Parenting 101: I’m Not Done Yet

Now, that you’ve heard my struggle with Munch’s teachers in my Parenting 101 tips, I want to let you know why I can’t stop fighting. That I’m not done yet. It’s simple…race. Munch is black. I’m black.

I have a black son. A son who was stigmatized by some the minute he was born. Because he’s black. I know that he will be just a “boy” to some, a “nigger” to others and“angry” to many. But, he’s my son. A black boy. He’s not a threat to America. He’s 7.

I grew up in this country. The America I grew up in was filled with many different races, religions and very few hateful comments. I knew I was black. My color didn’t matter to many or so I thought. I mean in the south you’re used to racist remarks, but up north, it’s supposed to be different right?

I remember thinking that if the President got elected that my newborn son would have someone to look up to. That he would see another black man and that the most important job in the world wouldn’t seem impossible for him to achieve. He could really do everything if Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.

He was elected. Racial tensions changed. The country that I loved so much and eloquently studied history on – was now showing it’s true colors. Why? When did the country that I had believed was moving forward begin to move backwards? When did it become acceptable to become a racist and then try to justify said racist remarks in defense of protecting the USA.

From what? Me? My 7 year old son? Heck, I’m trying to protect him. Each and every day that he awakens, I’m trying to protect him from becoming a target. From being ignored. From being disregarded, disrespected or dismissed. He matters. I matter. We matter.

Every day I wake up new statistics show that our little brown babies are being ignored. From being overlooked in talented and gifted programs or from teachers that have low expectations for them. When did this attitude become acceptable?

Three of my favorite teachers from high school still mean the world to me. I owe them so much. They were not only wonderful teachers, they were wonderful women. They shaped my belief that I could do anything. They nurtured and molded me into an intelligent woman that would someday conqueror the world. They were white.

I didn’t really understand the importance of role models at that time or the importance of having them, but I admired them. I loved the way they commanded attention when they walked down the hall. I loved the way they invested in each student. I loved the way they never let me take the shortcut or easy way out.

They believed in me. They helped me believe in myself. Where are these same kind of teachers now? Where are they when it comes to teaching my son? Is it because I was a girl? Nope. I can’t believe that’s all to it.

My shift has changed because I am a black woman raising a black boy in a post Jim Crow era when it seems we’ve moved backwards. Reading that teacher expectations reflect biases hurts me. Not just as a person of color. But, as a mother.

White teachers expect significantly less academic success than do black teachers, a new study concludes. This is especially true for black boys. – Jill Rosen, Hub.com

So, what am I saying? If I’m bombarded with news that your racial biases are likely being played out in the classroom can you understand why I will come to my child’s defense? I know about the school to prison pipeline. I’ve heard about it for years.

Black Americans are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They make up 16 percent of school enrollment, but account for 32 percent of students who receive in-school suspensions, 42 percent of students who receive multiple out-of-school suspensions and 34 percent of students who are expelled. – Lindsey Cook, U.S. News

When I walk into a meeting with a teacher or educator I’m already feeling defensive. I feel like I have to defend my child because statistically speaking we’re looking at him through two different lenses and one could have racial biases in place. It’s not always true. But, realistically speaking I’ve had to tout my academic successes/credentials as well as naming our family’s successes so that his teachers back off and know that they’re not dealing with another poor black kid.

My expectations for my son are high. My expectations for his teachers and the administration is just as high. If I know that white female teachers ignore, have low expectations for black boys and they are disciplined more harshly why would I not feel the need to hold you accountable in the beginning?

I’m tired folks. I’m tired of fighting and I want some clear and transparent conversations about race and racial biases to be had at the school. Let’s call out the institutionalized racism that exists. Educators should know that black parents are reading and scared that you’re already trying to diagnosis, steer or ignore our children. How can we work together to make sure that we’re all in this together?

That we are going back to the day when it seemed like teachers just wanted to teach you. They were compassionate. They were motivating you. They were supporting you. They knew you.

My President is black. My son is black. I’m tired of fighting and he’s only 7. However, I know that I’m not done yet. I have many rivers and miles to cross. I just want to know that his teachers are crossing them with me and not just standing on the shoreline.

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Parenting 101: Be Involved

This is a continuation of my post from yesterday: Parenting 101: Don’t Give Up

You are your child’s best defender. Now, don’t be naive and think that your child will do no wrong, but you have to always know that you must fight for your children. Be vigilant. Be an advocate and be involved.

Teachers make mistake. They are human. This is not to bash teachers. I believe in the educational system and I believe there are many wonderful teachers out there. Heck, I actually like all my son’s teachers (including the one who gave him a zero).

I think the disconnect comes in when we aren’t being transparent with one another. As a parent that constantly communicates with a teacher why wouldn’t you send a zero home to me immediately or scan and send it to me that day? There has been no answer to this question. Only a lot of head nodding, I suppose in agreement, but we will never know.

So, we met with the principal when spring break ended on April 5th about the bullying issue (which I will post separately) and the graded zero paper that no one can find or made a copy of.  The Principal agreed to exempt the grade. This means that it won’t count for or against him. Since the paperwork can’t be produced.  Hopefully his 3rd quarter grade will increase since classwork is 35%.  We’ll see.

The teacher who gave him the zero was not present at the meeting. The Principal didn’t really respond when I mentioned how I felt that she should not have tried to analyze my child’s handwriting site unseen and I found that to be inappropriate. Do you normally do that? I asked. How is his handwriting so different from his peers? I’ve seen their handwriting and it is just as worse. His main teacher was present and said that my son’s handwriting is on par with the other students and that he sometimes writes at an angle or on the line instead of above it but he takes his time to read it. He indicated that my son has no problem spelling or writing words phonetically.

I told the Principal that I expect that all teachers are following the same guidelines or that she is putting forth written expectations so that I know what rules we are working on. I can’t be expected to follow something that doesn’t exist in writing and how are we helping my son by an imaginary set of rules. Crickets. She agreed to exempt the grade so I guess she felt like that was enough. As of today, she has not done so. I sent her an email late Sunday night as to when this will be done.

I’m frustrated by the lack of rush and concern for things that matter to me as a parent. The zero, the missing paperwork, the ability to define a child’s learning without having seen a paperwork and then put the responsibility back on me. I’m not giving up on my son and I will keep on their a** until they are doing what they’re supposed to. Heck, I keep on Munch’s back when he’s not doing what he’s supposed to. I would be less than a woman if I didn’t hold them accountable.

It is imperative as parents that we are involved in our child’s education.  All the time. Check the grades. Meet with all the teachers frequently throughout the year. Munch is in his last quarter of second grade. I am making sure that he finishes the school year successfully.

We have to partner with our children’s teachers so that we are ensuring our child’s success each school year. Be involved. Go up to the school and do drop-ins. Ask questions. Email your child’s teacher. Follow-up on missing grades, assignments and/or classwork. Your child needs to know that you care and the school needs to know that you will not go quietly into the night. We’re all a part of the village trying to ensure the success of ALL children. Not just our own.

Parenting 101: Persistence is Key

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post…Parenting 101: Do Your Research

So, after sending my email to the Principal this was the response that I received:

Hi Ms. T,

I did speak with Ms. V. regarding this assignment…

In response to your last questions first, yes, School Max is the vehicle for parents to monitor grades and student work. I know that all the English Language Arts teachers grade and send home student work as regularly as possible.  If I understand, you have not yet received the 3/4/16 assignment that Munch received a zero for?  I was told it was sent home on Friday?

In terms of the zero, I am of the understanding that Munch’s answer to this writing prompt was not simply illegible, but filled with letters strung together as nonsensical words.  As Munch is both new to ELA instruction and to the writing process, our RELA teachers dedicate an inordinate amount of time to model, provide examples, key phrases and words to be used in the writing prompt.  They do it through the visualizer/document camera, with anchor charts, and through meeting one on one with students to support their writing development.  As you have stated, the fact that Munch missed all the “clues” from Ms. O’s support is of greater concern to me as an educator.

Thank you for taking time to review the grading and reporting procedures for elementary students.  If you will look a bit further at section i on page 4, the policy discusses when a student can receive a failing grade on an assignment, quiz or test:  “when a student fails to complete the work within an assigned time frame.”  If we allow Munch to make up or extend his time frame on this writing prompt, then we would have to do so for all students.  I also noticed that it was counted as a homework assignment, which means it is weighted as 15% of his grade.  After grading an assignment, should the teacher decide that he or she does not want to include it as part of a student’s permanent record, then I believe they have that discretion.  Sometimes students do worse than a teacher would like on an assignment, and if the teacher feels the assignment was poorly worded or framed, or does not fairly assess the concept they have taught, it is possible that all students misunderstand the assessment and do poorly.  The end result is that each teacher has the right to use or not use an assignment.

Finally, while you are correct in stating that the district’s policy calls for the teacher to enter two grades per week per category, please be reminded that Munch receives grades in both French Written and Oral Communication and English Written and Oral communication, so in essence he is getting the requisite number of grades as outlined in this policy.  As always, immersion schools do not fit the profile for the district as a whole.

I hope I was able to answer all your questions.

So, should I have been hot? I was fuming and let me tell you the four reasons why I was hot:

Reason #1: The Principal was supposed to be unbiased. I am all for educators supporting their staff but aren’t you the same ones that say parents don’t show up for conferences or back to school night? Not me. I’m everywhere. All the time. I have a minimum of 5 parent/teacher conferences throughout the school year. This response was not an unbiased response to a parent’s concern. She decided to formulate an opinion without talking to me or suggesting a meeting to discuss.

Reason #2:  You are trying to analyze my son’s work on assignment that you hadn’t seen. Who does that? If I told you what someone did wouldn’t you want to see the assignment or do we regularly analyze a child’s learning site unseen? Umm, I was offended.

Reason #3:  Your condescending and elitist attitude. I never once asked for my son to receive special treatment. I simply stated the policy and asked do educators always give zeroes to children when the definition of attempt means to try at the second grade level? If he put his name on the dang paper by definition he attempted the assignment. How are you trying to deny the rules and disregard them that are set-up to protect the teachers, students and parents? His classwork is sent home a month after it is done. When is 30 days timely?

Reason #4: Your disregard for the policy as outlined by the district and  you trying to tell me that the teacher can give a zero which it says the reasons must be extreme and then justify that they don’t have to count the homework that he did. This is not true. We are not going to set my son up for failure. Point blank period. Furthermore, I’m not going to allow your teachers or you to disregard the policy. We can take this to the school board.

I wasn’t going to go quietly in the night and have her think that her answers were acceptable.  Do you agree with my concerns?

 

 

 

Parenting 101: Do Your Research

Here’s the deal…

My Munch received a zero on a classwork assignment on 3/4/16. He’s in the second grade at a French Immersion school and he is now taking Reading and English to be prepared for the state’s standardized testing next year. His dad and I both have undergraduate degrees in English and value education immensely.  I am active in his PTSA, assist in classroom parties/events and fund-raise for the school. To say that I love his school would be an understatement. I’ve always found that the school and administration was very supportive and encouraging. From the parents to the staff everyone has always provided sound advice.

I check his grades weekly on our school’s website portal because I don’t ever want to be surprised when I see his progress reports. Plus if there are things he needs help in I need to be able to attack it immediately and help in any way possible. Well on 3/10 I was checking the website and discovered that my son had received a zero on classwork dated 3/4.  I emailed his teacher on 3/10 asking about the assignment and can she please send it home. She immediately responded yes that she would send it home.

Here’s some background:  She said that the assignment he turned was illegible and that what she could read made no sense.  Now, I know that my son doesn’t have the best handwriting in the world, but it is on par with most 7 year old children, but I was a little stunned that he would receive a zero. His first ever zero in the second grade.

Classwork accounts for 35% of his grade in the quarter. A zero was definitely going to bring his grade down in the class. Furthermore, I had inquired about some missing homework assignments that weren’t graded and showing on the website and received the response from the teacher that she had chosen not to grade them. Umm, say what now?

I was upset and immediately responded that if she could give him a zero she could count the homework that he did to not set him at a disadvantage. He did the work. Why would you choose to not give him credit for said work?

No response. Crickets.

I emailed the Principal and copied the teacher regarding my concerns on 3/23 because I still hadn’t received the paperwork that I requested on 3/10. I was upset at this point because I had a meeting with his main teacher on 3/15 (3rd this year) and asked her could she be present and she said she had a conflict. I asked for the paper again and I still hadn’t received it.

You get my frustrations right?  The quarter was ending and I was getting no help from his main teacher so I assumed that the Principal needed to intervene and advise at this point.  Well, here’s the email that I sent to the Principal.

 

Hi Principal,

Please see the below email communication with Ms. V who is my son’s (2nd grade) reading teacher. We’ve been going back and forth regarding grades for quite some time. The last communication I sent on Wednesday of last week has not received a response. I discovered that Munch received a zero for a reading assignment that was done in class (that still has not been received by me). In reviewing the county’s website, Administrative Procedures 5121.1 I understand Reporting and Recording Grades it states that a zero can be given if “a teacher determines that the student did not attempt to meet the basic requirements of the task/assessment, the teacher may assign a zero.”

Which apparently Mrs. O determined that my son didn’t attempt to meet the basic requirements. This is inaccurate since according to Ms. V he did the assignment it just wasn’t legible.  On top of that zero Ms. V indicated that she decided not to count some of the homework that he’s done this quarter. I know homework is only 15% but he did the work and it should be counted.  Since the zero he received in classwork is 35% of his grade and being counted.

I’m trying to determine why that would be the case considering that the Grading Policy states: 

Recording

a. Teachers will maintain a record of each student’s work, progress, and attendance on a daily basis.

b. Teachers will grade and give a score for all student assignments in grades 2-5, when appropriate, including class work, homework, written assignments, projects, and labs. A score of 0 (zero) will be given to students who do not attempt to complete or fail to submit an assignment. On tests and quizzes, the student will receive the grade earned. This does not preclude teachers from giving daily markdowns to give students every opportunity to complete an assignment before giving a zero for the assignment.

What is interesting to note is that in that same Admin Reg it states that “In classes that meet 4-5 times per week, the classroom teacher must record in SchoolMAX a minimum of two grades per week in each subject for each student. If a class meets once a week then only one grade will be recorded.”  This is not happening in all my son’s classes consistently. We can review his School Max account and you can see this.  Furthermore, we don’t receive the paperwork back in a timely fashion which is also a requirement. “Teachers will return graded papers and assignments in order to provide on-going, timely feedback to student and parents.”

Am I only required to check SchoolMax to see if my son is having trouble or are we supposed to receive the graded assignments timely so that we as his parents and our son are on the same page with his struggles?

So, here’s a summation of what the issues are that we would like resolution on:

  • He received a zero and according to the Admin Procedures 5121.1 that should not have happened.
  • No opportunity was given to my son to earn partial credit from redoing the class work or reading it orally since he was present and did the class work.
  • We haven’t seen the class work assignment that he received a zero on.  We want to see the assignment that he go the zero on.
  • We are not receiving graded assignments in a timely fashion to be provided timely feedback on our son’s progress.
  • The homework that he did that is missing from School Max wasn’t counted and according to the policy it should have been. It not being counted will negatively impact my son’s grade since the teacher is trying to count the zero.

We would like this situation rectified before 3rd quarter ends this week. The county has guidelines that I assume all teachers are supposed to follow and we would like to make sure that this policy is being followed when it comes to my son’s teachers to ensure that my son has every opportunity to be successful in the second grade.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing a response to you on the above issues that I’ve outlined. 

Boom!

I had read and researched the County’s policy regarding grading and found the above information to outline to the Principal. I had to let the Principal know that I had researched the policy and I needed some guidance because I didn’t believe that this was fair. I was concerned for my son’s grades, how assignments are not being sent home and no response to my email regarding her not counting his homework.

See my concerns here?

The Second Grade Chronicles: Math

mathmakeslife

 

I have to tell you that I’m struggling with trying to understand this common core and teaching Munch. Add to it the fact that it is in French and you will see why I am dying. I get that Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful but it is teaching the long way to do something. Which is why I’m frustrated. Is the shorter way robbing our children of the ability to be critical thinkers? Heck no! It’s just making me struggle when trying to teach my 7-year-old math concepts.

I know I’m not the only one. I read all about parents being frustrated and seeming ill-equipped to help their children with their math. I consider myself to be intelligent but this is ridiculous. He’s in second grade and I don’t know common core math.

Here’s an example of what Munch is learning:

Common-Core

Confused yet? He’s having trouble adding 4 double-digit numbers together. So, I went to Amazon and reviewed and purchased some math books. I have to get ahead of this math so that he won’t fall behind. Hopefully these books will help. The teacher sent home a username and password for a program called First in Math that he likes. He awards medals each week to the child who has the most points. So, we work on math daily.
image

He got his first report card last week and got 2 C’s in Math and in French reading and instruction. So, I got him a French tutor who will teach him both French and Math. He’s a 17-year-old student who is fluent in French. I want those C’s to B’s or A’s by next quarter and I’m willing to invest in his education without stressing him out. Because God knows that this math is killing me.

“I think I can”

“I think I can”

Ugh! I hate math!

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Ah, the joys of parenting!