The RailCity Tournament Parenting Lesson

Arrggggh, how I anguished over pulling my kid from school for a hockey game. What WAS that about?  I talked myself blue and I ran scenarios through my head for so long I almost forgot what the big deal was. I talked to the head coach. I talked to the assistant coach. I talked to the girls overall scheduler, who is also a school principal. I talked to my friends.  I talked and talked and talked and talked to my dear dear husband, who probably wondered what it was all about by the end, too.

Alas, I figured it out.  The angst was about taking ownership of the decision. I didn’t like being informed by email that despite the scheduler’s attempt to keep the girls in school he was successful only for the 14-year olds and that the 12-year old teams would have a game at lunchtime on a school day. I hated it. It rubbed me all the wrong ways.  I wanted to be the one who decided if she missed school and for what reason.

I live in a sports town. Maybe most of America does. But this is a really small town and sports reign large. Even the local weekly newspaper, the Essex Reporter, devotes an entire section to this town’s sports.  It feels like as a parent I am expected to just go with the majority action — play travel hockey, take your kid from school, sports rule — forget the rest. It just feels that way.

Further, I am the only parent on the team who’s daughter is the oldest/first child in the family. And all but one of the team-mates have an older sibling who also plays or played hockey. So all those other parents, potentially, have already rolled-over for the sports machine and already just go with it.  I truly felt alone in this.

So anyway, I was feeling like taking a 9-year old from school to play a game up in hockeyville was a bit over-the-top. I want my athletic daughter to understand that school is most important. Sports are extra.

And that was it. I decided to approach her teacher about helping me teach this concept to Olivia. He was ALL over it. My gosh, I love her teacher. Turns out, he was a student athlete and he said his parents did the same thing. So he agreed to give Olivia some “make-up” assignments to do over the weekend in lieu of the time missed at school.  And he added that he saw how sports were a motivator for my daughter and hockey in particular was her passion — that there’d be value in supporting her this way.

God bless my little “O”, because when I told her what I had decided, she smiled.  The morning of her game I took her to school with a note for the teacher about leaving early and she said “And I’ll ask Mr. G for extra homework”.

And after the game, she came right up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks Mom. Thanks for letting me play this game.”

And so the angst. The decision-making process. It was all worth it.

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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.

AYYGHH.

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!