Thursday, March 26, 2009

Skip, skip, skip to my Lou

I feel that I am very much on top of the education of our eldest child. She's been tested, prodded, and poked and put in every possible applicable enrichment group that exists. 

We have clear lines of communication with the teachers and have gotten involved wherever necessary to further her educational experience: 
Extra Parent-Teacher conferences.  Check.  
Meetings with the Principal. Check.  
Gift and Talented Coordinator meeting in our home. Check.

But the second kid? Ha. Pretty much dropped him off the first day of school in the hands of his incredibly wonderful and capable Kindergarten teacher and said, "Here he is.  Do whatever you think will work with him." 

So, it was a bit of a surprise yesterday, when I was having a casual conversation with his teacher and she mentioned, "They asked if you were willing to have him skip a grade next year."


We are still working out the details on who exactly "they" are and I had to sign some paperwork to allow all the necessary prodding, poking, and evaluating of him that go into such a decision.

Our first reaction is to only do grade skipping as a last resort. He's the happiest and most easy-going kid in the universe - he loves school, loves his teacher, loves his classmates.  Why mess with that?

Anyone else out there skipped a grade?  Was it good? bad?  I guess if we are going to do it, this is the year to do it (Kindergarten into 2nd grade)  But still.  It seems a bit extreme.

Besides, won't that make him smaller for football?

(that's a joke - I haven't even watched a complete football game in over 20 years!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

So here's my idea

What if all the people who received those awful bonuses at AIG meet tomorrow morning and decide to give up most of their bonuses to a single charity.

What if tomorrow, $100 million was donated to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or a school....voluntarily by the employees of AIG?

What if Congress didn't have to spend 4 straight days getting all long-winded and pompous about this?

What if the media didn't have to focus on this little bonus thing, because they don't really understand the intricacies of the entire banking system or the real economic problem we are all facing?

What if the employees of AIG, on their own, decide to take this horrid lemon that they created and we've all been dealt....and decide to make a tiny bit of lemonade?

Because, in the grand scheme of things, these bonuses don't really matter. In the big-picture of all the other things that are going on - the bailouts, the stimulus, the near-nationalizations....this is small potatoes.

But what if.....what if they could turn it into something huge? Something that may inspire millions of others around the country to donate what they can? Something that would turn "AIG" from a 4-letter word into something more hopeful and promising.

What if.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

School stuff

Lots of interesting PTA posts here, here and here.

One thing I find interesting is the assumption that a school with lots of poor kids is a bad school - a failing school - a school in which no child would ever achieve.

I disagree with that.

Yes, there are very real problems at a school like ours, in which 70% of the kids are on some kind of public assistance.  We have a constant shortage of mittens, glue sticks, and snacks. We have kids who arrive at school hungry and kids for whom spring break simply means a week without regular meals. Childhood poverty is a serious issue, and one that I fear is widely misunderstood.  Poor kids are an underrepresented voice in our society.

But, our school?  Our school is fantastic. Our Principal?  Amazing. Our teachers? Best in the country. (OK, that may be a subjective bit of analysis there....but seriously - they are that good.)

Yes, our test scores are low.  (But your test score would be low too if you were taking it in your second or third language.)

Yes, our school population has more melanin than the average school. But that just makes us more interesting to look at.

I would even argue that our school is BETTER than some of the more wealthy schools.  Yes, I said better.  My third grader has 11 kids in her class.  Thank you SAGE program (Wisconsin's answer to Title 1.)

Some of the PTA posts included comments of parents complaining about PTA sponsored things like insufferable talent shows that they are forced to sit through. Our talent show is later this month and it is one of my favorite events of the entire year. I suspect that other (more wealthy) schools have showcases for rich kids showing off their piano or violin lessons. Not our school.

At our school, there is not a dry eye in the house at the end of the talent show.  The kids group together to create amazing acts. An African-American 3rd-grade boy raps while a Caucasian 4th-grade girl dances as a 2nd grade Hmong girl jump-ropes and a 5th-grade boy, who happens to be seriously autistic, sings along. It never once occurs to them that kids of lawyers wouldn't hang out with kids whose parents work at McDonalds.  Or that the seriously disabled shouldn't be part of the show. 

Frankly, there might not be a lot of actual talent at our talent show - but you are fighting so hard to hold back the tears that you don't notice. Right before your very eyes, the promise of what you believe America stands for, at our core, is unfolding. It's pretty powerful.

So, while I am the first person to recognize the very real problems of childhood poverty, I just want to point out that a school full of poor kids can still be a great school.  A really great school.

Some lessons in life can't be measured by a test score.  Some take a choreographed rap song, accompanied by jump rope.