Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Things That Really Matter

It has been a slow week here at Exercise in Futility due to the demands of my job. Unfortunately, things are going to get a lot harder from here on. Tonight was parent/teacher conference night at my son's school. I met with his reading teacher and his 1st grade teacher and the news was not good. My son is doing very poorly in school and he is far behind his other classmates. He is having difficulty in virtually every category, including reading, math, or writing. I met with his reading teacher first, and by the end of our fifteen or twenty minutes together, I was feeling very depressed and knew that I was going to hear more of the same from my son's first grade teacher.

I am going to have to devote much more of my time at home to helping my son by reinforcing what he is being taught in school. The task is complicated by the fact that I am often alone during the evening with both my son and my daughter. Between feeding them, bathing them, and breaking up fights between them, it isn't always easy to set aside a significant block of time with my son so that I can give him the personalized attention that he needs. But given the circumstances, I will have to find a way. Consequently, for the time being, I will be cutting back on my blog time. Taking a more active role in my son's education must take priority.

That being the case, look for new posts this weekend as I share my observations of the Secular Society and Its Enemies conference in downtown Manhattan this coming Saturday and Sunday.


tina FCD said...

Your child is more important, I can wait for new blogs. I'll check in every once in while.

Andrea said...

Really sorry to hear that, Tommy. My brother was the same way in school. I know you'll do what's best for your boy.

Stardust said...

that's why we ended up homeschooling. They expect all kids to learn at the same rate. Our oldest son was bored to tears, having to slow down and was going over things he already knew...our middle son needed my husband to get up early in the morning before work to get him to understand Trig. We always thought "what DO they do in those six hours that gave them hours of homework to do AFTER school?" There is so much other crap going on, and the teacher has no time for individual attention. Many times the teachers are not that knowledgeable about their subject matter. Most parents think that teachers are experts, when in fact most chose that profession because they didn't want a real job and want to have their summers off. Few teachers are dedicated. Being a teacher for a time, I know what I am talking about first-hand.

It's memorization and regurgitation to do well on state tests that is the goal.

Your son is an individual. Don't be depressed. Each child learns at his or her own pace, and his difficulties may not be his fault.

Stardust said...

Sorry to rant, but this is a subject that gets me going even more than religion. Having to deal with school crap was the most exasperating part of parenting!

Hang in there, tommy. It's got to be tough with both parents having to work. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with our three.

Tommykey said...

Thanks for the supportive words ladies!

Trissa + Joel said...

Tommy, sorry to hear about your son. I really hope the extra support you are able to give will help him greatly improve. I think it's

As a total side note...I agree with stardust that teachers have a hard time due to large classes and lack of resources. However, it's total BS that most teachers got into the business to have summers off or because they didn't want real job. As the child of an educator I was able to see that it's not an easy job by any means! It's demanding, emotionally exhausting and challenging. I'm sure there are some people who got into it for the wrong reasons, but they don't last long.

Stardust said...

trissa, as an English major and coming from a family full of dedicated teachers, we all see the same thing...few dedicated teachers, and most want the job because of free summers. I have several teacher friends, and when I returned to college in my 40s to change fields from Graphic Artists, to English major...when going around the room introducing ourselves, MOST of the number one reasons were "to have my summers off"...very few said "because I am so dedicated". Then raising three children and putting them through the elementary and middle school systems, and our older two partly through high school, our encounters with teachers were rarely impressive. Most, when questioned didn't even seem like experts in their own "major".

Stardust said...

In addition, our daughter, when in 8th grade took the US Constitution test...and got several answers wrong that were marked correct. When we went to the school to complain, the gym teacher who was teaching U.S. Government on the side said "what's the matter...she passed"...and then there were teachers who let poor spelling slide with the kids of a neighbor of mine. When the mom complained (the mother is a teacher) the teacher of the child said "that's not important anymore...we have spellchecker".

These are only a few examples. I could write volumes of teacher crap over the years.

And we live in a "Blue Ribbon" school district.

That is why we stayed actively involved in our kids educations. That is why we allowed them to leave the high school factory education and independent study. They had their A.A degrees the same year their peers graduated from high school.

Schools waste too much time on bullcrap. They don't really teach. A teacher presents material that the school board decides's up to the child to memorize and regurgitate most of it. If they learn anything, it's on their own or what their parents help them learn.

Tommykey said...

Hi Trissa! Welcome back. How's the married life treating ya?

Thanks for your comments. I think both you and Stardust are right. When you consider how many people are employed in public schools in this country, you are going to find very many dedicated teachers as well as a good deal too many who do a lousy job. In my own personal experience in beign a student in the public schools, some were very good and made a positive impression on me, while others were unfit for the job.

It is my impression that my son's teachers are rather dedicated at what they do. And because Andrew is so young, they believe his problems need to be addressed now at this early stage rather than later when he becomes sullen and unwilling to learn.

When I work with him alone and do reinforce some of what he is being taught in school, there are moments when he "gets it." I am planning to take three days off from work without pay the week of thanksgiving so that I will have an entire week to work with him and help him catch up to his classmates. We'll see how it goes.

Stardust said...

tommy, you are a good and dedicated dad. It would be great if all parents were as concerned. :-) The success of a child's education is mostly with the parents. I think that is the main point I was trying to make.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share my sympathy, and echo agreement with the others: Your son IS the most important, and our schools DO suck. And as the son of a teacher, I recognize that this isn't the fault of each individual teacher.

I don't mean to meddle, but you might want to try to find out what your son is really being taught: some kids have trouble with the "whole language" or "integrated mathematics" approaches which are so popular these days. (Many kids find it easier to learn to sound out words than memorize their shapes, as if we spoke Chinese. And a word of warning: sometimes the schools will mislead as to which approach is in use.) I've had a number of friends who have struggled with the public schools over such issues.

I also want to leave a hopeful note: as a kid, I was doing badly in a few classes, but it turned out that I was just bored and not particularly good at memorization. My parents' attention helped me a lot. Others I know had dyslexia, or short attention spans, etc. With love, support, and the right methods or context, barriers can be overcome.

Best to you, Tommy.

Tommykey said...

Thanks for your kind words Tim.

Happily, my son does seem to be showing some progress when I work with him. We're not quite there yet, but there moments here and there that encourage me.

His reading teacher gave me a list of 39 words that he should know by now, and she highlighted the ones he did not know, which was most of them, in yellow. Last night when I was going over them with him by writing them on a dry erase markerboard, there were about 5 or 6 that he read out loud to me immediately without any prompting by me. Several others he seemed to get during the course of the evening. He also seems to have gotten that adding x + 0 will always equal x.

The biggest challenge to getting him to read is to instill in him that he needs to sound out the letters so that he doesn't look that the word "yellow" and guess "purple".

Thanks again all for your words of support.