

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