Monday, October 06, 2014

Homeschool decision (Mark's side)

Esme's dad has been keeping his own running narrative in his journal - and he has given me permission to post it here to show his side of the experience. 

Dad's view of the events leading up to deciding to homeschool. *he says it like it is*.

Esme started 1st grade on August 5th of 2014. She'd enjoyed
kindergarten the previous year, done quite well on her tests, had the
usual issues adapting to a more formal school environment etc, but got
over them. First grade was different.

Almost as soon as school started Esme showed disturbing changes in
attitude. The little girl who enjoyed doing math problems with her mom
vanished, replaced with "Girls can't do math - it makes my brain
hurt." The pride she took in writing her letters became "I should just
do one or two to show I tried."  We found this unacceptable, and
disturbing, and told Esme we didn't appreciate this behavior; she
became better at home, but not as enthused as she had been before
beginning school.

We tried to be supportive of the school and teacher without being
overbearing. Rhe sent several notes and examples of the work Esme had
been doing at home, to no real result. The second week of school began
with an "Open House" presentation where the teacher invited parents
into the classroom for a presentation explaining her day with the
kids. The presentation ended with the teacher saying, "Any
questions?", at which Esme raised her hand, the teacher rolled her
eyes and said "NOT YOU, Esme". Amusing, but not encouraging, and
apparently consistent with the classroom experience Esme was having.

Esme's daily behavior reports continued to be poor. We'd ask her how
she'd got into trouble that day, and usually hear about "The other
kids made me talk!" ... Which isn't a surprising answer from a 6 year
old, but we kept telling her to be quiet even when others were talking
to her. Rarely there were more details about an incident sent by the
teacher on these reports.

Aug 23, Rhe has a face to face meeting with teacher to make her aware
of some of the possible communication problems and also advanced
skills Esme has.  Rhe asks for more communication to work things
out like we did in Kindergarten.  Teacher does a lot of nodding,
puts the papers in a file.  Behavior reports continue to worsen. 
Teacher states Esme is 'disrespectful', several times.  Teacher
and Rhe text about the reasons for punishment a few of the 'red'
days.. nothing adds  up.  Esme begins to show more and more
anxiety about going to school.

Sep 19th, Esme's teacher called to ask me how her behavior problems
might be solved. It happened to be convenient to have a face to face
talk with her that day, so I did. She raised numerous examples of
Emse's misbehavior that she hadn't personally witnessed. The examples
she had personally witnessed were not severe and were often examples
of the teacher's prejudice; automatic assumption that Esme must be at
fault. She actually told a story of hearing a fuss, turning around and
yelling at Esme because she was one of three little girls involved.

At this point the teacher employed "perky cheerleader" body language
and thrust her chest out a bit with a pose; presumably this was a
"don't think about what I just said, look at tits and believe me!"
tactic that usually works for her. She was certainly stonkered when it
didn't work on me, lost her train of thought.

Several times at that meeting, I voiced my opinion that the behaviors
they were seeing and objecting to appeared to be the result of
boredom. If they couldn't give her more challenging assignments then
at least they could let her read books we've been sending to school
with her. Rhe had sent her a letter on Aug 15th saying much the same
thing, but in more detail and much more politely.  Teacher was urged
to contact us by whichever means at need so we could reinforce Esme's
behavior lessons.

Personally I found teacher non-responsive, reacting with blank faced
incomprehension, to suggestions that Esme's behavior indicated


The next time we talked to (or even heard from) the teacher was the
Sep 30 Parent/Teacher conference. They had a school guidance
counselor attending as well. She helped moderate and mediate the
discussion, and had several good suggestions herself.

We're given a set of tests that are all 100 scored or "showed
improvement" on the reading speed; and then told that Esme's already
into "differentiated learning", which means she's getting to do next
week's material? It's still nothing she has any problems doing. They
assure us that there's no chance she's unchallenged by the academics
there, however, because she's not consistently the best in the class
at everything. She must therefore be "unengaged."

Teacher returns to us an toy Esme brought to school, a small wooden
coin that she was told was important and not to lose. Esme naturally
enough got into trouble playing with it in class, and reasonably
enough Teacher took it from her. Then it was displayed on the
Teacher's table for several days and Esme got in trouble again for
taking it back without permission. This is given to us after Esme's
test results are shown, as the leader into discussing Esme's ongoing
behavior troubles.

Teacher tells us how important following rules is, that it's a
classroom skill and a life skill which "will be important for her job,
later." Certainly there's a point there, but they present it as a
statement of faith, with more fervor than is commonly seen in fire
breathing revival tent preachers. Rhe and I are leery of such fervor
by instinct, and could argue the need to understand rules and question
them for at least as long as these people can argue the need to have

Neither Rhe or I are impressed by reference to Esme's career prospects
in the context of her first grade education. At best it's irrelevant,
it is sad to think this is an effective line for them to bully the
parents of the other first grade children.

Again, Teacher's narration of Esme's behavior is mostly second-hand
stories, or those which cast doubt on her judgement (at least)
when they weren't. This time she told of Esme being gigged for lying
about being in trouble earlier in the day, outside the classroom,
which the Guidance followed up on by saying that the lunchroom things
are handled there, and then are done. Except for Esme, apparently.

Esme had expressed her frustration at one point by saying "I'm so
Angry!" and putting her head down; which is a very characteristic
thing to for our little girl. Teacher felt that was an example of the
general disrespect Esme has for her, and "Even my own kids don't speak
to me like that."

Teacher locked eyes with Rhe and burst into tears while stating she
felt she wasn't getting any support here. We found it disgustingly
blatant manipulative behavior, and she apparently didn't know what to
do when it didn't gain the immediate sympathy she was aiming
for. Where I hadn't reacted to her earlier goto manipulation for
males, Rhe was similarly targeted and failed to respond as she
expected to the female version.

Guidance had a good suggestion about making Esme tally the "redirects"
she got, every time she was called on to focus her eyes and attention
on the teacher. We've been supplying paper and pen to Esme, for her to
have at her desk, to be used when she's done with an assignment or
whenever she finds herself with unfilled time. We're told she can't
have that paper there, and thus the suggestion of working on a
specific problem in a constructive way is dead on arrival.

The day after the conference, Esme has got in trouble again, this time
she says it's because she raised her hand asking to go to the
bathroom. There's no further information from the teacher. The
following two days are both trouble free, but include notes from the
teacher like "Excellent class work.  More lunchroom trouble today,"
which may no longer be class trouble? We're mystified.  Notes are good

if they help us solve a problem.  We attempt to contact the school admin 
twice that week, by email and phone, receive no responses.  Make the
decision together that even if they will skip her a grade, or challenge her 
more in class, it will not solve many things, or fix worsening opinions.


We wanted her to go to public school so she'd have a chance to
interact with the other children, both her age and not; living in a
rural area and in today's climate of caged kids, sending her 3 miles
off to play with the nearest neighbor kids is difficult or
impossible. In kindergarten, she loved that there were other children
to play with, the things she didn't like about school were a
worthwhile cost for having friends.

Now, apparently they're much more regimented even in recess time. Esme
doesn't find it as appealing anymore. She doesn't want to or doesn't
get to play with the other kids because of timeouts, and isn't allowed
to do her own thing, which leaves her misbehaving again and probably
 getting double dip punishment for.

In order for her to go to school she's got to be on the bus at 6.30am,
and wait at school most of an hour before class begins. We're confused
by the reports of how kids are expected to act during this time, and
how much trouble Esme gets in there. She says they're not supposed to
talk, and "Got in trouble in lunchroom" is all but universal in the
few communications from her teacher.

When classes are done at 2.45pm; Esme has to wait again (classroom?
lunchroom? we're not sure, answers were non specific) for a bus ride
that gets her home at 3.40pm. She's spending 9 hours a day to fulfill
a 4hr attendence requirement, and so much of that 4hr is apparently
used for "quiet time" where she's expected to sit and do nothing

We have not been well pleased with the school administration, either;
despite protestations of "our door is always open if you need to
talk", emails to the Principal have gone unanswered, calls requesting
appointments with him have not been returned.


October 6th, we've decided to homeschool. We go to the appropriate
offcial at the school's district office, and there's zero hassle, zero
questions, no fuss or bother. The gentleman responsible for accepting
the forms has one to hand and even goes so far as to fill it out for
us, as well as calling the school to get their process started.

We get to the school and they're expecting us, have already cleaned
out Esme's desk and one of her classmates is on the way to the office
to deliver her personal property from the classroom. Guidance
counsellor who was at the parent/teacher conference wishes us luck and
says she understands. It is the single most pleasant and smoothest
interaction we've had with the school system to date.


I'm still being creatively crude about Teacher. She's a cokebottle
skank, with a wonderful leatherette tanning bed skin tone, who looks
the very prototype of the high school cheerleader 20 (very hard) years
later. Still clinging to the thoughtless appeal and assuming the
Natural Superiority of the Chosen Jock Clique, resenting the younger
prettier girls her career surrounds her with because they've still got
opportunities. Never seeing that she had those opportunities too but
chose to forgo them in favor of easy popularity, fitting in, and
blowing the entire football team.

Perhaps she's a good person with genuine problems, or even just
differing values and poor judgement; whichever reasons there might be
I cannot respect the results. With much effort I've kept from
expressing my feelings and judgements about Teacher in front of Esme,
whcih has led to surreal moments in the past couple of months where
I'm telling my little girl she has to do what Teacher wants because
Teacher wants it that way.

Now Esme's adventure in first grade is over, done with, and we can
begin repairing the damage. I've been writing this to rant; and explain
for others who might benefit from seeing it. Our family isn't the only
one impacted by this teacher or her spiritual sisters, we've profited
by the examples of others in gathering the courage to say "no more of
this" in regard to our child. If others can be helped by this, or even
amused, then it was worth writing.

--So there we are, both of us.  We're getting our plan together for how we know she has to be taught - trying to undo the damage and get her challenged and involved in her learning again.  Stay tuned for updates.

1 comment:

LEfting said...

I loved the physical description of the teacher!!! Wonderful! And if you can help your little girl to be as gifted with words as you both are, she will do well! Congratulations on having the courage to pull Esme out of a terrible situation that was sure to go downhill. The teach must now find a new victim....
I wish you all the success in the world, and can't wait for updates on her progress!