Archive for the ‘School’ Category

Teacher Appreciation

14 May

Ingredients:

Watering Can
Gardening Gloves
Tissue Paper
Thank you Card
Key Ring
Garden Butterfly
Plant

Thanks Target, for making gardening tools, lawn accessories, tissue paper, and stationery that all match.

 
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Posted in Photos, School

 

Twirl

30 Oct

This week Kaelin’s school had a Vocabulary Parade.  Each child selected a word off a list and had to come up with a costume that depicts the word they selected.

(Don’t you love those school projects that are really homework for the parents?)

We chose the word “twirl” because it has pretty much been one of Kaelin’s favorite activities since she could walk.

For the “costume” part, we put her in her twirliest (I can’t believe spell-check hasn’t balked at that word) dress.  To display the word, we strung 3D letters from a ribbon and hung them from a stick so they could twirl around as she walked.

Fortunately, this little project didn’t take more than half an hour (a good thing since we were cramming the night before it was due) and Kaelin was happy to help paint the letters.  I really wish I could have seen the “parade” – I’m sure there were a lot of fun costumes, and it would have been neat to see what the other parents students had come up with.

 
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Posted in Kaelin, Photos, School

 

OH LORD HAVE MERCY

25 Aug

My daughter called me into the bathroom for a heart to heart while she was taking a bath tonight.  She had a confession to make.  She was beaming.

Today at kindergarten, she kissed a boy.

On the face.

Because she loves him.

Because he’s nice and the “specialest boy in the class.”

And she likes his hair.

He loves her too, she’s sure of it.  Even though he hasn’t actually said it.

And when she kissed him, he liked it.  She knows because she could see it in his face.  He didn’t say he liked it but “his face was like, ‘WOW.'”

Tomorrow, she’s going to learn his name.

Please send Xanax.

 

First Day, in Retrospect

22 Aug

My self-reward for getting the kids to school on time: a Mocha Coconut Frappuccino - mmmyum!

The first day of school went really well.  Both kids came home all smiles.  Kaelin has already made 3 friends (though she could only remember two of their names), including one girl who happens also to be in her Sunday School class.  She was thrilled to find someone that she already knew.  She also got some kind of reward for good behavior, which she was extremely proud of.

Koren had a great day as well.  He totally surprised one of the staff members when she came in the room and he ran over and clobbered her with a hug.  I don’t think he’s ever even met her before.  She was rather smitten with him after that.

We snuck in at lunch time to see how he was doing.  They have cameras in all the classrooms, so we stood in the monitoring room and observed.  The class was having “nap time” – of course, Koren wanted none of that.  When we showed up, he was going potty.  After he came out of the restroom, he laid on his mat and … fidgeted.  Enthusiastically.  At one point, I think he was trying to do somersaults on his nap mat.  Hopefully as he gets more into the routine of things, he’ll actually start resting during rest time.  Even if he’s exceptionally tired, it’s pretty difficult to get him to nap.  I have to lay down with him and force him to close his eyes and keep them closed – otherwise there’s no chance of sleep.

Kaelin went with Jens to pick him up, and he was thrilled to see her.  They came home and immediately commenced an entertaining game of “School” in which Kaelin was the teacher and Koren was a student.

That brought back memories.  My brother and I spent many hours roll playing that game.  Eventually, it ended when my brother realized that he never got to be the teacher.

Kaelin instructed Koren on following directions and how to walk in line properly and politely.  He even got to be the line leader.  Sometimes.

And they both went to bed early tonight 🙂

 
 

World’s Cutest Preschooler

22 Aug

First day of school, and I completely forgot to comb his hair.  Go me.

Koren’s preschool requires him to wear uniforms.  There is a large part of me that’s fundamentally opposed to uniforms (though admittedly I have no good reason for this), but he’s so cute all dressed up that I don’t care.  Of course, they’re eating spaghetti for lunch today, so we’ll see what shape that white shirt is in when he comes home.

Breakfast and lunch are included in tuition, so that will make things very easy on us.

I didn’t get a picture of him at school with his teacher because there were tears at drop-off.  However, I was proud of him for holding them off as long as he did.  Usually when I take him to a new place and drop him off, he starts crying as soon as we get there.  Today, we took him to his classroom and deposited his backpack, then caught up with his class in the cafeteria where they were having some sort of brightly colored cereal for breakfast.  He didn’t start crying until Jens and I actually started to leave.

His teacher is a cheerful woman, and I think that once he warms up to her, he’ll do just fine. She told me she tries to involve the parents in the class/curriculum a lot, which made me happy.  There are several other little boys in his class and I look forward to him making some friends.

This facility takes the “school” in Preschool seriously.  He’s going to learn reading and writing and math and computers.  He’s going to have homework, which amuses me.

But most of all, I think he’s going to have fun.

 

World’s Cutest Kindergartener

22 Aug

 

Waking the kids up for school is Daddo’s privilege around here.  I had laid her clothes out the night before and when Jens walked into her room at the early hour of 6:45am, she immediately rolled over and said, “I’m already dressed.”  Apparently she had woken up at some time in the middle of night and decided to get dressed before going back to sleep.

Parents get to walk the kids to their classrooms for the first two days of school.  As we entered the classroom, she started to get nervous and tried to hide behind me.  She quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to allow that and managed to locate her name tag at the table.

She did very well at the drop-off.  She was shy, and not quite ready to introduce herself to the other kids at her table, but there were no tears. Miss B. is a gentle, soft-spoken woman and I think Kaelin is going to have no problem becoming attached to her.

I sent her with some cards in her lunch box to pass out to her new friends.  They have her name and my contact information on them, so hopefully we can schedule some play dates.  It will be nice to have friends so close to our house.

Well, I guess that’s about it.  My little girl is a big kindergartener now.  I’ll leave you with one last picture to emphasize how insane that feels to me:

 

New Homework Policy = No Homework Policy?

19 Aug

My daughter starts kindergarten in a few days.  She’s excited and apprehensive at the same time.  As am I.

I did find out something interesting at the “meet the teacher” open house yesterday.  According to her teacher, apparently our school district is looking to “move away from homework.”  I’m not sure exactly to what degree that will be carried (and neither is the teacher, who just found out about the new goal this week), but I can say that I’m fully in support of it.

While I’ve heard of schools trying out this idea of reducing, restructuring or eliminating homework, I’ve not heard of any local district pursuing it.

Personally, I think it could be a great idea.  Or it could be a terrible idea.

In my opinion, homework has two basic values:

  1. Memorization through sheer repetition, without taking time away from in-classroom learning hours
  2. Increasing the skill of working independently to complete tasks

However, for a lot of students, simply being “required” to complete work at home is not enough to build these skills.  Students actually have to be taught how to study or work independently (particularly if they are to succeed in college).  If this skill can be mastered in the classroom, where some supervision and guidance is still available, then that would greatly benefit the demographic of students for whom independent work does not come naturally.  However, if the skill of independent and self-guided work is not addressed, then all students will suffer – including the ones that would otherwise have mastered the skill on their own out of necessity.

When I was in school, we had a lot of homework.  Hours, each evening.  It was depressing.  I was fortunate enough to have some extracurricular activities that got me up on my feet and doing something active that I enjoyed, which probably kept me from going into depression with the amount of school work I had to do most nights.  However, those same extracurricular activities also took time away from my afternoons and evenings, making the homework assignments more difficult to complete in the amount of time I had available.  I was either losing sleep by staying up to finish homework, or wasting time by accidentally falling asleep on top of my assignment in the middle of the night.

So the idea of little or no homework for my kids?  I love it on the surface.  But in order to make it work, teachers will have to make up for the information and skills gained while doing the work outside of the classroom.  With the current budget issues in our public schools, the probability of this concerns me.  Because to truly make up for anything lost when homework is eliminated, I believe the school will have to increase two factors:

  1. Time allocated in the classroom for independent work
  2. Individual attention given to each student

You know what that means, right?  Longer hours (or a more succinct curriculum) and smaller class sizes.  Given the fact that the state of Texas has just cut $4 billion from schools that are already suffering from lack of funding (Texas ranks 43rd in the nation for money allocated per pupil), what is the probability that any district will consider increasing school operating expenses or hiring more teachers?  Highly unlikely.

So for the meantime, I guess we’ll just wait and see how the new homework policy works out.  I’m guessing we’ll end up with less than a lot of change.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Politics, School

 

Letter to Parents

16 Aug

Dear Texas Parent:

 We would like to tell you that we are excited about the start of the upcoming school year.  But that would not be entirely true.

This past summer, the Texas Legislature cut $4 billion in overall funding for public education, and the impact will be felt in classrooms across the state.  Regardless, we pledge to provide your child with the best education possible, in a clean, safe school.

This will be a challenge in a state that previously ranked 44th in funding for public education, and is now likely to fall even lower among the 50 states.

You should know how budget cuts are likely to affect your child’s education: 

  • Statewide there will be fewer teachers.  Some teachers were laid-off; others retired, and we eliminated their positions; other teaching vacancies were simply left empty, to save money.  This will mean larger class sizes and fewer academic options, especially at the high school grades.
  • The focus on the new high-stakes STAAR accountability test will likely mean that we’ll try to find savings in subjects that will not be tested, so expect to have fewer art and music teachers, especially at the elementary grades.
  • While state leaders like to tout Texas’ potential in a global economy, our ability to provide students who can speak German, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other foreign languages, will be diminished.  We simply can’t afford to hire the teachers.
  • To continue with an effectively full-day pre-kindergarten program, some districts will now be charging tuition, based upon a family’s ability to pay.
  • Because of rising transportation costs, many field trips for culturally-enriched art and music programs will be cancelled.
  • School maintenance is not protected from budget cuts.  So, if your scout troop or service club is looking for a project, please contact your child’s principal.  They, undoubtedly, will have a ‘to do’ list of projects that we don’t have the money to tackle.
  • Higher food prices and utility costs are causing many of us to increase cafeteria meals by 5-10 cents.  Still, it’s nutritious food, and is the only balanced meal that many students receive daily.
  • For those of us without artificial turf in stadiums, we’ve done our best to keep athletic fields watered this summer, despite the drought.  That’s not because we want them to be lush, but because if they are nothing but rock-hard patches of dirt, our young athletes are at greater risk of injury.
  • Speaking of athletics, some of us are moving into the era of “pay to play,” in which athletes and band members may be required to pay a fee to participate.  We recognize that these fees will present a hardship for many of our students, especially those from low-income families.

 We would like to think these financial challenges are temporary.  We would like to think that, when it convenes in 2013, the Texas Legislature will restore the funding it cut.  However, we are placing greater faith in the courts.  For four decades, our lawmakers have balked at adequately funding public education, until forced to do so by threat of lawsuit.

Only a handful of us, so far, have chosen to go to voters — who are cash-strapped as well — asking for more revenue through a Tax Ratification Election.  The rest of us will cut corners, and dip further into reserve funds, hoping it doesn’t adversely affect our bond ratings.

We know that these are difficult economic times for most Texas families. These are also tough times for Texas schools.  Nonetheless, you have our pledge that we will do our best to provide the academic support that your child needs to succeed.  In return, we hope that you will continue to support us.

 Sincerely,

 Your Local Texas School District

 

Written by Andy Welch, who recently retired as communication director for the Austin Independent School District.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Frustration, School