me


Dear Readers,

The picture is a hay rake I saw during my last visit to Tennessee to see my daughter.

click photo to enlarge

I realize I have been absent a long time–almost a month. I have not turned on my “blogging computer” in that time more than two or three times. I apologize. All of you know life gets in the way sometimes. It got in the way very big and very unexpectedly after my last post. I have no idea when I will be back–if I will be back. I hope to be back, but I cannot predict anything.

Here is a little of it:

-Three months ago we had three pets. We now have one, and the other one we thought was lost as well. That has been a lot of stress, never mind time.

-Chic is still in Tennessee, and that takes a lot of time. Writing extra letters, sending extra packages, Skyping on her schedule and visiting. And although it is what is best right now, it is an emotional drain for us.

-Chic’s school here will be better next year, but there is giant upheaval that is causing extreme amounts of stress and time drain. Prince Charming is on the school board, and one week there were three meetings. There are meetings, interviews, etc. at least every two weeks, usually more, and private consults in between. (And I am so glad Chic is not here to be in the environment of upheaval.)

-A very good friend of ours has some serious health problems. We only recently learned the extent of the seriousness, and we know that we are among a handful in the know. Not only do we need to lend our time and support, but we want to.

What I hope is that this is like a new job with lots more responsibility. When I first get a job like that, there is often a big learning curve. It seems overwhelming, and I work late. But then suddenly, I figure it all out, and I am often bored like I was at the previous job. But I have not been bored in a long, long time. My schedule is always at maximum capacity, so extra things never fit. I might make them adjust with time, but I might not.

My life has thrown a lot at me lately that I have chosen to let take a lot of my time. I believe it is important that I do that, but the thing that has had to suffer is blogging (and Facebook). I have not even had time to get on here and do a post like this although I knew I should a few weeks ago.

I will be back when I can… if I can. But I think of you all the time. I  miss reading your blogs, but I know I cannot allow myself to do that right now or the daily things will not get accomplished. And I have a lot to tell you and show you, but now just is not the time.

Love you and miss you,

Louise

Most of you know when I visit your blog, it is sporadic and I try to catch up what I have missed. This is not because I do not feel like blogging/visiting or because I am goofing off.  It is because I am busy. Granted, much of it is self-imposed busy, but busy I am.

Last week I looked at my life since Thanksgiving, and there have been THREE days since then in which I did not have a specific deadline of something that HAD to be done on a day. Now I do not have a “real job,” so my deadlines are not usually reports or presentations; they can be anything. (For my church treasurer job, I do have reports and presentations due at least monthly, however.) It may be a Friday, and those days always mean a ton of food has to be made because I cook for Friday and Saturday on Fridays.  My point is that the things I have to get done may not seem like deadline material, but for me there is always a reason something has to be done by a specific day.

So I thought I would show you some of what I have been doing for the past three months. (It is MARCH? Christmas is just around the corner!)

It started with Chic’s birthday. Since it was the Christmas season, she requested poinsettia cupcakes for school.

There are 13 children in Chic's classroom, but her teacher refuses to do cupcakes before school is out. (What's wrong with lunch?) This irritates me because when Chic gets cupcakes for a birthday, there is never one for her sister. I made sure every sibling of every classmate had a cupcake, too. (I wanted to leave out the teacher, but I was polite.)

Remember my Elf Escapades? Here are a few things I made for that.

Clockwise from top left: Napkin rings, box to hold napkin rings, "Merry" bag for the 12th night, tree bag. I made all the things shown. I loved it, but it does put a dent into one's time.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Napkin rings. 2) Box for napkin rings. 3) "Merry" gift bag for the last night. 4) Evergreen tree gift bag.

This was the best Elf Victim yet! On the 9th or 10th night, I was met at the door by this.

Sorry for the lousy picture, but I didn't want to get caught! This was the 12th night of Elf Delivery, and the front door and garage door of this house were OPEN! I took Chic with me for the experience, but it didn't help with the stealth. On the door are all the notes I left with gifts (the notes appeared on the 9th night), and there was a gift for me, too. I have never been so wonderfully welcomed!

Next is the Christmas ornaments and boxes. Since 1995 I have made a Christmas ornament yearly. It started as a gift to the infant daughters of very close friends and has grown to a few other girls (some now in high school) like my daughters and niece and some other special friends/family (aunts, etc.).

This year I made 36 "icicles" and boxes to hold them all.

For the staff Christmas party at school, there was an ornament exchange. This is the box I made, and inside was one of my annual ornaments, left over from about 3 years back.

This box was very last-minute, but I just loved how it turned out.

This is the holiday treat we give E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. They are called pizzelles and are Italian, waffle-like cookies made in a special iron.

I can't remember how many of these we made, but I know it was over 1000. I made the first 1/3 of them, then Prince Charming did the rest. (Bless him!)

Don’t forget the school treats. I made about 30 of the ones on the left for Chic’s classmates/friends plus the kids in my class at church. (She painted the sticks.) Chicklet’s class treats were on the right. I only had to make about 10 of those.

This is one of my favorite things–a gift for my nephew. When we visited Missouri in November I learned that he (who is Chic’s age, eight) is really into seeds. I was walking around my yard one day and noticed so many seeds. I started to gather them for him, then I thought I would just make that his Christmas gift. So I made seed packets (with pictures if I had them–stamped or drawn if I did not) for all of them and instructions for growing.

I never realized how many seeds I had in my own yard!

Next is the annual gift. Last year I made “winter” banners as holiday gifts for close friends/family. This year I did “spring.” (Can you guess what it will be next year?) I made 17 of these. Each one takes 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Call me an idiot!

Another rotten picture; I was pressed for time. But the good (?) news is that I have an extra of these. If you would like to be in a drawing for it, e-mail me at louisestamps at aol dot com to let me know. You have until Monday, March 8, to e-mail me.

Let’s move to Valentine’s  Day! (We left shortly after Christmas to drop off Chic in Tennessee. I was home one day before a business trip, then 1-1/2 weeks before visiting Chic. January was a blur.) These are the boxes I assembled for my Valentine’s for all the students in my art classes.

I made up about 55 of these boxes.

These are the cookies that went in the boxes above. VERY. BAD. to have these things in my house! Very bad!

I have no idea how many cookies I made, but it was about 8 or 9 batches. (I did double/triple batches in the mixer so I cannot remember.)

These are boxes I made for special people such as my friend in TN who is taking care of Chic and some special people at church. I made them from flat, chipboard hearts.

I made 8 of these boxes.

Something had to go in these boxes, so I made homemade truffles. It was a first for me. Slightly time-consuming, but really no more so than anything else I do.

The dark ones are Oreo truffles and the light ones are Italian truffles.

As I was making the heart boxes above, I kept thinking of other people for whom I would like to make some. The problem was that I only had chipboard hearts to make eight. But I had regular chipboard, so I die-cut square scallops to make four more boxes.

The left one was for someone VERY into brown, so it does not look much like Valentine's Day.

There were also quite a number of Valentine treats for classmates of which I forgot to take pictures.

The below items are also for special people for Valentine’s Day. They are super fuzzy socks wound to resemble ice cream. I made “cones” for them and packaged them. I also put chocolate oil on them. One recipient still has not opened hers because she thinks it is so cute. I made 18 of the bigger ones for adults and 6 of the smaller ones for children.

Clockwise from top left: 1) All of the socks put into their "cones." 2) The finished packages. 3) Notice the finished packages have "sprinkles on the cones. I made them by punching out holes. 4) This is some of the paper left over after the punching.

Being so industrious means that eventually the holidays will slow down and I can move on to other things. The next two are “name frames” I made for girls I visited a year ago. I took pictures of their rooms and just now got around to making the 8″ x 10″ art for them.

Clearly Kendra's mom is good at decorating!

Kayla is Kendra's older sister who had just redecorated her own room. (The decorating thing must be genetic.)

Just last weekend Chicklet was invited to a birthday party. She could not go because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK THIS WEEK!!!!!!! But I made a container quickly to take on Friday and filled it with craft items. I thought it turned out well.

This is a large canister that used to hold SlimFast. I love the size of these so I collect them to decorate at such times.

This week I am not doing anything of the sort because CHIC IS HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!!! We have had several other activities already and have more on the agenda.

If you comment, be honest with me. Tell me if you love this or hate it. Tell me if you think I am insane. If you knew me in real life, would all of the above make you love me or love to hate me? (Your answers do not matter that much because I do these things because I love to do them, but I am interested in perceptions. I have all viewpoints in my “real life” acquaintances.)

Next projects? Easter!

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

Ms. A came in and told us that the kids made fun of chic, and she was too immature to handle it, so they could not move her.  We were more than a little shocked by this. First, it was Ms. A’s suggestion in the first place that Chic be more challenged in math. Second, we had been talking to and working with Chic to prepare her for this. And also, in our nearly 8 years of being Chic’s parents, we had never, ever heard the word “immature” coming out of the mouth of any adult relating to her. We have only heard “extremely mature, ” “well-behaved,” etc. even if we questioned deeply to make sure they were not saying that just because we were her parents. I do not say this as a blind parent. Anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely objective about my children.

At this point I was tired of the fake smiles and general crap that manifests itself in these PT conferences, so I explained how we had worked with Chic on this very topic and she WANTED to do something more difficult. Ms. A spoke very little, just nodded her head in agreement with Ms. J who told us again how immature she was and how she got in so much trouble. WTH?????? Why was I learning that my child was a trouble-maker in a PT conference? (Upon further investigation, this was a smokescreen.  Chic did indeed get in trouble for hitting a boy, but she and the boy were playing around and just play-punching each other. (The boy did not get in trouble.)  The teacher did not even see this, but this was the result of a tattletale.  I told Chic this was not appropriate and did not undermine the teacher, but I was more than a little angry this was the incident (singular) that labeled her a “trouble-maker” by Ms. J.)

I asked what the solution was if my child was bored with classwork and there was clearly a general unwillingness to modify it. Ms. J then said that she had tried to have Chic help other students, but when she sent them to help, she did not teach them; she just did it for them, so Chic was not good at that AT ALL. (By this time I wanted to punch her in the nose for insinuating that we had failed as parents because our then-7-year-old daughter was not a qualified teacher.)

We discussed the social problems and the ridicule and asked why teachers were not doing anything about the ridicule. I stated that I realized we do not live in a perfect world, and I teach Chic that, but for a 7-year-old to bear it bravely 100% of the time without any intervention from teachers might be asking too much. I also mentioned the social problems that I had discussed before (regarding Chic’s friends leaving her out when Ms. J’s answer was “Oh, I didn’t notice.”) and said that I understand Chic’s position because her personality is much like mine. If kids are repeatedly excluding her, she is not going to make a nuisance of herself and continue to push herself into their circles. All of this was met with no response other than “she is not mature enough to do more advanced work in math.”

After I had made the comment about Chic and me having similar personalities, Ms. J said (in a sickly, patronizing voice), “Now, Mom, are you going to be OK? You said you were like your daughter and I don’t want you to be upset because you are hearing unhappy things.” Yes, she said that.

We got back to math. The truth started to surface. Ms. J said that if Chic did 3rd grade math, she would miss her reading class. I really did not see this as a problem as she was so far advanced in reading. I told Ms. J we were fine with her doing more advanced reading. “But then I would have to change this or that!” she whined. Yes, she whined. So we realized that the real reason for not challenging Chic was that it might require a little extra work for the teacher. And to be honest, probably not actually extra work, just different from what she was doing. And the thing that got me the most is that Ms. A, the teacher that suggested the change in the first place, had totally reversed her position to support Ms. J.

Prince Charming had had enough, so he changed the subject to the awards from the previous year in light of the ridicule. He mentioned there seemed to be little/no incentive for succeeding in school (using the awards as an example) and no deterrents for not succeeding and for bad behavior. Ms. J side-stepped this with “I give awards for fruits of the spirit, not necessarily scholastic achievement.” It was a good thing I was walking out by that time and did not hear this response.  First, she DID give scholastic achievement awards, of which my daughter got NONE though being the top student in at least 3 subjects. And she was saying my daughter had NO fruits of the spirit?????

The fifth parent-teacher conference lasted 63 minutes. We left feeling angry and dejected. The teacher/s had done all possible to make us feel like bad parents for raising a girl who was different than the others and who got her 7-year-old feelings hurt when severely ridiculed for being successful.

Yes, I believe there needs to be a class for an entire semester devoted to holding successful parent-teacher conferences. And if an education major fails that class, maybe s/he should not be allowed to even hold PT conferences.

Now what? I hope the next post on this topic concludes this series (for now). It may be extra long to avoid breaking it up into parts like this and so many others in this series have been. Right now I cannot see how that can be told in parts.

Part 1 is here.

These photos are from the 2007 Mother's Day hike as the prequel post.

The spring parent-teacher conference for Chic’s first grade year was also useless. We got Ms. J’s fake smile and the fake “she is a joy to have in class.” I am sure not everyone thinks these things are fake, but I have really, really good perceptive powers, and I know. I did ask a question about Chic’s best friend who I knew from art class to be a complete airhead. I was concerned about this friendship because Chic is NOT a complete airhead, and I did not want her to be trampling someone (even unwittingly) because that someone might not have the wits to not be trampled. Ms. J assured me that Chic’s friend was one of her brightest students.  This seemed quite strange to me because the girl was only somewhat creative in art class but could not follow a simple instruction to save her life.  I chalked it up to my not being properly perceptive when it applies so close to my life. (Which is not true, but I often do not trust my powers of perception when it involves me or those directly related to my life.)

Now to the fifth parent-teacher conference, October 2009. Chic was not-quite-8 and was in second grade. We had 20 minutes of the fake smile and fake “she’s a joy to have in class” garbage, but Prince Charming and I had other issues to discuss, so we said, “What is going on with math class?” Ms. J sputtered, then said Chic was much too immature and that she would have to call in the math teacher to explain. (We have 2 teachers for grades 1-5. Ms. J is Chic’s main teacher, but the other teacher, Ms. A teaches math, science and social studies.)

Let us back up to the school Open House in September. I had to be in the art room the entire time, and Prince Charming had a prior appointment (the date changed), so at the end I asked Ms. J how Chic was doing. “Just fine,” she fake-smiled. So I asked Ms. A, the math/science/social studies teacher, who I respected much more (at least at the time). She said she wanted to talk to me because she wanted to move Chic to 3rd grade math; she was completely bored in 2nd grade math. I do not know how much math has changed since I was in 2nd and 3rd grade, but I remember 3rd grade math being a LOT more involved than 2nd grade math, so I expressed concern about the concepts missed in 2nd grade affecting how she would do in the 3rd grade class. (Mind you this was not accelerating her, but just advancing her work in one class. I have no problems at all with this. I really have no problems with accelerated work in most classes, but keeping them with classmates their own age is important to me.) Ms. A assured me that neither the 2nd or 3rd graders were where they should be (there was no team teaching before, and Ms. J does not excel as a math teacher), so Chic would not miss anything. She was already as advanced as far as the current 3rd graders. I said I would need to talk to Prince Charming, but unless I spoke differently in the next 2 days, I was in favor of it. Ms. A said she had not discussed it with Ms. J, but she would.

This picture in dry, dry New Mexico could pass for one taken in wet, wet Iceland.

After a week I started asking Chic about math. She made no indication that anything had changed, so after two weeks, I asked Ms. A about it. She said she had talked to Ms. J who said that the students made fun of Chic for being so good at reading, and it really affected Chic, so she was not in favor of moving Chic up. Ms. A told me she would wait until the quarter was over. I again expressed concern about 3rd grade math and starting too late in the year with it and was again assured that the 3rd graders were so far behind that it would be just fine.

At this point I started talking to Chic about the problems at school and also about math. She was bored with math, and she was a little afraid of how the other kids might treat her if she moved, but she wanted to move anyway. We talked about how to deal with bullies and why people make fun of other people, and she was prepared for the change. Also I spoke to the principal about the problem (since talking to Ms. J is useless and often detrimental and Ms. J seemed to not be curbing the ridicule in the least), so the principal singled out Chic a couple of times to call attention to and reward her academic excellence. All systems were “go.”

I knew the quarter was over because I had to turn in art grades. Nothing changed which is what led us to ask about math at the PT conference in October.

To be concluded… Tuesday, February 2. (Yes, February is almost here. Maybe I should take the Christmas flowers off my front door.)

This post is a continuation of my series about some things going on in our family right now. Those are posts are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

On Awarding Mediocrity

As usual for this series, the pictures in this post have nothing to do with the post. These are from a hike our family took at the extinct volcanoes near us on Mother's Day, 2007. But before we could go, we had to wake up Chic who would have been more than happy to sleep in longer with her favorite cat.

You teachers and education majors, is there a class on how to pull off an effective parent-teacher conference? I am inclined to believe there is not, but if I were in charge of an education curriculum, I would make sure there was some such class.

Prince Charming and I have attended five parent-teacher conferences in our short history as the parents of a 2nd Grader, and I can promise you that none of them were much worthwhile.

Our first experience in this new world was October of 2007 when Chic was almost six and in Kindergarten. We walked in, the teacher was beaming and asked us to sit down and have a snack. (Do parents of Kindergartners need a snack for a 15-minute conference???) She had a folder in front of her with all kinds of stickers on it. Before she opened the folder, this teacher, Ms. S, started pointing at the stickers, still beaming. She then read each sticker to us: “Well done,” “Good Job,” “Excellent,” etc. My mind was reeling. I cast a sideways glance at Prince Charming and nearly choked at the look on his face. Wisely, he did not look at me.

We got a brief look inside that be-stickered folder to see that Chic’s work was indeed worthy of such praise, but that is something we already knew, and my guess was that every other student’s parents who arrived got the same beaming presentation.

A hill of very busy, giant ants.

I wanted to know how Chic was behaving in school.  Was she being nice to the other students? Was she getting along well with the others? What was the teacher’s perception of the whole school situation since, well, since she saw her 7 hours a day at school and I only got a couple of hours of which approximately 13 seconds could be attributed to Chic’s report of the school day.

So I asked questions. (The folder was closed by now.) The answers to my questions were actually the beaming teacher pointing to the stickers on the outside of the folder. “Her work is ‘well done.'” “She’s doing ‘excellent.'” You get the picture.

Since I knew Chic was a pretty well-adjusted girl and learned things easily and this was only Kindergarten, I decided to not let this bother me. She loved school, and I have come to think that loving school is the biggest key to learning.

In the  Spring we got exactly the same  useless thing, so I asked, “But I am guessing that every parent gets a folder like this with all these stickers on it, riiiiight?” “Yes,” admitted Ms. S, a little of the sparkle fading from her beaming face. “Well, what I really want to know is how CHIC is doing, not the same thing you tell everyone.” She was taken aback, but we had somewhat of a reasonable conversation after that. It did leave me to wonder if we were the first parents to think that the folder covered with stickers might not exactly be what we needed to know. (See the posts on education rankings for my opinion on this.)

Chic had a different teacher, Ms. J (referred to in Awarding Mediocrity) for grades 1 and 2. (She is still in 2nd grade as I write this.) I must admit that Prince Charming and I went into that first parent-teacher conference beaming. Part of that was because we knew Chic was doing so well, but most of it was because we were just excited to be going to a teacher we were pretty sure was not going to throw a folder covered with stickers in front of us. We sat down. We were offered snacks (apparently not limited to Kindergarten parents. For the record, we have never taken any of the offered snacks at these PT conferences.) We waited for an awkward moment, then Ms. J said, “We usually do not like to accelerate kids in first grade.” Prince Charming and I lost our beaming faces immediately as we searched the faces of each other to see if the other had ever said anything to anyone about Chic accelerating. It was easy to see that we were equally confused.

Now let’s point out that I do most of the talking at these events. Prince Charming steps in when I am totally fed up. He is not timid about these things, but we save his words for the really important times. So I said, “I was not aware we came here to talk about Chic accelerating. As a matter of fact, we do not wish her to accelerate in school. We wish her to be challenged and not bored, but we have a few reasons that make us want to not pursue acceleration, at least for now.”

Ms. J responded, “Oh. Well. Most parents with children who do ‘this well’ want to move them up.”

My response was, “We came here to see how ‘this well’ she is doing, and we are not most parents.”

My memory of the rest of that useless interview is gone. I have mentioned in a previous post that this teacher has trouble putting together two coherent sentences. (You may wonder why we sent our daughter to be taught by such a teacher, but we are open-minded, and just because a person cannot communicate with adults does not mean they cannot teach children. And someone whose opinion we trusted much told us this teacher was an excellent one.)

To be continued… (Friday, January 29)

You might think I am fixated on bathrooms. Not really, but I do appreciate a nice one, and especially a clean one, so here is another My World Tuesday post that is basically about a bathroom!

I live in New Mexico, and New Mexico has lousy rest stops. Honestly, do not stop at one unless you are dying. I would rather go behind a tree (which is a problem because there are not a lot of those along the highways in New Mexico) than stop at a rest stop in this state. I have more than one horror story relating to rest stops in New Mexico.

But Texas is different. Now it is quite a large state, so I cannot speak to every rest stop on every highway. But in the panhandle, the rest stops are nice–extremely nice. There are not many of them, but the panhandle is small. My favorite one is on the east side of  Amarillo at Exit 76 on I-40.

This rest stop is spacious and clean and just a nice place to stop. On our trips to and from Missouri, we always get gas in Amarillo (and often food), but we go to the rest stop additionally because it is cleaner, and we used to have a dog with us, so it was a better place to let him out.

Take a look.

This row of flags greets us upon entering. We think (but I was too lazy to research it) they are for all of the countries that have owned Texas.

The front entrance.

When walking into the building from the front, one crosses a bridge over this ornamental, dry riverbed. (My kids beg to play in it. I don't let them.)

A giant open field with rusted western ornaments surrounds the building on three sides. I let my kids run here. And the dog. But beware. Goatsheads may be prevalent at certain times of the year. Shoes and socks required, and you might have to take a spike out of a tender dog paw.

This is the back entrance. I just love that it is almost as nice as the front entrance.

When first entering the restroom, I am always taken by the cleanliness and nice smell. I kind of like the ceiling in there, too!

This is the floor of the bathroom stall. I think one would be hard-pressed to find a stray hair or even a spec of dust on it, let alone paper scraps and other debris!

The row of sinks. Rarely a drop of water on the counter do I find. I have never seen a janitor or worker in the bathroom. Maybe they are just so nice they inspire passers-through to keep them clean and dry.

This corridor leads from the restrooms to the front door. I like all the light.

I call this "the library." I have never seen such a large and tidy display of area information and brochures. The people working there are friendly. It is just a lovely place that makes me wish I had more time to stay.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

This post is a continuation of my series about some things going on in our family right now. Those are posts are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

The pictures are a continuation of my trip to Disneyland with Chic for her 5th birthday.

For the most part I am opposed to school awards. It somewhat ties into the same reason I am opposed to allowances for very young children or for children who do chores around the house. To me, every family member has work to do in a house, and giving my children money to do their share of work teaches them that they should be paid for everything. When my children are a couple of years older, I will start with allowances in order to teach them money management, but it will not be tied to chores.

Similarly, it seems to me that school awards have often devolved into awards for things that should be expected, not for anything truly meaningful.

At the end of last school year, Chic’s school had an awards ceremony. As the art teacher, I was instructed the day of it that I needed to give awards for art class. I asked what the criteria were. “Whatever I want.” With so little time, I gave awards for “Excellence in Artistic Ability” and “Excellence in Attitude.” Not more than two people in each class got an award.

One of Chic's favorite rides was "Dumbo" because she could be in charge of what happened to it. (My stomach was better if I was pointing the camera at fixed objects.)

But many think today that everyone needs an award. Awards for showing up to school. Should everyone not be expected to show up to school? Why would there be an award for that? (This only translates to people thinking they need special treatment later in life at their jobs because they did the job for which they were hired–the one they were expected to perform.) So I cannot think of a reason why I would support the idea that “everyone wins.” If everyone wins, it takes a lot of the steam from the person(s) who really won, and in my opinion does nothing to promote initiative. If everyone must receive something, I am not entirely opposed to getting recognition for participation, but an award is extreme.

So back to last year’s awards. Before the event, I talked to Chic’s teacher about it and asked her how she meant to handle the awards. My reason for this was that as a first grader, Chic was ahead of everyone in her classroom (including the second graders) in reading, spelling and math. From my dealings with parents or art class students, I knew that if Chic got awards for all the areas in which she excelled, other parents would be angry. A large part of me does not care about that, but that anger comes out in their kids at school. So I asked. Her teacher, (from now on, Ms. J) said that she gives awards for all kinds of things, not just academic performance, which assures that everyone is included. I did not discuss this further as I thought that would satisfy the masses (even though I do not necessarily agree with it).

This ride made me so sick that when Chic wanted to do it again, we had to find some people who would go with her. Her stomach is made of sterner stuff than mine!

So awards night came. Chic got four awards: Presidential Physical Fitness, Principal’s List, Science and Art (Excellence in Attitude. I realize it seems like I was favoring her, but I am not kidding when I say she has the worst class for behavior in the whole school. She absolutely does NOT cause any trouble in art class and always has a nice attitude. I gave the award to one other girl who was rotten all year but really improved the last month.) The first 3 awards were completely objective. The first two were from the school, and the third one from the Science teacher who apparently awarded it to her top students. But Chic got no awards from her everyday teacher.  As I listened to the awards being listed and students going up, I was shocked. Yes, the teacher gave awards for spelling, math and reading, but Chic, although ahead of the grade above her in all of the subjects, got none of them. Then the teacher made up awards to cover the less studious people which included things as irrelevant as “nicest smile” (SO not kidding), and  Chic got none of those. But get this, some of the other students got multiple awards from Ms. J.  I was taken aback, but decided I was not willing to address the issue. I will discuss this teacher at length in a later post, but the short story is that it is difficult impossible to have a coherent conversation with her, and because I knew I would have to deal with her at least one more year (Chic’s 2nd grade) and possibly another 3 years (also Chicklet’s 1st and 2nd grade), I did not want to anger her.

This was on a 25+ - minute boat ride. Chic found a friend right away.

But Chic noticed. She asked why her teacher did not give her any awards. Although I knew the answer, I thought she might not, so I asked, “Were there not other children in your classroom that did not get any awards from the teacher?” “Only Hunter,” she said, “but I know the Ms. J does not like him.” To me those are profound words coming from the mouth of a 7-year-old. I personally knew Ms. J did not like Hunter because I had heard her complain bitterly about him (I personally like him. He had some issues, but was willing to try and learn, and he was kind.), but for my daughter to notice that was quite another story.

So what was I to do? My daughter wanted to know why her teacher did not see fit to give her any awards. I lied. I said she probably was so busy she just did not remember to include everyone.  I will admit it is not the first time I have lied to my daughter about what goes on in her classroom. She has never once complained about her teacher, but she has asked questions on several occasions or told me scenarios that make me realize she is quite astute at assessing situations. I want her to respect her teachers, so I lie because if I tell her the truth, there is little room for respect with this teacher.

So why are awards so important? What is gained by them? Does the person who was doing just OK in spelling but got the award have an incentive to do better in spelling? Does the person who got the “nicest smile” award have any incentive to do anything better? Does my daughter have any incentive to excel in her own classroom? Seems to me not a lot of incentive was generated on any front.

Note:  This year we have a new principal who has a different view of awards. There will be specific criteria based on having maintained a certain grade for each of the first three quarters of school. I am grateful for this change, but I do believe the other award mentality is more prevalent among most of the other teachers (excepting the science teacher) and definitely among most of the other students and parents. What a battle we seem to be fighting almost every single day.

Chic was only 5, so we did not stay for the fireworks every night. The night we stayed, the weather did not allow them to go, but they made it snow for us instead. I would love to show you the picture of Chic's face full of wonder catching the "snow," but I do not post such pictures on the internet. It was beautiful.

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