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Dear Tim…

An email I am considering sending to my daughter’s school superintendent…

Dear Tim,
Ok…you know I should really take my own advice and not write an email while being upset, but…I figure why not let one fly tonight…I have hit “reply all” because there might be at least one(members of SPAC) among you who share my feelings. Sorry for any sloppy mistakes, but I will let this fly so I have time to give my girls an apology kiss goodnight for sending them into a toxic environment.

After being canceled many times, I would like to once again push you to come up with a date for a Superintendent Parent Advisory Committee meeting…I had to get up and walk out of the PTO meeting tonight after learning that anything I said would not matter in regards to the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and supports (PBIS) and I am hoping that SPAC meetings will continue so that the member will find a place for their voices to be heard.  I was excited to be asked to sit on the comitte, but getting frustrated that there were only two meetings this year and hope that another is in the near future.

On the BCS website Mr. XYZ (admin) states:
Parents, teachers and students share responsibility for the learning process, and therefore are partners in the decision making process. After being told in an email from one admin that parent cannot stay in the school for more than 45 minutes with disrupting the educational process, and being told tonight that parents will have no say in PBIS I am very dismayed and saddened at the current atmosphere at BCS.

I am tired of candy coated admin speeches that are meant to hide the truth. I have sat through Board of Education Meeting, Open Houses, and Parent Conferences and have to over and over again hear the staff hide the truth because they assume they can talk over the heads of parents. After having my words be dismissed by first year teachers and admins who do not have my expertise and experience in classroom teaching I have come to my wits end. I do not know everything, but after two decades of teaching and researching I can draw on valuable empirical and research based evidence in which to rely on for my opinions. I have been trained for the last 14 years in assessing units of study, one of the 40 or so teachers in the state who decide on whether social studies teachers can pass on and receive their teaching certificate, and have been a mentor teacher to over 16 people. I have presented at conferences locally, regionally, and national conferences. I have taught in schools full of kids who were coming or going to jail, and classes that had kids who were destined to Yale. I have raised kids who went to school, and who have spent years at home in an unschooling environment. While people who don’t know me might say I wrote that partial 😉 list to feed my ego, I simply offer it so that you might imagine how I feel as I sit and am told over and over again that my opinion does not matter, especially since three of the four admins have never even been classroom teachers.

I need to know if the SPAC will be a viable group. Otherwise I feel as though I need to use my training and expertise in teaching to truly expose what is going on in BCS. There are things being done that if my student teacher tried to do I would fail her. I am truly embarrassed to be a BCS parent after tonight’s meeting. I hope that some hope can be restored by believing that SPAC has a chance to be a group in which the parents advise the superintendent, and not one which we sit and get advised by the superintendent. Mrs. XYZ once said, “Possessing a genuine interest and taking part in your child’s school community is imperative to his development.” I hope that my involvement can be more than just picking up the empty pieces of my children each night after they come home depleted of hope each day.

If our voices, as parents and the ones who know our children best, are not valued is hard to imagine that children are truly valued.

Thank you,
Paul

15 comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this is how the meeting went. I think you have to raise your voice as much and as often as necessary until you are heard. If your voice, as a parent and the one who knows your children best, is not valued is hard to imagine that children are truly valued.

  2. Thank you Jenn..I had a line in there like yours originally but your comment nails it. Have added it as the last line.

  3. I can’t really tell what you are upset about? Is it about not having a voice in a meeting? Are you bothered by PBIS? What is the “dirt” at BCS?

    It’s so soap opera-ish.

  4. The letter doesn’t seem to have a specific point. What are you trying to accomplish with it, other than establish yourself as the parent who whines?

    Pick your goal, make it clear in the first paragraph, and support your request with clear, crisp evidence (not just your willingness to walk out of PTO meetings).

    You can cut out 3/4 of the listing of the bona fides, providing them only in support of some specific task you are volunteering for.

    1. I think you are right—this is a bit of an insider letter where you have to know about some of the politics of the school.

      The walking out wasn’t a huffy puffy action. I clearly asked whether or not we were going to be listened to, and was told no it did not matter what we said. At that point there was no need to stay. Kind of like why would you bother to leave a comment on this post if half-way through I told you that I would not read it or reflect on it?
      A parent who whines eh? I wish more of my student’s parents would whine…I prefer whining over silence…but still your point is valid, especially since I have slept on it and re-read the letter.

  5. Kevin: I agree…it seemed like a temper tantrum.

    Paul: I am glad you slept on it. I agree with Kevin, don’t throw your resume at them. Share with them your expertise and willingness to help. But I think you also must be prepared for them to say “no thank you.” It could happen

    1. Let me push you on something Mrs CJ…I include the “resume” to not brag, but to point out that they don’t take any advice or listen to anyone…even when that “someone” actually has first hand experience with what they are trying to do.

      Imagine going to a picnic and you are talking in a group about an illness you just found out your child has. One person identifies them self as having an expertise in the illness that your child has, as a person who has diagnosed and cured 1000s of kids with that illness…how does that person go about stating their credentials to you without it sounding like it is egotistical bragging after you have repeatedly stated that their opinion is not wanted or valued?

      1. Sincerely…I am not picking at your point, but I am so frustrated and really need to be talked into a place where I can see this from a fresh perspective.

        1. Paul: I am not saying to not share your expertise, but to do so in a way that does not generate more conflict in a place where there already seems to be some levels from how you describe it. I am thinking the whole “catch more flies with honey” approach. And maybe you are past that, and since I don’t know the details, I can understand the frustration.

          I teach at a PBIS school, and I am not aware at any point of parent input. We as a staff generated a set of behaviors (PRIDE…punctuality, respect, integrity, determination & enthusiasm) that we wanted to instill/motivate in our students. We created explanations/definitions of what said behavior “looked like” in different areas of the school (classroom, commons, hallways). We have had great success on our campus with it because teachers owned the change.

          I am not sure how “far gone” your campus is, but hopefully the stakeholders can find a way to come together and make the positive changes necessary that will best benefit the students and staff as a whole on the campus.

        2. Did you implement the entire reward system complete with the prize wheel?
          Do teachers who have no problems in class have to stop teaching to give out tickets?
          What you stated above I have ZERO issues with. It is the reward system that comes attached–one school has kids walking around with cards around their neck and all the teachers have hole punches to mark their cards.

  6. The thing about PBIS is that is can be what you want it to be. We are a high school, so some of the aspects of the program are directly transferable from the elementary level. But here, we try to focus on identifying and rewarding POSITIVE behaviors and intervene where necessary with those that are not on program.

    We have a reward system, but I have never heard of a punitive ticket system. We give RAMBUCKS for positive behaviors (ex. I may give bucks to the first 5 students in class that day, or bucks for high levels of participation in class or some great thinking). The goal is to get students to want to get teacher’s attention for positive behaviors, so we practice 4 or 5 to 1 ratios of positive comments in class and things like that.

    I have not heard of academic programs that are designed for students to fail and then succeed. However, I do think that we have to teach our students HOW to deal with failure and how it can be a growth opportunity. For the academic side for us, PBIS is about brainstorming to implement a multitude of positive strategies to increase success, so we don’t ascribe to other programs, we just try to keep our staff aware of all the possible tools for success (brain-based strategies, differentiation, blooms…or whatever.)

    I have seen campuses where PBIS has been implemented badly, and this seems to be the case for your campus.

    Hang in there!

  7. Your post made me flash back to my past. My kids are in college now, but I was in your position for many years.

    Looking back, I don’t know if anything I did made a lot of difference. I tried playing along, attending endless meetings of head patting condescending and cheery self-congratulating passing for planning, review, and critique. I tried being a gadfly, writing letters, offering expertise, offering money, ignoring the whole thing, and everything else I could think of. I was told things like, “we don’t do that here, we govern by consensus” – meaning all the people on the committee tell each other how wonderful everything is and plan the menu for the next meeting.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m a mean, horrible, not-a-team-player person. But looking back I don’t think anything I did had any effect – EXCEPT talking directly to teachers. They often agreed with what I was saying and told me that they felt that way too, but… and then some excuse would follow… the admins, the tests, the other parents, etc. However I almost always was able to make some agreed upon change to the classroom practice in question.

    I HATE being a cynic. I HATE saying a problem cannot be solved. But seriously, there is no perfect letter, no perfect behavior, no perfect solution that you alone can do to change this. You are not in the position to do so, and your outside expertise is not valued and never will be – it’s simply not a matter of your style or how you present it.

    If you choose to stay and fight, you need allies. Other parents may be thinking the same things as you and not saying anything.

    Or flight…perhaps you should find a school with a basic belief that aligns more closely with your own. It’s hard enough to run a school when you agree on the educational philosophy. I did move one of my kids to a very progressive school for a few years to escape some of the craziness of the middle school and it turned out to be a terrific choice.

  8. I agree with Sylvia that direct contact with individual teachers is often much more productive than trying to change “the system” from the outside. Individual teachers usually will respect your experience, especially when it is presented not as a long resume but as I-understand-your-problem-I’ve-been-there-too sympathy.

    I’ve been fortunate in that my son has always been in schools where I agreed with the philosophy and techniques of the principal. (Though we did move to private schools for a few years to get access to a more challenging curriculum.) Even so, I’ve found it more productive to talk with individual teachers about making changes than PTOs or principals.

    1. I did actually try to talk with individual teachers–and that was without any kind of “I have been doing this for so long and you haven’t ” attitude. While I did include the “resume” list in the draft letter above, that was more of me venting…have yet to send it, or ever blab any of it during meetings with teachers or administrators. I have found most teachers I have met to be totally resistant to listening to parents. I have offered some gentle suggestions for what would work with my daughter, and every single year before the year starts I offer up to do any of a number of collaborative projects with them–only once did any of them take me up on the offer. I think the letter comes out of the fact that I have used all of the “common sense” types of behavior to elicit change, and now I feel like I have to start speaking their language.
      Thanks for the comment Tim…I appreciate it.

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