I attempted to write a post about having three kids in three separate school buildings this year, and how I’m feeling, more than ever, like I am going back to school alongside my kids. That post wasn’t good: it came off as whiney; it wasn’t entertaining; and its tone insinuated that the blame for parents being inundated with emails and homework belonged to the schools and the teachers.
While some schools and teachers are better than others at managing the information dump on parents, they are all following the dictates of a society that, yearning so mightily to make things easier, has made things more difficult.
The best way to illustrate this may be to compare school life today, with school life during the 1975-76 academic year, when I was in third grade (the same grade as my youngest child today).
During the 1975-76 school year, my mother became a single parent. She had seven children still in the public school system. There was no such thing as email. This, no doubt, prevented her jumping off a tall bridge.
Our schools’ car lines block traffic in the streets around the schools. They allow parents to display the worst of their angry impatience or disregard for the time of other parents. Consequently, every school sends out a two-page email of car line procedures.
In 1975, the car line was three cars speeding up to the front door 15-30 minutes late. Only kids who had fallen behind schedule were driven to school. Everyone else walked or rode the bus.
The web site our schools use to keep track of lunch accounts changed. I must set up a new account and register each of my children. To do this, I need a student number for each child. I know one of them. My high schooler also needs a PIN number to access the money on his account in the cafeteria. I wish he could just be concerned with the numbers in math class.
My mom gave me enough money every Monday to buy a lunch ticket for the week. Each day the lunch lady punched a hole in the ticket. After five holes, the ticket was discarded. If I forget my money, they made a note in their book that I had “charged” lunch. The next day I got two holes punched in my ticket. There were no extras to buy; lunch was lunch, no more, no less.
Demonstrating car line procedures in the days before PDF diagrams and email.
Our schools use another website/app for parents to follow their kids’ assignments and grades. I set up an account this year. I was able to get one kid on it, but only the app accepts my login. Of course you can only add students via the web site (which doesn’t recognize my credentials). Also, you need a separate code number (different from the student ID) for each kid. This is another secret number I have for only one kid. Looks like the others will be monitoring themselves.
My mom monitored our progress by leaving things alone until she got a note from a teacher. She would address the issue and then go back about her own business. But things were far less competitive then, and she already had one child attending a state university, so she understood that not going to Harvard would not mean the end of the world to any of us.
RULES OF CONDUCT
Today I received an email with a link to the Orchestra Handbook for our middle school. My son and I are supposed to read the handbook together and sign the last page. This is just one of the multiple school activities where the rules need to be in writing and the parents must acknowledge receipt of them.
If any rules were in writing, it was most likely a placard on the wall of the classroom that read:
Rules beyond that were based upon the general principles of proper decorum, and if the teacher had to explain them, it was already a bad day. When we broke the rules, we were punished, and if we whined about it at home, we were punished there too. However, we were almost never sued for breach of contract.
There are other examples, but this is already a long post. We shouldn’t be surprised that our schools reflect our frightened, angry, litigious, password-protected (without so much protection), ease-of-use (difficult) society. But nobody needs to carry cash, so that’s awesome.
Three different schools? Your head must be ready to explode. I have one in college and one halfway through high school. Those grade keeping programs (ours is called ParentVue) are a joke. With my oldest, I watched that thing like a hawk (poor child) until I figured out that it was NEVER up to date or reflective of their true grade. I learned with my second child. School started today for my youngest. Last night I got a text from someone I didn’t recognize that welcomed everyone back to school. It also said it was part of a thread. I panicked! Dear God, had I gotten on one of those horrible PTA lists or something? Alas, it was one of his teachers. Hopefully, I won’t hear from her again unless something is wrong with my son’s studies. Wishing you a stress-free year, and hoping you don’t violate those rules and responsibilities. LOL!
Tracking your kids’ grades on an app is kind of like watching the stock market. You’ll go crazy if you worry about the day to day changes. You have to just watch the trends. I use it mostly to check on missing assignments, though even those are subject to lags in the updates.
I was a product of Catholic school in the 60s. Communication took the form of a mimeographed sheet ( which had a smell you can never forget) sent home with everyone; a personal note from the teacher which mom had to sign for you to return, or the dreaded phone call ( for those issues that could not wait). I remember sitting in the kitchen having dinner with my family one night ( people did that in the olden days) the phone on the wall behind mom rang and she answers ” Hello…Oh hello Sister”. My brother and I looked a each other with a terrorized look cuz of one of us is going to get it!
Those nuns really dropped the ball with you. They clearly failed to beat enough of the evil out of you.
Oh, man… All of these things you mention are so on point. It’s ridiculous that what some might call progress is a bit of a regress to me. No, it’s a lot of a regress.
RE: the emails and lengthy documents that require signatures – both are there to just cover someone’s ass and shift the blame onto the next person. ‘But I sent you an email!… Oh, you didn’t see it? Do you not have notifications on? You’re really not interested in your kid, are you?’
The parents blame the schools and the schools blame the parents. It’s the symbiotic relationship from Hell.
No one wants to take responsibility these days and it… drives me up the wall. It makes everything worse, but those that want, are just able to shrug it off.
The only response I can offer to that is a simple shrug.
… Don’t mind my face going red and smoke coming out of my ears.
I don’t mind it at all
Oh, Scott! The MESS at large within the education system simply makes the brain cringe, the eyes cross, the tempers flair, and the patience lag. I honestly don’t know how you manage or do what you do. The complicated horror this world has become is something I observe and when subjected to it, I just look with a certain expression on my face that more or less says …. Really? Are you people serious? What happened to common sense and personal responsibility? What happened to open conversation versus orders flying from one direction towards me? I don’t know how parents cope today. People are so fed up with the system here locally not enough bus drivers can be hired. No one wants to deal with this system any longer, nor the kids who are out of control who no one dares to discipline. Just shaking my head.
I think the parents have it easier than the kids, Amy. Growing up seems a lot more complicated than it used to be. So, whenever I feel overwhelmed by anything going on in the schools, I look to me kids for inspiration. They’re doing the hard part and they are still managing to keep afloat in the tribulations of modern life.