Oh my, my children are getting BIG! First it was the discovery of the local pop station and now “Fireflies” by Owl City.  One thing I NEVER shared with my parents was music.

I must confess, my first radio was a “bicentennial” edition of a radio-shack am radio that was about the size of a deck of cards. It had this cool red and blue 76 on the outside of the otherwise white case.  I listened to stuff my big sister did plus whatever I could pick up. I mostly remember some Beatles medly and then Jim Croce.  Yipes, as if the radio description didn’t date me enough!

Anyway, I took GREAT pleasure in finding the youtube link to Fireflies, hooking up the laptop to the outside speakers and without warning, CRANKING it for my kids.  They popped out of their swings and started dancing.

I need a better camera to capture these moments. Priceless.

I think I’ll have to nurture this pop music craze, because I cannot handle hip-hop!

The Value of Work

My youngest entered kindergarten in the fall of this year.  Since quitting work shortly after her birth, I have assumed that this would be the year I would return to work. I expected then it would be hard today.  I also thought I’d probably do something different from what I had been doing, not only because I had moved from a big city in the south to a small town in New England, but also because I figured my interests would likely shift after five years “off”.

This winter, after much hand wringing about full-time vs. part-time I decided maybe the first step would be to try substituting at school. So predictable and so not me, but I truly figured maybe it would at least break me in to having to shower & apply make-up & leave at the same time my children do.   I thought I could work out the trauma of getting three people ready for the day in a “test” job.

A position in my school district became available for “substitute administrative” jobs, such as administrative assistant, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver.   I figured this was perfect! I volunteer enough at school to know I don’t have the patience to deal with a classroom full of children for longer than an hour at a time.

So, I filled out the application online. I listed my past “supervisors” and phone numbers for employers going back to 1988 —  a good 6 or seven employers representing at least 10 positions.  This in and of itself was no small feat.  I then contacted the local folks who I have volunteered with and asked them if they would be my references.  I serve as co-president for a neighborhood of 250 homes (and an annual budget of $25,000) and have for the past five years.  I also run the local elementary school’s nature education program — recruiting over 30 volunteers annually.

Last year I was president of a cooperative preschool.  I managed a budget of over $100,000, led a board of directors of 12, oversaw the salaries and contracts for 4 staff, facilitated school-wide changes, led marketing efforts, intervened in bad contracts,  cut benefits from staff, fielded grievances from employees and families. Oh, and I volunteered with the children in the classroom countless times. I even substituted for teachers.

You can imagine my surprise when my application was returned to me as Incomplete because I had not included any references from “supervisors of past employer”  Humph.

So, even though I did the equivalent of an executive’s job, because I did it as a “volunteer” and had no “supervisor” it does not count!

To be fair, I did not pursue this any further with the district human resources office.  I decided it was a good lesson.  I certainly did not want to contact the vice president from my corporate days and ask for a letter of reference to be the substitute lunch lady!  I was totally willing to check my ego at the door and BE the substitute lunch lady, but apparently I could not qualify with just volunteer labor references.

And while I appreciate the school district’s need to be very careful about the background of its employees, must it overlook the reputation and skill of volunteerism?  Afterall, what is work?  Must one be paid to be reputable?  If one has the highest rank within an organization they have no “supervisors”, does that not count toward one’s qualifications for the next job?  Why can’t my skills used in community organizations be valued by society?  I know I don’t have the answer.  So many others have been down this path before me.

I think what stopped me in my tracks more than anything was that I never expected it to happen to me.

School vs. Parent

I went to a meeting last week held by the principals of the three schools that comprise the district’s K-5 education system.  Several notes went home about it.  The topic was albeit dry and vague…something about the new student-led conferences.  The meeting was in the evening, 6:30P, with child care provided.  I was fortunate to not have to bring my children.

There might have been 15 parents representing the three schools in attendance.  There were a grand total of three including myself from my children’s elementary school.

I appreciate the school system making the time to prepare these meetings and the effort to communicate.  I do. Really.

But after absorbing the content and the parent feedback and the administration response, I begin to wonder why I bother attending, and have more insight into why fewer parents attend.

It seems the administration is dropping the 2nd of two parent-teacher conferences and replacing them with a “student-led” conference”.  This is supposed to reap huge rewards for children: they will develop greater pride in their work, take ownership over their performance and enhance communication skills as they prepare and deliver their presentations…to…their…parents?  Ok. Ok.  I can see some value in this.  But for me and just about every concerned parent in the room, our kids are already telling us how they’re doing in school and telling us how the test went and showing us the marks on their homework assignments.   And now the teachers are going to take time from “teaching” to guide them through how to assess and present their conference material to their parents.


Overwhelmingly, the feedback from this group went the lines of “this is all well and good, but don’t take away my highly valuable one-on-one meeting with the teacher!”  And the administration says, “try it and give us your feedback afterwards”.  Oh and they added “you can still arrange a one-on-one meeting with your teacher afterward”.

So, the way this is going to go is this: teachers will prepare our K-5 children to prepare their message to their parents <sigh>, parents attend a meeting with their child in one corner of the room where three other families occupy respective corners, the teacher floats by, and thirty minutes later, after seeing my child’s work, I  can give written feedback before leaving.  Oh, and the kids only attend school a half day that day.

Should the parents want to speak to the teacher privately, the onus is on them.  As if last week’s meeting was not enough evidence that getting parents out to meetings is nearly impossible.

After all the schools have completed this process, the administration will review the data and declare that the new SLC were an overwhelming success, after all, only about 3-5 families/school had any strong negative feedback.  Year two, fewer families offer feedback. Year three, most families forget there ever was another system.  And voila, we have another successful district-wide implementation of a program directed at supporting the weaker performing children — the ones whose parents are not as available to talk to their kids and see the random papers in their backpacks.

Now that I’ve been apart of this process, I really feel a little duped.  I feel like the system is going this route. Just because the only outspoken families in the school won’t amount to a majority, this is a done deal.

I really want to be positive, but I don’t like the feeling that the writing is on the wall.

The Asolutely SCARIEST part of all this, is that after I distilled all this, my reaction was “Maybe I should run for an open school board position!