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Letter from school....how to respond??? - Page 3

post #41 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
Okay, I need to post another response. Why is everyone getting so hostile to teachers? Where in the form letter did it imply that "schools own the children" or "learning can only take place in the classroom?" No teacher I know has ever said that, just the opposite - they are trying to get it through to parents that primary responsibility belongs to the parents and the teachers can't fix problems that parents won't. Teachers also encourage parents to do educational activities with their kids rather than turn on the tube while Mommy talks on the phone and Daddy has a beer. The form letter was required, and attendance can and does affect performance in school. Kids can plummet when they miss school. If you don't think second grade is important, think again. Would you buy a house where the contractors were sloppy with the foundation? Come on, it's not like its the shingles on the roof, for heaven's sake, it's only the foundation! See what I mean?


Surely you don't believe that an education hinges on one week of worksheets in grade 2. If the education system truly believes that "Learning is not only reflected in written work, but primarily takes place during hands-on activities, discussion and interaction between teachers and students" then why question the value of a family vacation when there is so much rich opportunity for discussion and interaction, and hands on experiences.
For many parents, education may be a huge priority but "schooling" may not be. Education is about so much more than what kids get in school and the letter came across as totally sanctimonious in my opinion because it dismissed the educational value of everything except school.

I'm not in the States so I am not clear on the excused/unexcused distinction but this thread has had me thinking about American culture. Dh and I were talking about how ludicrous it is that in a country that defines itself as the land of the free, parents are not permitted to remove their children from school without repercussions. It's especially mind-bogglingly ironic in the case of one of the PPs who wants to be able to spend time as a family before her husband is sent to Iraq.
I personally would send a letter stating that I found the letter and its assumptions to be offensive. If no one speaks up now, what are the chances anything will change. Just because its red tape doesn't mean it isn't ridiculous.
Karen
post #42 of 64
It probably is just a form letter.

Just to defend the other side , I think it is important that we remember that teachers have their own programme that they have planned carefully, presumably one that they hope will be enriching for the children and that will allow the children to learn what they are supposed to learn that year in school. Absences disrupt this programme and therefore, understandably, are not appreciated.

Unnecessary absences also, in a way, devalue the teacher's job. She or he is not there just to babysit but to teach a certain number of things. I wouldn't like to be a teacher, have planned a school play, for example, or class project on dinosaurs, or a workshop on penguins (you get the idea) only to find out that families think so little of my job that they are pulling their kids out of school in the middle of what we will be doing, such that when the child returns to school, I have to fill him in on what he has missed.

Full disclosure: we WILL be taking our daughter to Paris and she will miss a Monday and Tuesday of school. She's three, so I am assuming that it won't be such a big deal. But I know that next year, her teachers won't think so kindly of us doing this, when they are in the midst of teaching the children to print their names, or the year after, when they start cursive writing. I suppose one answer could be, well she will learn just as much on the trip, but the point is that there is a programme at school that they are intended to learn and when we pull our kids out, we disrupt that programme. And if we don't like the school programme, we should homeschool.
post #43 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maggieinnh View Post
If they require you to do all that for missing 5 or 7 days of school a year, I'd be careful not to do that too often, otherwise they might be taking your children away from you in a few years. They are filing all this in their neat little folders and are building a case against you as a bad parent who does not know what you are doing and will see you unfit to raise your children!
This might sound harsh, but to make you go through all this for 5 days a year, they are doing it with a reason, I am not saying they for sure will, but it is not a far step from what you have to do now for a few days. Be careful!
You are giving people waaay to much credit and power over how you behave.
post #44 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
Okay, I need to post another response. Why is everyone getting so hostile to teachers? Where in the form letter did it imply that "schools own the children" or "learning can only take place in the classroom?" No teacher I know has ever said that, just the opposite - they are trying to get it through to parents that primary responsibility belongs to the parents and the teachers can't fix problems that parents won't.
Not to rant at you personally at all, but to answer your question honestly about the hostility - my son's not even in public school yet and I'm tired of all the gobs of material and judgmental (even positively so) statements that I'm getting about "what I should be doing now."

There just seems to be an assumption that parents are clueless people who are ruining their children and it's the role of early childhood educators / librarians / physicians / teachers to prevent us ignorant folk from messing up our kids by, you know, failing to read the cereal box to them every morning.

For example - we have two libraries in our immediate neighbourhood and mostly I have taken my son to a particular one. We showed up at the second one and the librarian asked me how long I'd been in the neighbourhood and I said two years, and she delivered a lecture on how I should be bringing my two year old son to the library every week. And before I left she presented me with a book called "Read to your Bunny" which was, seriously, horrid.

What she obviously didn't know and didn't bother to find out before attempting to save my son from the ravages of illiteracy is that I'm an editor and a writer and he's been going to readings and booksignings and poetry readings and storytelling festivals since he was conceived, pretty literally, as well as the other library branch on yes, a weekly basis.

I was so angry at the series of assumptions that she made and the pretty lousy tone she used with me, and when I read about these letters and pledges and homework assignments that teachers and educations send home in order to, quite honestly, control the time I spend with my child I just start to see red.

I do understand it comes out of a desire to help kids and that mandatory education is supposed to be a way of protecting children, but in my opinion it has gone way, way over the top.

And this is the piece that really gets my goat: while the schools are essentially asking us parents to be mindful of our children's education and their particular teacher and classroom's requirements every day, they are sending out pretty mindless, kind of petty and cheap sorts of bureaucratic nonsense. Which sometimes isn't even spelled correctly. It's troubling to me.

Well that was long winded.
post #45 of 64
Sorry I got hotheaded, but parents have to understand, and write to their congressmen, that schools are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they don't take attendance and send these letters, they are negligent. If they do, they are rude, sanctimonious, and ignorant. Teachers are parents too, they know that lots of learning takes place outside the classroom, but a lot of it takes place inside as well. They are just trying to prevent students from faltering because misguided parents think 2nd grade is no big deal. Depending on the student, it can be a very big deal. If you wish to avoid these letters, write to your congressman asking the government politely to butt out. It would be less of a burden on schools, too.
post #46 of 64
Karen, your response had some very good points. Public education is government run, and while public education is a gift not every country has, we have to bear in mind that....well, it's government run. So just like any other country, even the land of the free will have form letters. Schools also don't want to suffer repercussions if a child has to repeat a grade because parents didn't take education seriously or handle it well, something that drags kids in my school down all the time. Don't get an impression on Americans, since it varies from town to town, and parts of Europe and Japan are even stricter. The good news is it's legal to home school in the US which in my opinion is very freeing and full of potential. But I have to ask, if parents are paying out of their own pockets for education at a private school, would they leave for a week?
post #47 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
Karen, your response had some very good points. Public education is government run, and while public education is a gift not every country has, we have to bear in mind that....well, it's government run. So just like any other country, even the land of the free will have form letters. Schools also don't want to suffer repercussions if a child has to repeat a grade because parents didn't take education seriously or handle it well, something that drags kids in my school down all the time. Don't get an impression on Americans, since it varies from town to town, and parts of Europe and Japan are even stricter. The good news is it's legal to home school in the US which in my opinion is very freeing and full of potential. But I have to ask, if parents are paying out of their own pockets for education at a private school, would they leave for a week?

Since becoming a homeschooling family I have been amazed at the learning opportunities that my kids encounter in every day life. I would absolutely pull my kids out of school for a week for travel (of any kind), or an afternoon to attend a concert or go bike riding on a magnificent fall day because we regular experience the incredible learning and connections that happen when our kids are engaged in new or interesting activites.
I would be one of those parents you would hate because I think that school is one of the least important components of education and I felt that way even when my child was in school. But I have seen the light bulb go on for my kids and passion become ignited over chance encounters that absolutely would not have happened in school.

I admire the work that teachers do, but I also think many of them approach all parents as a necessary evil rather than a true partner in a child's education. Even comments in your response to me reveal your assumptions that parents don't take education seriously if they don't think that school attendance is the most important aspect of a good education. It may be important to schooling but education and schooling are rarely equivalent - even in grade 2.

Karen
post #48 of 64
Karen, I certainly wouldn't hate you because I actually am a big believer in homeschooling. My cousins were homeschooled, I wish I had been, and I've seen it succeed most of the time. A lot of teachers do get snooty about homeschooling and I think they are missing the mark on that. They think of the stereotypical far right homeschoolers. I really would never discourage anyone from homeschooling, but if you choose not to homeschool, then I think you should invest all you can into getting the most out of the school your child attends. And if you send your kids to a public school, you should just roll your eyes at these letters and move on.
post #49 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
I really would never discourage anyone from homeschooling, but if you choose not to homeschool, then I think you should invest all you can into getting the most out of the school your child attends. And if you send your kids to a public school, you should just roll your eyes at these letters and move on.
Philosophically, I just can't agree that the way to deal with the public school system is "suck it up, or leave." Many, many families NEED to use the public school system for various reasons; that's why it's public.
post #50 of 64
Public school is a blessing, and people shouldn't put up with just anything, but sweating over little things makes no sense at all. We lose energy for the big things. But if public school really isn't working, don't wait for the system to change, take your kid out right away. But nothing is perfect. Form letter home? Shrug.
post #51 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
Public school is a blessing, and people shouldn't put up with just anything, but sweating over little things makes no sense at all. We lose energy for the big things. But if public school really isn't working, don't wait for the system to change, take your kid out right away. But nothing is perfect. Form letter home? Shrug.
But I don't agree that it is a little thing. The school - and "the State" - are asserting the rights and needs of the system over what the family thinks is best for the child. Besides the fact that the letter is condescending and sanctimonious, it speaks to the fact that the schools system and often by extention many of its teachers feel that they have a right and a duty to dictate how a family should spend its time and how it should set priorities. (As an aside there was an article in the NYT this week about a teacher who assigns homework to the parents of his highschool students and docks the students if the parents refuse. That is WAY over the line in my opinion.)

The school system should serve the child's education - not the other way around.

If teachers and adminstrators don't believe what they put in the letter they shouldn't send it, they should reword it, or they should only send it to parents of children who are struggling due to absenses, rather pass it on blindly. They are the system and if they don't like what is happening it is as much their responsiblity as it is the parents to affect change.
post #52 of 64
The letter wasn't dictating any requirement, more of a disclaimer if grades start to falter. Also, schools can't single out students who are struggling; they have to send them to everybody to make it *fair.* They're annoying, but at the end of the day, irrelevant. I guess it is an argument not to rely on the government to heavily, since the more we depend on it the more controlling it becomes. If the form letter is a precursor to child protective services, then get out of that school pronto. But if it's just a dumb form letter, just roll your eyes and move on.
post #53 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosebud1 View Post
As an elementary school teacher, I have to respond to the "it's just second grade" part. I have found that what kids learn in early elementary can be the foundation of their learning to come. The content of those early grades (reading, writing, basic math) we use as adults daily. I teach Kindergarten and First grade and it is pretty amazing what we get through in one day. If their teacher is a good one, kids do miss alot when they are not there, learning experiences that cannot be easily replicated. Now, you say that you do a lot of work with your child at home, and that is excellent. I wish I had more parents like you. But please see it from the school's point of view -- I can tell you from my experience that many other parents who pull their kids out are not working with them outside of school. And when their children are low performing due to attendance issues, it is frequently the teacher who is blamed.

Also, parents have to realize that many learning experiences cannot be replicated through a packet of worksheets or take home work. Some learning experiences come from the group, through class discussion, or from hands on learning, or from using special manipulative tools that are not readily available. The "worksheet" usually follows teacher modeling, group work, etc.
A worksheet doesn't teach, it just is one way of showing what the child already knows.

If your family vacation is very important to you and you make a concerted effort to include educational and broadening experiences, go for it. You are the parent, make the decision that you think is the right one. You know what is best for the child. But I don't think you can fault the school for having concerns about attendance -- too many parents are careless in this regard. Your attitude about school will affect your child's. And if you have concerns that this school does not share your values, perhaps you should homeschool.

Best wishes to you.
As a second grade teacher I completely agree with this post.
post #54 of 64
I can see both sides. On one hand, what if all the kids were just randomly taking week or two-week vacations throughout the school year. I could see that being disruptive to the flow of the class and hard on a teacher to have to constantly be dealing with kids who missed a week.

Parents though should be the final authority over their family life. I often wonder whatever happened to the battle cry of: Live free or die. Planning family vacations seems to be yet one more area that we've given over to the (nanny) state to tell us when to go. As a parent, that does not sit well with me

Personlly, I'd like to see a shorter summer break with more week or two-week breaks throughout the year. It might be one way to compromise...

Op- I am not even sure what would be accomplished with a letter to the principal but we as parents have to start somewhere. Whatever you write, make sure to send it to the district office too. Changing a bureaucracy as big as the public school system is nothing less than mind numbing.
post #55 of 64
Thread Starter 
Quote:
There just seems to be an assumption that parents are clueless people who are ruining their children and it's the role of early childhood educators / librarians / physicians / teachers to prevent us ignorant folk from messing up our kids by, you know, failing to read the cereal box to them every morning.
I admit that this is how I feel alot of the time.

Quote:
Teachers also encourage parents to do educational activities with their kids rather than turn on the tube while Mommy talks on the phone and Daddy has a beer.
Not all parents are like this, or even close. Perceptions are a two way thing, kwim?

Oh and this...

Quote:
Kinda seems like the schoolwork just wasn't as much of a priority for you as the vacation, where the school's supposedly only priority is school work.
Please don't make value judgment on me and my family; the vacation was planned a year and half ago because of my husbands deployment schedule, and it was three weeks after the start of the school year.
Oh, and the school doesn't pull work together for vacations anyhow, so all the notice in the world wouldn't have made a differnce.
post #56 of 64
SDM, I certainly didn't mean for you to feel like one of those parents that sticks their kids in front of the tube. I just felt that most teachers aren't trying to minimize parental involvement, many are struggling to get a lot of people to even do basic involvement like showing up for conferences. Not all parents are like that, it's true, but enough are like that to cause concern. I didn't agree with so many posters saying that teachers don't want parent input. My uncle is in Iraq right now, and I hope your husband will be safe and sound. One vacation won't ruin everything. But a form letter is just that- a form letter. They're not important.
post #57 of 64
I agree that it is a struggle to have parents get involved with their child's education a lot of the time.

It sounds like you are a great, involved mommy! I would just toss the letter and keep your great memories from vacation!
post #58 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
Not to rant at you personally at all, but to answer your question honestly about the hostility - my son's not even in public school yet and I'm tired of all the gobs of material and judgmental (even positively so) statements that I'm getting about "what I should be doing now."

There just seems to be an assumption that parents are clueless people who are ruining their children and it's the role of early childhood educators / librarians / physicians / teachers to prevent us ignorant folk from messing up our kids by, you know, failing to read the cereal box to them every morning.

For example - we have two libraries in our immediate neighbourhood and mostly I have taken my son to a particular one. We showed up at the second one and the librarian asked me how long I'd been in the neighbourhood and I said two years, and she delivered a lecture on how I should be bringing my two year old son to the library every week. And before I left she presented me with a book called "Read to your Bunny" which was, seriously, horrid.

What she obviously didn't know and didn't bother to find out before attempting to save my son from the ravages of illiteracy is that I'm an editor and a writer and he's been going to readings and booksignings and poetry readings and storytelling festivals since he was conceived, pretty literally, as well as the other library branch on yes, a weekly basis.

I was so angry at the series of assumptions that she made and the pretty lousy tone she used with me, and when I read about these letters and pledges and homework assignments that teachers and educations send home in order to, quite honestly, control the time I spend with my child I just start to see red.

I do understand it comes out of a desire to help kids and that mandatory education is supposed to be a way of protecting children, but in my opinion it has gone way, way over the top.

And this is the piece that really gets my goat: while the schools are essentially asking us parents to be mindful of our children's education and their particular teacher and classroom's requirements every day, they are sending out pretty mindless, kind of petty and cheap sorts of bureaucratic nonsense. Which sometimes isn't even spelled correctly. It's troubling to me.

Well that was long winded.
This was an AWESOME post. AWESOME. Teachers' attitudes toward parents are often worse than condescending. Though OBVIOUSLY not all teachers demonstrate this attitude, many believe themselves to be "social correctors" of other people's ignorance and poor parenting. You're right about the ignorance they often turn around and demonstrate themselves. It's more than unprofessional: it is disturbing.
post #59 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmeyrick View Post
But I have to ask, if parents are paying out of their own pockets for education at a private school, would they leave for a week?
Yes. When dd was 3, we took her out of school early for a trip to Germany and Turkey, when she was 4 she missed 1 week at Winter Break for Switzerland and Turkey, and just a few weeks ago, she missed a week for London. In all these situations she learned a hell of a lot more than she would have been learning in school. I'd never take her out of school to take her to an amusement park, though. That one's a stretch.

Anyway, I have been following this thread with interest. We pay to send dd to school... it is our largest expense financially and we have put it as priority #1 behind retirement in terms of money and time invested. I don't necessarily think that the rules change because you are paying additional $ for your child's education.

I see education as a joint venture between a school and parents (if you're not homeschooling) but that is in a perfect world and we all know that it doesn't work that way for probably as much as 85% of the kids out there. The purpose of that form letter is for people like my sister.

My sister has two grown daughters. When she was sending her kids to school, she would take them out of school for a week to just go visit her husband's aunt. The girls failed school multiple times and after my sister was threatened with CPS, she pulled them out to "homeschool" them. Neither learned to read until they were adults and out of her house.

This is the kind of situation that these schools (and form letters) are intended for. For some kids, the school is the ONLY advocate these kids have. Parents are unaware that kids are making it to school. Parents are shirking their responsibility to get their kids to school. A school administration can't know that one particular set of parents are actually *mindful* of their child's education, so everyone gets lumped together.

It may not be the optimal situation, but they are focusing on the least common denominator here... the parent who doesn't care.
post #60 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by velochic View Post
My sister has two grown daughters. When she was sending her kids to school, she would take them out of school for a week to just go visit her husband's aunt. The girls failed school multiple times and after my sister was threatened with CPS, she pulled them out to "homeschool" them. Neither learned to read until they were adults and out of her house.

This is the kind of situation that these schools (and form letters) are intended for. For some kids, the school is the ONLY advocate these kids have. Parents are unaware that kids are making it to school. Parents are shirking their responsibility to get their kids to school. A school administration can't know that one particular set of parents are actually *mindful* of their child's education, so everyone gets lumped together.

It may not be the optimal situation, but they are focusing on the least common denominator here... the parent who doesn't care.
I just wonder if a letter like that really would infuence a parent who didn't care. To me, and I care, it starts to become so much "noise." Your sister's reaction kind of supports that bias that I have, that the letters don't work for anyone.
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