Archive for August 2010

Help Somebody: Each one, teach one   Leave a comment

(Started this when I woke-up this morning) It’s only 9:18 in the morning and I am up. Not really spectacular, unless I tell you the other part: I didn’t get in the bed until 4:00 this morning! (Blame it on the not-so-good influences of @VisionSpeaks and @ClaytonMuhammad. Beware of the company you keep on Twitter!) On any other day I probably would have stayed in bed after the kids left for school, but today is different. I got another one of those phone calls yesterday (sometimes it’s one of those emails) from a parent of a child with Special Needs.

It all started a few months ago at the birthday party of my kid’s classmates. Initially, I had planned to do what the mom suggested, just drop-off the kid and come back later but for some reason I stayed. As the party went on, the adults sat around the kitchen table talking and playing Spades (y’all know how we do), we really got to learn a lot about eachother. It just so happened that the hostess had family members who drove in from Ohio, so there was a house full of kids and noise. As we talked, one of the kids came in from outside and began asking his mom for 1,001 things (y’all know how kids do!). Well this particular kid has Special Needs’ I don’t remember every diagnosis she rattled off but I was able to ascertain what his primary classification would be if he lived in Georgia.

Anywho, mom talked about the different doctor visits for various reasons, including experimenting with different medications. As we continued to talk, she explained that her son was on this and that, for this and that. I listened intently but I also watched her son’s behavior, trying to figure out why he was taking meds for ADHD when I hadn’t seen any signs of hyperactivity during the several hours I had been there. (Side note: They skipped a few doses during the summer since he was at home all day. But I still should have seen something.) Now I understand that there are some parents who prefer to medicate their kids for better behavior management and self-preservation. In no way am I judging those who do, but I always caution parents about starting kids on ‘new’ medications without doing research and being fully aware of side-effects and long-term consequences. I have seen both sides: Kids who should have been on something and kids who had no business being on their prescribed drug, or anything at all. I even had a student who fell asleep EVERYDAY and never ate while he was meds. I would have to force candy or some type of snack on him. But he was a completely different person when he didn’t take the meds: He was very active (which didn’t bother me) and he gained weight because he regained his appetite. Those obvious behavioral differences make me a little wary about giving kids meds just to keep them in a seat.

We continued talking about her son and some of the ‘problems’ he had during the past school year. I couldn’t help giggle a little because every time he came in the house he would look at me and smile. I was thinking: ‘Yeah, I can tell that he can be a hell-raiser when he wants to!’ But in all fairness to him, he has several health issues and has been on a slew of medications, but I don’t doubt that his outbursts were his way of saying ‘I’m not getting what I need and I am sick of all these damn pills!’ (Well, he probably wouldn’t say damn, but you get the point.) Also, he is non-verbal so I am sure that adds to his frustration. As she talked, I rattled off questions:

Me: Have you gone to every IEP meeting?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Do you understand everything they talk about in the IEP meetings?

Mom: No. I don’t understand a lot of that stuff.

Me: You have the right to ask questions. You are not required to sign anything. Has anyone ever told you that you have access to an advocate?

Mom: No. I can’t afford someone to help me.

Me: The advocates are free. If I am not mistaken, the federal government pays for advocates in every state. At least that’s how it works in here.

Long story short(er): I told mom that I would contact the Ohio Department of Education and find the person in charge of parent advocates, then pass on the info to her. And that’s exactly what I did. I thought that’s where it ended, but there was another family member (who resides in Georgia) who needed help. You will have to wait until tomorrow to read about that one because this post is already longer than I intended and I’m sleepy! But seriously, we are awaiting a response from someone at the Georgia Department of Education. I promise to give you an update!

Thanks for muddling through this!

Eureka: When do kids 'get' it? Part II   Leave a comment

This is not the blog I have been working on all day but my thoughts are too long for a Tweet!

So yesterday my oldest comes home from school. Our usual conversation:

Me: How was school?

Him: Good. I don’t have any homework.

Me: None?

Him: Nope. I have a Geometry test on Friday.

Me: Well you need to go over your notes tonight.

Him: Our teacher said that we will do the review in class tomorrow.

Me: If you didn’t get any homework, that means you will likely have a quiz tomorrow. Trust me. You need to study your notes.

So a few hours passed and I asked him if he had studied; he said no. I reiterated what I said earlier (Think: Madea):

‘You need to study! If you didn’t get homework you will have a quiz tomorrow!

Fast forward to 10 minutes ago.

Me: How was school?

Him: Good. Guess what? We had a pop quiz in Geometry today! I got a 100!

Me: Mmmm hmmm. What did I tell you? Now what would have happened if you hadn’t studied?

Him: I would have gotten them all wrong!

Question: How many Mamma’s does it take to turn on the light bulb?

Answer: Just one, if you do it right!

Proud of my ‘baby!’

Eureka: When do kids ‘get’ it? Part II   Leave a comment

This is not the blog I have been working on all day but my thoughts are too long for a Tweet!

So yesterday my oldest comes home from school. Our usual conversation:

Me: How was school?

Him: Good. I don’t have any homework.

Me: None?

Him: Nope. I have a Geometry test on Friday.

Me: Well you need to go over your notes tonight.

Him: Our teacher said that we will do the review in class tomorrow.

Me: If you didn’t get any homework, that means you will likely have a quiz tomorrow. Trust me. You need to study your notes.

So a few hours passed and I asked him if he had studied; he said no. I reiterated what I said earlier (Think: Madea):

‘You need to study! If you didn’t get homework you will have a quiz tomorrow!

Fast forward to 10 minutes ago.

Me: How was school?

Him: Good. Guess what? We had a pop quiz in Geometry today! I got a 100!

Me: Mmmm hmmm. What did I tell you? Now what would have happened if you hadn’t studied?

Him: I would have gotten them all wrong!

Question: How many Mamma’s does it take to turn on the light bulb?

Answer: Just one, if you do it right!

Proud of my ‘baby!’

When do kids 'get it?'   Leave a comment

So as you all know, my kids (and the entire Gwinnett County School System) went back-to-school last week. Some of you are still enjoying your summer, but it’s back to business for 160k+ kids in our system, as well as those in Atlanta Public Schools and other metro districts.

One day last week as the oldest is doing homework for his online class, he asked me why he was taking it, when none of his other classmates at South Gwinnett are taking online classes (in addition to the six they take in school). My first reaction was to reach-out and touch him, not á la Diana Ross but more along the lines of Madea. Fortunately for him, I exerted some (temporary) restraint…for now anyway. He doesn’t quite understand that the decisions I make regarding his education are in his best interest, not mine…unless of course you count OPERATION: We need to get you out of my house by 18′ in my best interest…

I recognized a long time ago that my son is not me. By that, I mean he does not possess the same level of motivation to excel in school that I had/have. By 7th grade, I decided where I would go to college-and I actually graduated from that university. My son, eh….not so much. He is still at that stage where he questions why he has to do this, that, and more than everyone else. He doesn’t quite ‘get it’ yet and I am wondering when/if he will. In my last post I ranted about the school’s/district’s low expectations for students; at least from my point-of-view they are low. I don’t see as nearly as many academic challenges that were impressed upon me when I was in high school. So how do I get this child to understand that low expectations are not the norm?  Maybe his drive will kick-in a little later. I certainly hope so because he possesses the aptitude, the attitude just needs to catch-up. Any suggestions?

Ok, gotta go. I have some Geometry homework to do.

When do kids ‘get it?’   Leave a comment

So as you all know, my kids (and the entire Gwinnett County School System) went back-to-school last week. Some of you are still enjoying your summer, but it’s back to business for 160k+ kids in our system, as well as those in Atlanta Public Schools and other metro districts.

One day last week as the oldest is doing homework for his online class, he asked me why he was taking it, when none of his other classmates at South Gwinnett are taking online classes (in addition to the six they take in school). My first reaction was to reach-out and touch him, not á la Diana Ross but more along the lines of Madea. Fortunately for him, I exerted some (temporary) restraint…for now anyway. He doesn’t quite understand that the decisions I make regarding his education are in his best interest, not mine…unless of course you count OPERATION: We need to get you out of my house by 18′ in my best interest…

I recognized a long time ago that my son is not me. By that, I mean he does not possess the same level of motivation to excel in school that I had/have. By 7th grade, I decided where I would go to college-and I actually graduated from that university. My son, eh….not so much. He is still at that stage where he questions why he has to do this, that, and more than everyone else. He doesn’t quite ‘get it’ yet and I am wondering when/if he will. In my last post I ranted about the school’s/district’s low expectations for students; at least from my point-of-view they are low. I don’t see as nearly as many academic challenges that were impressed upon me when I was in high school. So how do I get this child to understand that low expectations are not the norm?  Maybe his drive will kick-in a little later. I certainly hope so because he possesses the aptitude, the attitude just needs to catch-up. Any suggestions?

Ok, gotta go. I have some Geometry homework to do.

Georgia’s School Choice plan limited, room for improvement   1 comment

*I originally wrote this as an OpEd piece for the AJC. Not sure if they decided to publish it because I have not heard anything- #KanyeShrug Since @Havalah on Twitter asked me about School Choice (after reading my rant about school registration and Open House being on the same day, same time, etc., I decided to just use the OpEd piece as a blog.)

The Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 251 in 2009, allowing public school students to attend any school within the local board ‘…under certain conditions.’ According to the Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) web site, students cannot transfer for any of the following reasons: (1) Grievances arising from parent-school conflicts; (2) Peer group associations; (3) Discipline and/or attendance problems; or (4) General dissatisfaction with a particular school. Essentially, if a parent and a school cannot agree on decisions in the best interest of the child, or said child has issues with bullies or gangs, then s/he must remain at the assigned school. The only other options are a private school, one of the few charter schools in the largest school district, or home schooling. This school ‘choice’ option is an important issue for consideration, as Georgia students return to school in a few weeks.

For the past 2.5 years, I have home schooled my oldest who is now 15. He is preparing to (reluctantly) enter South Gwinnett High School as a sophomore this year. I will admit that I am very leery, as I am aware of some of the events that have happened at South, as well as other high schools in the metro area. By no means am I naïve, but at the same time I do not subscribe to the ‘Boys will be boys’ mantra because, well, all kids should have the expectation of being safe while on school grounds. After all, we expect our kids to attend school every day and perform well on state-mandated tests. The least we could do is ensure their safety, right? Perhaps I am the only parent who believes that but I am sure that I can find some kids who would agree.

Our decision to home school was not motivated by religious beliefs or my child’s intellectual ability. In fact, he is very bright and articulate, both characteristics that apparently warrant bullying these days. But eventually the bullying and apathetic attitude of the school became too much, for both of us. He hated going to school; I tired of hearing the stories of the same kids taunting him, without consequences. The problems began early on during the 7th grade, but I thought for sure that my visit to the school would change things. When I met with one of the Assistant Principals, he said ‘When I saw the referral come across my desk, I didn’t recognize his name.’ I was literally dumbfounded. What kind of conversation-starter was that? Again, I am not claiming that my son is angel but he does not go around looking for trouble. My son ended up having several run-ins with the same kid; one incident involved the bully cursing at him in front of the teacher. No disciplinary action was taken; that as unacceptable. These two were in some of the same classes for the first semester and the taunts continued.

Just a few weeks away from the new school year and I cannot help but wonder: ‘Where is the choice in School Choice?’ After you wade through the restrictions, consider any personal or professional obstacles that may hinder driving 30 minutes each way, everyday, you have to admit that Georgia’s law looks pretty in theory but is actually worthless in reality. Aside from purchasing homes in exclusive communities or paying tuition at private schools, what other options do parents have to ensure a quality education in a relatively secure learning environment? This district obviously does not believe in creating (accessible) charters and magnet schools, so what’s left for the rest of us?

Posted August 6, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

Why public education is messed-up, or My observations from today's orientation & open house fiascos   1 comment

Hey everybody! I’m baaaaaaaccckkkk! Took a much-needed break and enjoyed spending time with my mom, who came to help me paint and de-clutter. I think she really came because she knew I have been in a rut for…well, a long time. Anywho, I am back and ready to ‘go in’ on the Gwinnett County Public School System!

I think by now most of you know that I have homeschooled my oldest (15) for 2.5 years, but we (basically I) decided that he needs to go back to school this year (READ: I need a break). So we all got-up and went to the high school to register him today. In addition to the two classes I taught, he also took two online through the Georgia Virtual School. (I might add that he did really well in those two classes and on the 9th grade Literature End-of-Course Test.) Well, a few weeks ago I emailed the virtual school coordinator and asked her to fax a copy of his final grades and test score to South Gwinnett High School so they would be there when we went to register. Easy, right? WRONG! The coordinator was helpful and faxed everything on July 26. Well, that was almost 2 weeks ago so you’d think the school would have placed them in a place where they would be easy to find, right? WRONG! It took them at least 25 minutes to find the fax, but what got me is the fact that they had the unmitigated gall to ask me what it looked like. Huh?

So anyway, we go into the auditorium/theater to wait to see a counselor for a schedule. When our turn came, we exchanged pleasantries and took a seat at her table. While she busied herself with something else, I just happened to look at a course listing (it was right in front of my face). I wish you all could have seen how quickly she grabbed those papers from us and placed them on her side of the table! I could understand if the papers contained personal information about students (I would not have read them), but they were BLANK forms! It’s like she was scared I would obtain some sacred information reserved for college-educated folks (they never know I have several degrees, they just assume I’m ignorant because I have kids and no ring). But I let it slide. That niceness didn’t last long because chick thought I was about to sign a form without reading it or knowing what it was! I politely let her know: ‘I don’t sign anything without reading it first. What exactly is this anyway?’ Checkmate.

So chick is talking to my son and asking him about his interests and what he wants to do after graduating. He tells her that he is interested in acting, yada, yada, yada. She starts making out the schedule and I let her know that he doesn’t need World History because he will be taking it online. She offers to place him in U.S. History but I declined and said he can do another elective. I asked about Spanish. Get this: ALL of the first-year foreign language classes are closed! WTF? And they don’t even offer first-year French. She suggested that he take German. I looked at him and asked: ‘How many people do you know that speak German? It’s pretty much useless.” (Sorry if I offended any German speakers but it’s not very marketable, especially not here in Georgia.) I was just sitting there trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this big-ass school will not offer any first-year foreign language classes….I muttered something about something being backwards and she perked-up then! I was ready to move on but then chick said, ‘Well, he will have plenty of time to fulfill his foreign language requirements because we only require 2 units.’ There she goes with another assumption. Just because he is attending high school in the state of Georgia does not mean he will attend college here. I know that lowering standards and expectations is the standard, but we do things differently in our household. The admissions requirements to the state’s (public) colleges and universities is not on par with those of schools, both public and private, in other states but we will ensure that we meet those requirements. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and then took a placement test for college. I thought that was the norm, but I digress.

We finished up at the high school, but we had already missed Open House for grades K-2 at the elementary school (my 1st grader was non too pleased about that-see below), but we did manage to meet the 4th grade teacher. Our interaction lasted all of 7 minutes and then we were on our way out. As always, my mind was turning and I just started making a list in my head of why I really do HATE ineptitude and obvious lack of common sense/proper planning. (NOTE: This blog was just supposed to be a list but you all know how I do so stop complaining!) So here goes the list of ‘Things in Education that don’t  make no damn sense.’

  1. Who schedules registrations and open houses, across grade levels, at the same time on the same day? Apparently a ‘world-class’ district. My kid was disappointed because she didn’t get to meet her teacher.
  2. Who schedules these events during times that many parents have to work? See #1
  3. If you cannot offer foreign language, or any class due to student population, shouldn’t that tell you the school is too damn big?
  4. When you cannot offer said classes because the school is too damn big, shouldn’t you make plans for an additional high school instead of adding on to the add-ons?
  5. If parents take the time to visit the school, you should not have staff stationed at the end of hallways like the Gestapo, blocking off areas.
  6. Dear Principal: We DO NOT want to hear your screeching over the PA system every time we walk into the building. My ears are still bleeding!
  7. I need to start carrying around a pocket-sized copy of my degree, so when folks act as though they are talking to the village idiot, I can politely slide it across the table. No words necessary.
  8. 180 days of unknown….I’ll drink to that!

Later!