Oh, public school. Our love affair has trod upon a very rocky road, but I always come back to you. I’m starting to feel a little like a battered wife, but I come back! Because I love you! And you love me! Rather, you love my children. Sometimes. You certainly love my children when it’s time to Leave Every Child Behind and do state-mandated standardized testing, anyway.
And public school, it’s not me. It’s you. Seriously.
Oh, I was dazzled by your promise. I want to believe in the System. You know the one—the one that’s utterly, completely broken. And from where I sit, as a person of relative good fortune and privilege, I couldn’t stomach the idea of turning my back on those who are stuck without a choice just because we could, theoretically, choose something else. I want to be part of the Solution, I said.
So how’s it all working out so far?
Well, public school, you’re getting what you want out of my kids: They bring your aggregate test scores up, and you tell me that that’s a huge help. It’s nice to know you appreciate the loan, I suppose. I, however, have a few bones to pick with you.
1) Reading. One child has to complete reading logs and the other child used to take stupid little tests on everything read, and now has to do a week-long “response to literature” exercise every single week. My kids are Readers with a capital R, and there is nothing they hate more than these pointless exercises. Do you know what this does? It makes readers annoyed. The chances of it encouraging a life-long love of reading in any kid who isn’t already book-addicted are somewhere between slim and none. Lucky for us, they haven’t stopped reading, but the homework therein is often “forgotten” or sloppily done, and it is ALWAYS a source of complaining and contention. Thanks, public school.
2) Homework. Speaking of homework, care to explain to me why my fourth grader currently has one to two hours of homework each night and my sixth grader almost never has any homework at all? That seems a little odd to me. And by “a little odd” you understand that I mean “completely jacked,” right? Good.
3) Learning environment. Suppose you have a parent, public school, who has started thinking about homeschooling for various reasons. Suppose it doesn’t even have anything to do with you! Then suppose that that parent is able to distill out the amount of actual learning that happens in one of her kids’ classrooms in a given day. Suppose that by the time you subtract out the time spent dealing with the behavioral problems and the kids who are lagging behind the rest of the class, this parent is able to roughly calculate that what you teach in seven hours could easily be accomplished at home in under two hours. With a lot less noise. And no bullying, stealing, or otherwise unsavory experiences. And definitely no reading logs.
4) Parental involvement. I’m TRYING to be part of the solution, public school. The last parent-teacher association meeting I went to had—wait for it—only two other parents in attendance. Why is that, public school? I don’t have any illusions about being any better or more interested than the entire rest of the parent population… it must be something else. Perhaps that you ask for involvement but then ignore us. Hmmm. Mixed messages much, public school?
5) Teachers. Oh, public school. You know how to woo me. You boast some of the most dedicated, compassionate, and committed educators I’ve ever met. The teachers who Get It are astounding, and my hat is off to them, over and over. But there seem to be great teachers and lousy teachers and no inbetween. And those lousy teachers make it hard to care about you, I’m not going to lie. But those great teachers make it hard to leave.
I want to break up with you, public school. But I still love you, despite everything. I wish I didn’t. I wish I knew how to walk away with a clear conscience. Maybe I will, eventually. The day will come when I just snap—probably with my pen hovering over Yet Another Reading Log—and we’ll be done. Finished. Finally free.
Until then, can I borrow a pencil? I’m pretty sure I sent in a box of 50 at the beginning of the school year, and someone recently stole all of my kid’s pens. AGAIN.