Correspondence with Schools

First, I keep getting links for Easter fun. So here are a few:

The other day, I was pondering my school letters for next year. At our elementary school, some parents choose to write a letter about their child in an attempt to sway teacher assignments. Really, I don’t think too many families do it. In fact, I’ve never written a letter for M. Last year I wrote one for J partly at the suggestion of her teachers, because her possible teacher assignments included a wonderful teacher whom M had had and another teacher who is a bit harsh and brusque.

The letter thing is a little nutty. We aren’t permitted to name teachers, so there’s a rather well-established code called “learning style.” For the first graders, instead of naming teachers A, B, or C, parents tend to say that they believe their child would flourish with “discipline and structure,” with “a warm environment with some structure,” or with “plenty of freedom and warmth.” The quotations aren’t exact, but I think most parents at our school would be able to match those up fairly well with the three first grade teachers. I’ve even had school staff advise me on the code to avoid a particular teacher: “I believe strongly that teachers should conform to our school’s homework guidelines.” Anyway, the whole set-up is goofy, but I don’t really have a better method to suggest. Parents want input, but they can’t be in charge of these assignments. Parents don’t know the teachers, the other kids, and the curricula as well as the folks making the assignments. And our kids can act quite differently at school than at home, so if our kids are the one area in which parents claim expertise, I don’t even know if that‘s true.

This year, we received a special note from the principal in which she once again said what we couldn’t say, like teachers’ names, and threw in some new ones including no mention of  “learning style” and no requests to avoid combination classes. One friend summed it up something like, “in other words, please don’t write.” But of course it’s precisely this year’s uncertainty, including teachers getting reassigned all over the place and a possible combination class of 1st and 2nd graders, that made me feel like I had to write something for each of them. For M, I told the principal about her miserable experience with a math teacher on the off chance that the teacher would be reassigned to 5th grade. For J, I explained that J still has a complex about being “too old” for first grade. She turned 7 on October 1st. I just went back searching for a post of being a Red Shirter and I realized that I never wrote one–how is that possible? Anyway, if a stranger asks her what grade she’s in, she’ll still sometimes answer, “I should be in 2nd grade, but I’m only in 1st grade.” It makes me crazy.

So I wrote those letters, and then I remembered another communication I had. The 4th graders have been doing practice tests for their upcoming state tests a lot. And we’ve been getting all sorts of reminders about the test dates, and the importance of plenty of sleep and a healthy breakfast. Plus, M’s been doing great on the practice tests. Comments like, “Wonderful!!!” So over dinner recently, I joked that we should tell her teacher that M was going to be absent. I was only kidding, of course, but Cute W and M kept saying, “Oh, we have to!”

We’ve been known to miss school for unacceptable reasons. We went to Disney World, we’ve gone skiing. I feel some guilt over it, but M’s teacher has always been so kind. We’ll send her an email, and she’ll reply with a perky, “Have fun! Wish I could come, too!” So the other day I sent an email:

M won’t be in school on Tuesday, April 17th or Wednesday, April 18th because we have an important rollerskating outing we’re planning as a family.

I was hoping that “an important rollerskating outing” would be sufficiently ridiculously to make her re-read it and realize it was a joke, but I was underestimating the sort of ridiculousness that teachers encounter. Instead, she replied with a polite and diplomatic reminder that those dates were state testing dates. I felt so bad. I sent her a reply right away ‘fessing up, apologizing, and promising that I’d buy some more #2 pencils. She replied quick with all caps and a declaration of war. So now I’m a little scared. She’s basically got custody of my children for hours every day. That’s a lot of power.

Finally, I stumbled on my first letter to a school when I went to write my elementary school letters. I usually just open a previous letter so that the format and address are already there. I accidentally clicked the document from long ago, when we withdrew M from daycare. I attempted to go back to work shortly after M turned one, and it didn’t work out too well. But the brief letter I sent made me laugh:

Dear Ms. Daycare Director:

Our daughter, M, will be leaving Daycare in order to pursue her first love:  hanging out with Mommy full time.  Her last day will be Thursday, December 4th

For those keeping score, little J got started a month later and was born the following October. I figured that if I was going to Mommy full time, I may as well get rolling on a sibling.