“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
George Washington Carver
This week’s Spin Cycle is on education. I have always stressed the importance of education to my kids. Heck, when they were still in the womb I was reading to them and saying their ABC’s to them (so was hubby). I stressed the importance of reading above all else because to me, reading IS the building block of education. If you can’t read, all your other studies are hindered. Even math… you have to be able to READ problems before you can figure them out.
When the kids were little, it may be terrible, but, if we were in the store and we had enough money to buy them a toy or a book, I’d always opt for the book… unless it was an educational toy. I guess I was a bad mom in that I never really bought them a lot of “toys” so to speak unless they were educational in some way. When #1 was probably only 3 years old or so I would have her write down my grocery lists while we were driving down the road to the store. We made a game of it with her sounding out the letters and trying to spell and write the words. I still think today that is why she was an English major and she herself now sees the importance of reading.
All three of my girls have always loved to read. #2 especially took it to heart. She read Gone with the Wind when she was in like 3rd grade…for pleasure. When she was playing basketball in high school and I’d drag #3 to the games, sitting in the gym bleachers ALL DAY LONG, she’d be up there with her books, reading. Most of the other player’s parents remember her that way… sitting up in the stands with her little nose buried in a book. She lost her love of reading for a little bit, but she’s recently been bitten by the reading bug again. And I don’t think #2 ever goes to work (or anywhere for that matter) without a book in case things get slow. She used to walk through the grocery store with one hand on the grocery cart so she could read and still not trip over stuff.
All three girls ended up in Program Challenge and I credit the majority of that to their love of reading. They are very smart girls and again, I attribute a lot of that to reading.
Still, I don’t think the educational system is always “prepared” for really smart kids. I do have to give our county props for some of the things they did to “tolerate” our kids in some respects. Like when #2 was in 7th grade and her sister was in 8th. She (#2) took Pre-algebra while her sister (#1) was taking Algebra. Shortly after the school year started her Pre-Algebra teacher realized she was far advanced over the other students and was getting bored so they bumped her up to the Algebra class with her sister. The child ended up taking away the Algebra student of the year award at the end of the year over the 8th graders.
But, of course, that meant that when she got to 8th grade she had no math to take because she took Algebra in the 7th grade. In order for her to have a math class to take I would have had to try to find a way to transport her to the high school for ONE class, and then back to the middle school, which I could not do since both hubby and I worked, or she’d have to take Algebra all over again or NOT have math in the 8th grade. None of those options was acceptable to me. I give props to the Douglas County School System and her PC teacher. HE went back to school the summer before her 8th grade so that he would be qualified to teach her Geometry. SO… her 8th grade year while all the other 8th graders were struggling with Algebra she was taking Geometry in a class with herself and her teacher. I still feel that her one year of one on one instruction did her more good than about anything else in her entire school curriculum. (Of course the down side was that by her senior year she had run out of math classes to take but that’s another story). He (her PC teacher) more than once told us he felt she was/is the greatest math mind he has ever met. And she still looks to him as one of the best teachers she ever had. Yeah, she’s one of those that can look at one of those foot long problems on the board and immediately know the answer…. Kinda makes you sick doesn’t it (or at least a little jealous!)?
Then of course there were the “problems” she ran into because of her level of intellect. I have found that there are usually two very distinct types of teachers when dealing with extremely intelligent students. You have the teachers who are in awe and admiration of the student’s abilities and feel honored to have taught them (such as her PC teacher, Mr. Langkilde) or you have the teachers who are threatened by the student’s abilities. I don’t know if it’s because of their own insecurities or jealously but it’s definitely a problem. After she got to high school she ended up in the same math class with her sister 3 out of their 4 years I believe. I believe it was in her Honors Algebra II class (can’t remember now exactly) she and her sister were both in the same class, yet again, and this time she ran into a teacher that was very threatened by her intellect.
It appears that on her very first day of school the teacher put a complex math problem on the board along with the answer. Apparently the answer was incorrect. So, #2 felt compelled to correct her, in front of the other students. OOPS. She had not quite gotten the hang of tact. AWKWARD… From that very first encounter, the teacher had it in for #2. I think that sometimes this teacher forgot that I had TWO kids in that class. So whenever one of them would come home with a “problem” with that teacher, I had the other one to back it up or shoot it down. And we also had the other students in the class who corroborated this teacher’s disdain for #2. She didn’t treat #1 particularly well either.
I won’t go into details of some of the things this sorry excuse for an educator did but let’s just suffice it to say it was unethical and she should have been fired for some of the things she did. I spent LOTS of time that semester between the counselor’s office, the principal’s office, the school board and conferences. In the end, #2 decided (and announced to the whole family) that she was smarter than this teacher and did not “need” her since she already knew everything this teacher was trying to teach them and that she was going to prove it to her by sleeping in her class and still making 100. Yes… she did… and this was verified incredulously by her sister who came home and exclaimed how unfair it was. She said “Mom, I don’t understand… she sleeps in class every day. I don’t mean cat napping, I mean full out, drooling on the desk and snoring sleeping and she STILL makes over 100!” And I admit that I did tell her at first I thought she was being disrespectful to the teacher with her actions, but, after some of the shenanigans that teacher pulled… she deserved the disrespect (even though I still felt a twinge of guilt because I have always taught my children to respect their teachers). Yes, she ended that class with a 100+ average, sleeping every day.
I have always been very vocal and supportive of the educational system in this county. So far that when they “did away” with Program Challenge and replaced it with the Honors Program I was very upset and fought them tooth and nail on it. I could not understand how lowering the standards for the program and increasing the class size for those classes could improve the program. I still don’t get it but it was their way of saving money and I do realize they have a budget to work with. After a couple of years of heading the parent group that was against the change I probably made a few enemies of some of the school board members but I still stand by my actions and my non support of the change. It seemed that they started offering less AP classes and more “Honors” classes which didn’t carry the same weight on school transcripts and didn’t give them the education frame work that they needed. That was the main reason that #2 changed her major less than 8 weeks into college. She originally wanted to be a Biomedical Engineer and told me that she realized when she got to college that our county had left her woefully unprepared for those types of science classes. She said they were talking about and doing things she’d never even heard of and these other kids all seemed to understand. They (our county) just don’t have the resources to “keep up”.
As for the way the rules have changed since we were in school… I could write a whole post on just that. Let’s just say I think that teachers have lost the authority they used to hold in class rooms. There is too much disrespect and there is no way for teachers to enforce behavior in the classrooms anymore. Teachers are too afraid of what the students and parents will “do” to them if they demand the respect and enforce the rules.
I don’t feel I was a “slave driver” to my kids and their grades but I expected them to do their best and by that I mean if an A was what they could do that was what I expected. If a C was all they could do then that’s fine… as long as they did as well as they COULD. When #1 was in middle school (I can’t remember if it was 6th, 7th or 8th grade) she came home with a B in PE. I pitched a fit! How in the heck do you get a B in PE??? All you have to do is participate! Oh, no… #1 tells us that they have all these “health” classes they have to take and that the teacher had sprung a quiz on them on stuff they hadn’t covered and how everybody in the class had failed the test and it brought ALL their grades down. Yes, I am one of those moms. I believe my kids first unless they give me a reason NOT to and at this point she had never given me a reason NOT to believe she was being totally forthright and honest. Of course the first thing I had asked her is if she was “dressing out” and she said yes, except for maybe 5 or 6 times the whole semester.
So, I march my little behind (OK… BIG behind but who’s looking?) to the school for a conference with her PE teacher. As we are sitting in the counselors office having this discussion with her teacher I mention that she said that she hadn’t dressed out maybe 5 or 6 times that semester when he interrupts me and says “No, ma’am. She ONLY dressed out 5 or 6 times the whole semester.” WTH??? Are you KIDDING me? Now I was livid, with both HIM and my daughter! I said “Excuse me? Did you just say she ONLY dressed out 5 or 6 times the WHOLE semester?”
PE: **sheepishly hanging his head** Yes, ma’am. I’m afraid so.
Me: And you passed her?
PE: I’m sorry I don’t understand…
Me: I’m saying that IF she only dressed out 5 or 6 times the entire semester she didn’t even deserve a B. You should have given her an F and you should have called me.
PE: Excuse me?
Me: I’m sorry… but I stand by my child when I think they have been wronged and that’s what I thought was the case here but I was obviously wrong. SHE was in the wrong and you should have called me. Please tell me…. What happens if they don’t dress out?
PE: Ummmmm…. They sit on the bleachers for that class.
Me: And what is their punishment? Do they have to write essays or run laps the next time they dress out or what?
PE: No, they just sit on the bleachers.
Me: By themselves?
PE: NO, with the other kids that don’t dress out.
Me: And do they have to be quiet or what?
PE: No, they usually talk amongst themselves.
Me: Let me guess… these other kids that don’t dress out… would they by chance be their friends… or maybe “the cool kids”?
PE: Well, yeah…. I guess so.
Me: Well, then, I don’t blame them for not dressing out! Let’s see… I can dress out and get all sweaty and be called a dork and uncool and get an A OR I can NOT dress out, not get sweaty, get to spend the entire class sitting in the bleachers talking to my friends and making fun of the dorks who DO dress out and still make a B! If you were in middle school which one would YOU pick???
PE: Um… I see your point. But usually parents get mad if we punish their child.
Me: I am upset that you DIDN’T punish her. I’ll make a deal with you. From now on, unless my child is bleeding, throwing up, or has a broken bone or a legitimate excuse from me she BETTER be dressing out and if she doesn’t? I better get a phone call that FIRST time. No waiting all semester and no excuses, no if’s ands or buts. You are the teacher and I am holding YOU accountable. Do we have an understanding?
PE: Yes ma’am.
As far as I know… he didn’t have any problems with her after that or if he did, he was just too scared to call me but he was always friendly and talkative after that and believe me, they definitely knew who OUR kids were. But that to me is a prime example of a teacher who lost his authority and was too afraid of retribution to take control of his class. I know I couldn’t be a teacher, especially in today’s society with the lack of respect. I fear I would be the one who ended up in jail because I would have knocked someone in the head or been like my junior high assistant principal who pulled a gun on a student who threatened him with bodily harm…. Yes, and he got away with it and the boy never tried it again. So sometimes you just gotta go with it. In closing I’d like to leave you with this thought:
“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. “
Now that you’ve read MY take on education head on over to Sprite’s Keeper and the Spin Cycle and see how everyone else feels. Better yet… join in and spin up your own take on it.