School starts tomorrow.
(And all of God’s people said “AMEN.” And possibly “Thank you, Jesus!” And maybe even “I love you so much, now GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.”)
Last year, we were new, and the school the kids’ attend was somewhat in flux for a variety of reasons that aren’t important or particularly interesting. And the amount of information we—as a new family, having no idea what the heck was going on—were given was… well, I won’t say they gave us NO information, but it was… LACKING, is all I’m saying. We did find out about back-to-school night, at least. But we were never given a bus number. And no one told us about the Parent Coffee thing that would’ve been extremely useful to me, you know, as a NEW PARENT TO THE SCHOOL. Whatever.
This year, we’re all settled in and information is flowing out our ears, whether we like it or not.
Oh, we’ve got a bus number, for example. It’s not the same bus number as last year, because that would make too much sense. I suspect there is a small room where monkeys fling their own feces at an area map, and based upon the trajectories and landings, the bus routes are plotted. Awesome!
And we’ve gotten a VERY entertaining letter from the principal which we of course did not receive last year—being new—and it has continued my edumakation about my new friend, the AYP metric, in glorious fashion.
To refresh your memory: AYP is Adequate Yearly Progress, and in an impoverished (read: failing) school district such as ours, it’s a Very Big Deal. Every year there are tests, and the tests have tests and then when the testing is over they test the kids some more, and then the poo-flinging bus map monkeys crunch those numbers and reports come out, and THEN, my darlings, the principal sends a letter out.
The letter reads something like this:
Dear Parent of Child at Neighborhood School,
The Your County School District began implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act during the 2002-2003 school year. The purpose of the Act is to make sure that your children spend half their school time being tested while we continue not to address the underlying issue of poverty in this area.
At Neighborhood School, we take much pride in the educational opportunities we are able to provide for our children. Our teachers and staff members work very hard to meet the needs of all the students, even though this is a Herculean task what with the overcrowding and the number of students whose basic needs are not being met. We know that our students are learning and making progress, even though we continue flunking the standardized tests because so many of our students need more help than we can possibly provide on this crappy budget.
This year, our school continues to be identified as “Needs Improvement” under the No Child Left Behind Act. Here’s a big list of things we’re doing to continue to improve, and of course our goal, as always, is to be removed from that list in the coming year, but also we’re hoping for pink ponies to escort the children to and from classes, because it’s good to have goals that way, don’t you agree?
Anyway, here’s the point: We are legally obligated to offer you the opportunity to transfer your child to a different school in your zone, if you want, on account of the failing status of this one. There are two other schools in your zone. Below is a chart of the test scores, to aid your decision-making. You can either stay at this school—which, let’s face it, is the best of the bunch, really—or you can choose one of the others. Alternate School A essentially has the same scores as our Neighborhood School, but they sucked SO BADLY last year that they are now achieving AYP based upon their improvement, even though that only brings them up to the level of our (failing) school. Alternate School B has higher scores than our Neighborhood School, but they ALSO failed to make AYP, based on their lack of progress.
If, after reading this entire letter, you still want to transfer your kid, here’s the form to use. Requests need to be submitted immediately. Or maybe in the next two months. Whatever. We are really too busy trying to figure out the dozen other issues with getting the school year started to deal with this, anyway. Thanks!
Overworked Principal of Neighborhood School
Needless to say, we’re not transferring.
We’re not transferring because I love this little limping school. I love the principal and I love (most of) the teachers and I love the gifted program (mostly because I enjoy reading letters from second-grade Shakespeare) and I am still committed to the public education system, flawed though it may be. So. Here we are.
We had Monkey’s 504 meeting, and I’m excited for him about this year. His teacher is someone very different than last year (ahem… thank the lord), and the team is well aware of what went wrong last year, and also things have vastly improved for Monkey this summer due to a little thing I like to call the gift of pharmacology. (And I have to say, too, that I didn’t realize exactly HOW ANXIOUS he had become—or, more accurately, how much it was impacting his daily life—until we managed to address that and SUDDENLY he was a happy-go-lucky kid again. And then I smacked myself on the head and said “Of course. THIS is the Monkey he used to be.”) He’s excited to go back to school and I am excited for him. His best buddy is in his class and All Is Well.
Chickadee is excited about her teacher, too, and HER best buddies are in her class, and this is (*SOB*) her last year of elementary school and I think it’s going to be a good one.
So last night was Meet Your Teacher combined with an ice cream social, and it was UTTER MAYHEM. Wall-to-wall kids and parents and siblings and excitement and chatter. And because this is the south and we know how to do it up right, we had a Chick-fil-A tent. And because we had a Chick-fil-A tent, we also had THE CHICK-FIL-A COW.
Oh yes we did. A great big cow, walking around, wearing the “Eat Mor Chickin” sandwich board.
This was awesome, because it was not exciting enough for all the kids to see their classrooms, meet their teachers, see all of their friends, and eat ice cream. We totally also needed a giant cow dancing around in the cafeteria.
We met up with friends of ours, after weaving amongst the tables, and as Monkey squeezed his pal Franklin within an inch of his life, Chickadee set about fussing over Franklin’s little 3-year-old sister. Her name is Chiquita—not Chickadee, no; but both girls go by Chickie for short. Which results in Chickadee referring to Chiquita as “Little Chickie” and Chiquita referring to Chickadee as “My Chickie.”
I said hello to everyone and then leaned down to Chiquita, who was busy scooping ice cream into her mouth while trying to look all around at everything happening in the cafeteria.
“Hi, Chickie!” I said. “Are you having some ice cream?”
She looked up at me and then pointed with her spoon. “DERE IS A COW OVER DERE!” she told me, awe in her voice, stabbing her spoon towards the dancing cow for emphasis.
I don’t know why, but this struck me as hilarious. There we were, packed into the cafeteria like sardines, a million things happening at once, and Little Chickie really had her pulse on what mattered—the mind-blowing incongruity of a cow walking on two legs in the middle of it all.
Yep. We’re all ready to start school again, and it feels like home.
I love the excitement associated with the beginning of school! I must admit though that in all my years as a student and teacher (46 total), I never had the thrill of having a cow celebrating the start of a year. I share your hope that this year will be a great one for both your kids.
I keep saying I am not ready for my kids to go back to school because we are having such a fun relaxing (as relaxing as you get with 4 kids anyway) summer. After the day we had yesterday though, with 4 overtired foot stomping cranky kids and 2 daycare kids that were also overtired and cranky, I am willing to give some thought to being ok with my kids going back the week after next. Happy about it may not be too much of a stretch if we have any more days like yesterday!
Little Chickie is cracking me up. Tell your kids good luck/have fun on their first day of school from me!
I’m glad things are starting off well!
That feeling of being home is fleeting and sometimes difficult to find. Glad you found it amid all the other things you’re dealing with right now.
OMG! Too, too funny! Jesus how I miss Chick-fil-a though. Go ahead, go to the web site, check out the location map, it’s a long, long drive to the nearest one for us!
As for the effed up no-child-left-behind act, I don’t think there is a good teacher out there that actually likes what it has done to all the school system. It was a great idea in principle, and then written up and implemented using the most shitty methods possible. Well, JMHO anyway.
As for school. Our school is poor. Dirt poor. As is our town. For instance, our one guy who drives the snowplow isn’t allowed to plow after/before normal ‘working hours’, or on the weekend. They can’t pay him if he does. Yeah, living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the snow holds off on weekends, holidays and at night, ’cause it’s considerate like that. Bleh.
Wow – After reading this, I want to move to your school district for two reasons:
1. School starts TOMORROW? You mean you don’t have another month of HELL – I mean, another joyous four weeks of nonstop child-exposure? The envy knows no bounds. Actually, I shouldn’t complain – Bunker Monkey is still in preschool, until he starts kindergarten in September, and for the past two years he has had summer program (it’s a special ed/PPD diagnosis thing). Next summer will be the first year he has no summer schoo, and I just know he’s gonna be all, Wait, so most kids don’t gets summer school? I’VE BEEN ROBBED!
2. The cow in the cafeteria. I love cows, so seeing them anywhere (especially places they’re not normally found, like the school cafeteria or your front porch – I’ll share that story sometime) rocks. Who needs learnin’ when you have cows?
BTW, still keeping you guys in our thoughts. Hope things are improving on the family illness front.
Yeah, we’re experiencing some similar issues with Bubba’s new school (though lacking in the failing the AYP thing — so far!). We had some questions. Like why is the open house for our elementary school not on the county-wide calendar like all the other elementary schools? (turns out they’re all on the same day, but how would you know?) We also wondered when we would need to sign Bubba up for the after school program. Hmmm…no info on the web site. After repeated unreturned phone calls and emails to the school I finally got a real live human being who said that hmm, that was a really good question that she didn’t know the answer to. And finally, last night we were looking over some pre-work that Bubba was supposed to do over the summer (oops!) and he was supposed to draw the hands on a clock that showed what time school starts. Well. Huh. We don’t know!
Hopefully, these questions (and many others) will be answered tonight as we scramble amongst the hundreds of other children and parents at our open house!
Adorable! Always good to have a 3 year old around to tell you what’s important.
Ohhh…I love back-to-school time, and I always always have. This year, for the first time in *does quick mental math* 24 years, I won’t be taking classes this fall, and it feels incredibly weird. Luckily, I’ll be teaching, so I still get to experience the same back-to-school excitement in a different way. :)
But! Thanks for the glimpse and reminder of those days of elementary school back-to-school when your folders were fresh and new and your specially-picked-out pencils were pristinely sharpened and unused and everything was full of possibility.
You wouldn’t believe how much I miss Chick-fil-A! When I go home for Christmas you better believe that’ll be the first place I stop!
We start on the 12th (2/3rds of us that is, one gets a whole nother week over which there might be a bit of weeping a small amount of wailing and some totally unreasonable gnashing of teeth. But, BUT!, the still-public-school Children will be attending a non-failing school for the second year in a row. In our city this goes beyond minor miracle and is classed just above water walking right beneath loaves and fishes. After literally suffering through two years of a school so bad they figured firing everyone in the place and shutting the darn thing down was the only option this feels every so slightly like heaven on earth. Only now I realize we have no cow so I’m all bitter again. Life is hard that way.
Heh. Little Chickie’s reaction to the cow reminds me of my nephew’s reaction to the Easter Bunny when he was about the same age. We’d taken him to the mall to have his picture taken with the bunny, who was of course six feet tall. Sam took one look at him and said, “Mommy! Don’t let the big bunny in the house!”
Oh what fun! I’m so excited for you all! And so glad you’ve discovered the wonderful magic of Monkey Meds. I finally broke down and got my 14 year old Oatmeal Head to the doc this summer. Guess what? One more tweak of the dose and maybe his head will be out of the clouds. Like walking into walls kind of thing.
From one new kid in school last year to another – Happy Back to School!
Back-to-school day = margarita day around here, which came hard on the heels of “if they don’t go away soon, I’m going to be a drooling mass of stupid” day.
The whole thing would have been totally better if we’d have had a cow, though.
No Child Left Behind is not a perfeot law, but as a teacher, I find it’s about time that schools (mine included) are actually being forced to scrutinize their programs, teachers, and community and use data to identify reasons kids are not learning. Money is important, but there are plenty of high poverty schools that are performing well because of the staff and school board willing to be the bad guy and say it’s not OK to have ineffective teachers, kids not receiving the help they need, and to continue with things they way they are because change is too hard or scary. I don’t want to hear that my kid’s teacher is such a nice lady and so active in our community we can’t bear to ask her to change her teaching just because all the kids in her class haven’t mastered (or even been introduced to) the concepts that kids in that grade should be able to demonstrate. JMHO
As a public school teacher in a damn good school where everyone (ok, almost everyone) works their tails off to do the best we can for our kids (who are dirt poor, disadvantaged in every way, and often have no educational support at home) that failed to make AYP by 10 pts last year and frankly is anticipating failing AYP again this year – we aren’t miracle workers people and we can’t fire the kids that can’t do the test! – I L-O-V-E your translation of the pricipal’s letter! Thank you for understanding instead of the reaction I usually get, which is “iffen you damn teechers would just DO YER JOBS ‘stead of babysittin’ all day my kid could lern as gud as enyone!”
JJ – I don’t mind being held up to high standards but I sure do resent being expected to meet impossible ones! With the way NCLB is structured every school is going to be a failing school, sooner or later.
i’ve got a month still before school starts. i need two. ugh.
yeah, *SOB* last year in grade school.
my youngest is starting her senior year in college next week. there is a *SOB*. It is not a *SOB* of regret, or of the ending of childhood. It is the *SOB* of the *yetanotheryearofdebtOMGhowmuchdoesitcosttoliveinthedorms* and the creak of the opening of the jaws of never-ending debt.
I can’t wait for college to end. She might even get a job and move out of the house.
I love my daughter, I do. But my wallet is harboring doubts.
Two words: chicken.biscuit.
I think it should be against the law to go back to school in the first week of August. Maybe the dancing cow is to distract everyone that is still SUMMER.
AYP Schmay-Y-P! Overworked is right.
I’m glad you’re sticking with it.
I’m happy for you! I hate it when the summer ends and it’s time for school. I’m down to one right now but it is still sad.
I was totally picturing a real cow.
It’s always amazed me how you don’t realize how anzious/streesed you’ve been, until you’re no longer anxious/stressed.
My couputer is running slower than anything right nwo so I’m just going to let all these lovely typos slide. I plan to share your school letter with some teacher friends. They probably need a good laugh about now. Happy First Day of School!
Just wait until they get to a school that has a booster club selling chicken biscuits in the drop off lane. Best fund raiser ever. Chick–Fil-A is the best!
Woohoo! Back to school, my favorite time of year. Maybe I’ll see you at the bus stop, I’ll be the one doing cartwheels LOL
Back to school is an exciting time, and I’m glad they actually gave you some information this year!
But I agree with Laurie, it is still SUMMER, I don’t understand why my kids have to be in school already. Their cousins are coming to visit in a week and a half (for their summer vacation) and my kids will hardly even see them since they’ll be in school already.
Nice to hear that all is going better this year.
I must say that I am very upset over this whole ice cream and cow thing. Here is where I pout and stomp my feet, because we pay way too much for our daughter to go to a fancy private school and no one has ever offered us ice cream at the Meet and Greet. And if there was Chick-Fil-A well let’s just say I would have made a spectale of myself making out with that cow.
I am a little sad. My daughter starts first grade and there is no Parents meeting, no meet and greet and they expect me to send my wee little baby into a gym all by herself to get orientated. On the flip side, I could send her to our public school where there they do gang drills as regular as fire drills. Oh the choices!
Have a good school year Mir family.
What a way to start my work day. To paraphrase Anita Bryant, or was it Annette Funacello? A day without Mir is like a day without sunshine.
We checked out books at the library today and the due date (three weeks hence) is after my older child will be in school (in second grade– wow). It kind of surprised me that it’s that soon. The end of summer vacation kind of sneaks up on you. What has me really excited, though, is the younger one starts preschool the first week of September. THEY WILL BOTH BE GONE AT THE SAME TIME! At least for two mornings a week…
We used to live in an apartment over our landlords. We had cats by the same name so we called our cat Emily and his Little Emily. He called his Emily and ours Big Emily.
Happy first day of school to C&M and best wishes for a great year.
OMG! That letter cracked me up. Great translation! Wishing you a much better year than last, especially with Monkey!
bouquets of sharpened pencils. dancing cows. it’s all so awesome. i love going back to school. except for when i am never out of school, which is me now. so…yeah. but i remember. oh yeah. the dissertation hasn’t robbed me of that much.
and i totally just said little chickie’s line out loud. because sometimes you have to do that. with motions.
but no ice cream. maybe i’ll try it later with the ice cream. i bet it gives it a little umph.
Praise the baby Jesus for the gift of pharmacology!!! It has saved us, trust me. ;) My cherubs start in a week and a half for one, and in two weeks for the other. Cannot.Come.Soon.Enough. VBS this week (all day every day!) is saving my sanity.
And, oh, we have the Cow here in Colorado. A’s new school is thisclose to a Chik Fil A, so we get to see the Cow regularly. Ain’t nuttin’ like a ginormous, 2-legged cow at an ice cream social. ;)
It’s kind of odd that the kids go back to school on a Thursday?!?! Nothing like getting into the swing of things and then – oh yea – 2 days off.
As for the poor schools – we have that here in MD too. They call it a Title 1 school and you guessed it – my daughter goes there. I have to say that it is nice that we get so much “extra” state funding for programs though. And they feed every kid breakfast for free!
Does it say something about me that when I read:
“Wall-to-wall kids and parents and siblings and excitement and chatter.”
I read it as “excrement” instead of “excitement”? You know, because of the whole poop-throwing monkey discussion? I though maybe the monkeys were invited…oh, never mind.
We still have another month before we go back to school. Another month of…”MOM when do we go back??” followed by 9 months of “WHEN IS SUMMER VACATION GONNA GET HERE???”
This year though i am going back as well, so we are all counting down the days.
Ok, so I’m not a mom – or a teacher, but something about this whole AYP thing bugs me.
I get that statistical sampling blah blah blah makes it easier to blah blah blah compare groups of people. Whatever. And I’m sure that, for the most part, 3rd grade classes are all similar. OK, I get that. HOWEVER, why look at third grade from last year vs third grade from the year before. They are two totally different groups of kids. I know that my third grade class was TOTALLY different than my brother’s in terms of ability. I also know that the class ahead of me was WAY smarter than mine (seriously). It’s not exactly apples to oranges, but it is green apples to red apples – similar but very different.
That said – I do think that the tests are a good gauge for identifying areas for improvement.
NCLB is as screwy as your lovely letter indicates – we all hate it. Combine it with CO, who is 49th in the country’s state education spending because everyone here thinks taxes are evil, and it ain’t purty here a’tall. Grr….It’s an election year, though, so maybe there are some good public ed lobbyists that might get, ya know, heard?
Sounds like you guys are off to a smooth[er] start this year – which is awesome!
I loved the lil Chickie’s reaction to the Chick-fil-a cow.
Stalwart faith in the public education system… that’s so noble of you. That letter was one of my favorite things today, I’m laughing and probably will for the next several hours.
We drive forever for our children to go to a non failing school, I lost my faith in the public education system so long ago it’s not funny.
My youngest goes back to college on August 23rd, and I must say – it is time! After thinking I could never let her go last year, and much weeping on both of our parts, she survived the first year. She lived the life of a young adult throughout the school year, and then came home this summer and reverted back to a ten year old who wanted me to do everything for her. We adjusted, but I can tell it’s time for her to go – we are both getting on each other’s nerves. Funny how that works, huh?
I love the back to school craze…mmm school supplies. I still can’t have enough pens/highlighters/misc little office thingamawhatchits.
Even in a state that is known for having above average schools, it was just reported today that HALF of our 1800 schools are failing NCLB standards at this point. I think there are some great aspects to this program, but overall it is FUBAR.
Just have to chime in and say that this was one of the funniest blog posts I’ve ever read. Perhaps b/c I know the school district, er, a little too intimately.
It also reminds me of something that dawned on me as a new mom, whose child got into “the best” daycare center in town. Our first year was great; the second year I didn’t love the teacher nearly as well. And somehow it hit me, that the CENTER didn’t take care of my child — the teachers in the classroom did. It all comes down to PEOPLE. So I say, F* the NCLB, AYP, KMA standards and stay where you like the people and where the people love your kids. Very well put.
The day will come, you know, when you will look back on all this chaos and wonder how you could ever have wished it gone. Well, not EVERYTHING. Just, well, some things. Okay, a few things. My point is, when your house is quiet and peaceful and still messy to the point of horror, you’ll realize how good it was with little kids all over the place, and you’ll also realize that it was YOU making a lot of the mess all along.
The first day of school was always one of my favorite days. As for school supplies, the very sight and smell of them still intoxicates me. The good way.
If your school advocates community bins for supplies, don’t spend your money on the good stuff. Buy it at the Dollar Tree, and get the good stuff for your kids to use at home.
I loathe and despise community bins for school supplies. Bah.
You know what I think I miss most of all? Choosing that new lunch box, and packing it every morning. Sigh. And at the time, I hated it.
We never think a certain era is going to end, but when it does, we’re shocked by how much we were loving it at the time, even when we thought we were hating it.
Love you, Mir dear. More every day.
All hail the year of the Cow!
My little Georgia town starts school on Monday. Tomorrow is the DAY OF ORIENTATION. I get to start at the Elementary School at 10, then head to the Middle School at noonish for the 6th grader, then 2ish for the 8th grader. It’s good that I have a 6th and 8th grader though, if I had a 6th and 7th grader we would have had to come back tomorrow night. What kind of sense does that make?
I’m scared. We know no one and I can relate to that lack of information for the new kids. Ugh.
Otherwise, I’m counting down the days so I can say: “I love you so much, now GET OUT OF MY HOUSE”.
I can. not. wait. to read Chickadee: The Middle School Years. Perhaps it will distract me from my growing panic about my oldest starting kindergarden in one year. ONE YEAR. That’s all I have left!! (No wonder my hair is turning gray!)
Ok I have to say that I hates me some ChickFilA. SOrry I do. Bleh.
Also…I hope it isn’t onehundredeleventymillion degrees there like it is here because kids started school here THIS WEEK and um AUGUST IN ARIZONA? not so pleasant.
Wow! School already! We haven’t even been away on holiday yet (leave on Friday, one longish week in Italy, can’t wait)… School starts for my elder daughter (6.5) on 2 Sept, and the younger one (4) on 4 Sept. All the school supplies are already bought (couldn’t resist – I just love me those long lists of supplies), except for the incomprehensible stuff like “one packet of adhesive stickers”, with no indication of size, shape, colour or function…
Hope all goes well for you guys tomorrow – both my daughters are going to a new school this year, after respectively 4 and 2 years in a bilingual French-English school (we live in the south of France, my husband’s French and I’m British – the bilingual school was a great idea, but too expensive and the classes were too small (yes, that’s possible – 4 in my elder daughter’s class last year), so they’re now going to a non-bilingual school). I have to say I’m very excited!
And, much as I adore my sweet (most of the time) little girls, I will be celebrating my “freedom” on Thursday 4 Sept with a trip to the cinema (on my own) to see a film I want to see – Mamma Mia! – instead of the Winx movie, or Kung Fu Panda… Last year, I went to see Hairspray and had a fab time (hmmm, Zac Efron… even if I’m old enough to be his mother).
Have a great year!
Testing, per se, is not the problem. Testing, a la NCLB, is a joke. Small groups of children held to a large-sample-size standard. It makes no sense.
Esp. after they get tested in Aug, Dec, Feb, March, AND May. Cripes almighty, spend that time actually TEACHING them something useful and we may get somewhere. Did I mention they were testing and re-testing 1st and 2nd graders, who in our state ARE NOT EVEN INCLUDED in the state school-report-card test??????
I think we are at very similar schools. Except that ours is in Wisconsin and doesn’t start until after Labor Day.
Enjoy Back to School Week!
I work for a department of ed in a different state and AYP is kicking our a#@! Glad the school is a good fit for you, Monkey and Chickie!
Franklin and Chiquita — we’re famous!
hahahahaa! oh, I LOVE little kids, they are so HYSTERICAL.
p.s. my blog tomorrow has a part of it about a dream I had with you in it… totally random, but not really too stalker-y… I hope. Just thought I’d let you know.
I’m so jealous, we don’t get to meet the teachers for another 11 days (but who’s counting, really). We’re in NC and have never had the Chick Fil A Cow so you must be extra lucky!