Teach Her Tuesday: Advocating For Her Education

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I was looking forward to an amazing year at a charter school. This was our first foray into this world. The Frog Princess spent 3 years in a Montessori school, tucked away absorbing information in a way her dad and I had not. We were grateful for the new ways in which learning could take place.

We are both firm believers that education is the responsibility of the parents. To that end, we make ourselves available to our teachers for whatever help they might need. We turn to them when we have questions about the way the Frog Princess learns or if we are having a hard time grasping some concepts (like the fact that she sometimes still inverts her B's and D's). We look to them to let us know what needs to be reinforced at home so they have a better time at school.

It's why we took a long hard look at what school she would attend and settled on a STEAM-based charter school.

Our belief in the "if we get involved and stay involved there won't be any real big issues we can't all tackle together" mindset has been thrown out the window, though. Let me give you the long background and how we find ourselves advocating extra hard for our kid today.

Once Upon a Time...

It started in the Fall. Wait. I lie. It started the day we met the teacher.

There we were, excited to be bringing the kid to meet her teacher, school supply bags in hand. Me, like the total geek that I am, with a supply bin for the teacher as well (see, teacher friends! I hear you complaining about not having things). This wasn't a bribe. It was my way of starting off the year the way that so many of my friends say they wish they would.

As we are almost finished talking to her (we were the first parents there), another set of parents walked in. I was just asking about the school lunch. Up until now, I'd been packing lunches and wanted to know the procedure for this glorious new "school lunch" thing. I was told that packets of information would go out to parents the next week. As we were milling about, checking out the classroom (I was eyeing the bookshelf), the teacher comes back and states that she'd just give us the packet now since we were there.

We thanked her and went about our way (we were heading to Disney). As I stepped outside I looked at the packet. It was the free school lunch packet.

I handed it over to Elena's dad in the parking lot who admonished "don't start". This was microaggression #1. Because while I was on free school lunch at school and feel very strongly about the program, I felt mightily uneasy about the fact that I was asking about what would be served at lunch and what the procedure was and you felt that what I was really asking about was free lunch.

The Test

The Frog Princess took a test at one point and failed it. It happens right? Except that the reason she failed it was because it seemed that two of the papers had been stuck together and she hadn't answered those questions. We talked to her about the importance of her flipping through each page and made sure we reviewed test taking procedures with her. Her dad took the lead in emailing her teacher to ask if there was any way that she could be given the test questions since we had not shown her those pages but merely discussed the issue with her not turning pages or ensuring that the test get checked thoroughly.

A week later, we had heard nothing (he'd copied me on the email). I had an email thread with the teacher and decided to ask about the lack of response. She stated that she had responded but the email had stayed in the outbox for some reason. That was it.

Fast forward to the first report card. An email went out stating that honor roll information would be included with the report card that was being mailed and further information would follow.

I realized then that I hadn't changed our address when we moved! YIKES! I let the teacher know and was told the kid had made the honor roll (yipee!). Leading up to the day, I helped with putting up the bulletin board (I signed up to be a co-room parent). At that time, the teacher tells me that the honor roll ceremony is on Thursday at 9. I realized quickly that this was the first day of Type A and resolve to being late because this was my girl's first honor roll ceremony. That Wednesday, I had to carry the pumpkin project to class because someone hadn't been lifting weights. I drop off, see another parent in the classroom and the teacher busy. I wave (she did not say hello) and go about my business.

I get home, find the report card finally forwarded to the new address and it looks like the honor roll ceremony was earlier that morning.

I was livid. Let's not get that twisted.

It is of the utmost importance to us that we show up for our child. And it's not just for her sake. We are well aware of the perception having to do with children of color AND parents of color as well.

Her dad took the lead and called the school and asked to speak with an administrator as it seemed we had some sort of communication issue.

The Meeting

At the meeting (which was held with the principal and the teacher) we were told this was not the first instance of the child missing pages on a test because the pages were stuck together. This was the first we'd heard of it.

We ask that she please advise us when there was an issue so that we could help correct the behavior. Class Dojo is used at this school and so, communication flows through there. I not as concerned about my child sitting  properly in class (positive Dojo given) as much as I care about my child having an issue that you've tried to correct on your own but not advised us of.

It was agreed that there had been a miscommunication and she would do better with advising us if anything like that happened. We were also told she was missing classwork because her work was in the "catch up" folder and she wasn't finishing it on time and "all the other students do". Again, something else we hadn't heard before. There had been discussions of my child being meticulous with her work but I did not think it was causing a problem. Here, I will insert the accolades we received for my daughter's "great handwriting". Yes, this is the equivalent of being told she's well-spoken but, we digress.

Of note in the miscommunication department was the fact that she claimed the Wednesday when I dropped off the girl's pumpkin, she asked me if I was staying for the ceremony. I assure you, friends, had I been looked at and spoken to, I would've acknowledged it and I would've been at the ceremony.

At the end of the conversation we'd come to the conclusion that because the Frog Princess had attended a Montessori school, she was not used to certain things (specifically speaking about her issue with the catch up folder). We agreed that if any issues came back up, we would be told via the Dojo app.

At that point her dad, wanting to clear the air, states that he apologized if he seemed upset but that we take her education very seriously. The teacher then stated that she felt like we had gone over her head by going directly to the assistant principal and requesting this meeting and wasn't happy about it. I was taken aback because no foul language was spewed, nothing outside of the concern for the education of our child and the desire to help the school to teach her, had been shared. And yet...

He apologized for doing it and said he hoped there weren't any hard feelings. Since then, there have been a couple of small instances that I've kept in the back of my mind but generally speaking, we've enjoyed 2 semesters on the honor roll and one student of the month award for the month of November.

We thought everything was okay. But alas, it seems that just when you least expect it you find yourself having to advocate for your child… (to be continued)