Saturday, February 9, 2008

My spinning head

Tuesday I have to get a filling put in, Samantha has girls scouts, and our 4H club is hosting the local Public Speaking competition. It is also the two youngest kids' Ice Cream Social at school and the Board of Ed (or is it the board of finance??) meeting for the town (which I really wanted to go to so I could test my New Year's resolution regarding yelling at town meetings).

Since cloning of humans still isn't possible, I will have to forego the town meeting, and simply write a letter. Something along the lines of: we can't give my kids the services they need in any kind of a timely manner, because we don't have the staff, but let's cut our education budget so that we are laying off positions?

And two people who have disucssed the budget with me have brought up the fact that they have cut out replacing the computers at the school that are over five years old. No offense, if you are one of them but, I couldn't care less about the age of the computers. I am pretty sure nearly every kid in Lebanon has a computer at home. I don't understand why the school needs to have the fastest, most up to date versions. If the child can't read, do basic math, or speak with correct grammar, no computer in the world is going to fix it! If the computer works and it has spellchecker for all those kids that "slipped" through the cracks in the elementary school system, then don't replace it!

How about changing what really isn't working! Like three years to deal with an issue every teacher has documented on a child's every progress report and report card since Kindergarten. Like a 4th grader who couldn't spell and struggled with reading, but because she was so "naturally" bright and had figured out on her own how to cope with it and the school didn't have the resources, they didn't even test her. Besides, they have spell checker on the computers in the middle school. (my eyes have now rolled completely out of my head!)

I realize that No Child Left Behind has got every administration running scared, but in all their efforts to reduce the number of kids on their "special Ed." rosters, kids who really need just a little extra help are getting left in the dust. Kids who are struggling with basic concepts like adding numbers with sums of ten, are being forced to struggle with advanced concepts such as adding 2 digit numbers and estimating change. Kids in second grade who are reading on a first grade level have spelling words that my 6th grader would struggle with (but hey, that's okay, she has spellchecker! OOPS! there go my eyes again!).

My first grader is coming home with papers dealing with vertices and faces of geometrical objects. When did developmentally appropriate practices become non-existant? When did the works and studies of Vygostsky and Piaget disappear? Zone of proximal learning? It just doesn't exist in today's classrooms.

I am now teaching my second grader how to "cheat" in math. For example: she needs manipulatives to do math and she loses her place when counting on her fingers and holding a pencil. So I taught her how to use the shape of the numbers on the page as counters. A " 3" for example has three ends and to put your pencil on each end to count. A "2" has two ends, a "4" has 4, etc.

In actuality, I am defeating myself because, when she is in 4th grade and still is struggling in Math, she will have learned how to cope and hide her struggle. She will get the answers correct, albeit slower than the rest of her grade, but no one will believe me when I am telling them that this kid is struggling. Besides, in their minds, I am just going to homeschool her once she gets to 5th grade and it will no longer be their problem. I will spend the entire 5th grade year of homeschool, "fixing", re-teaching, and rebuilding her self confidence. This second grade child is not the same as that fourth grade child was, and she will not bounce as easily.

Now I realize that the board of finance, etc. has to figure out a way to pay for everything and not raise taxes too much. But, I have to say, this town has a very skewed attitude. 3 million dollars for a firehouse that doesn't even add an extra bay for the new apparatus they want to purchase, never mind reducing response times to within nationally accepted standards. 4 million dollars +/- for a senior center that only the seniors can use. And in that 4 million no one has budgeted how they are going to pay for the heat or the electricity for this building that only about 300 people in the community will actually use. All this money being spent on such small select portions of our community. Why aren't we spending the taxes on the future of our town: our kids.

You know, I did a report for one of my college courses on the history of education in Lebanon. Do you realize that at one point in time, Lebanon was the pinnacle of education in the state of Connecticut? There were speeches made in the General Assembly, that are recorded for all of history, about how great the schools in Lebanon were. How so many of our great forefathers came out of Lebanon schools. It is too bad we have lost that vision.

I told you my head would spin if I spoke about our schools....
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