2nd grade open house

2nd grade open house
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Our back-to-school night experience was just darn weird. This is the middle of the third week of school. We got there at the appointed time, 6:30, to find total chaos. Kids were running around and there was a lot of pizza, all in the outside area by the playground. It was too loud and chaotic to really talk to any one or meet new people. Don’t know why, but I had pictured that we would sit with the kids and parents in our kids’ class, which might have been useful. Should we have been eating the pizza in his homeroom? I wish I had known, if so…

Then, someone made announcements but no one could hear. We went up to Moomin’s homeroom teacher’s classroom but that was the wrong place! Our handout from last week said “K-2 Orientation Room 19” and “First Grade Standards rm#15”. In some other room we ended up in “2nd Grade Standards”, which was one of the teachers with some stuff on the overhead projector and a handout printed from the web (in English). He gabbled bizarrely about The Test in May, and went on … kind of a lot… about how when he taught 4th grade the kids never knew any math and the state requires them to teach measurement, time, and money, they don’t learn it, t hey make them teach it again in 3th grade, they don’t learn it, they make them teach it again in 4th grade and they still don’t learn it because they’re not ready. Oh, and they also could learn it even if they weren’t ready but they can’t because there isn’t enough time, because American education is too broad. A parent then spoke up in tenative English to ask if we were going to get “the list of 100 words” that the kids have to be able to read by the end of the year. (It is really a list of 200 words.) Somehow although the question was obvious, our Leader did not get it through 3 repetitions. He did say that 20 words would come home per week and there was a pre-test for next week’s words and a test on this week’s.

Then we were lectured on how over the next two years we should help our kids learn things like measurement, time, and money, by experential learning. “You learn with your hands, you learn with your hands, you learn with your hands!” he berated us. “Give them a ruler. Let them measure 10 things in the house. Help them.”

It was all quite disheartening. The things I actually wanted to know were (and still are):

– what is the daily schedule? what’s the routine of the classroom?
– who does my kid have for what subject?
– how are the kids split up into classes or tracked?
– how can I help in the classroom to support ?
– what IS my kid going to have the opportunity to learn ? What will be fun? What about science and social studies and art and music?

Instead I was pretty much told some depressing gabble about tests and how no kid was ready for the subjects on them. The teacher seemed stressed and unclear on what the point was. He took questions, but then didn’t answer the question. For example, a woman behind me asked When the test was and what if your kid doesn’t pass it? Does that mean they don’t pass 2nd grade? How do you know if they’re going to pass or not? What determines it? She didn’t ask in exactly those words, but that’s what she was asking. Somehow it did not get answered! It sucked that the Spanish-speaking parents did not have a handout they could read although I would bet there is one. The whole experience for them must have been big-time pointless.

I don’t get it.

I was also sort of hoping that we would get shown marvellous examples of the kids’ work and get to look at the bulletin boards and things. That didn’t happen. At this point, also, they’ve been in school for almost 3 weeks and I have not seen a lick of homework.

Oh I almost forgot. The guy told us not to teach our kids multiplication at home. We would just confuse them. Instead it is better to make sure they have their basic addition and subtraction facts memorized. Memorized… no one mentioned understanding of concepts.

How completely insane.

From my point of view as an overeducated yuppie? This school blows… Unfortunately…

Can’t believe a teacher with a zillion years experience can’t give a simple half hour lecture saying:

Hi, I’m a teacher. Your kids are great. Here’s my contact information. Here’s what your kid is going to learn this year to fill the requirements to graduate 2nd grade. Here’s the list of math facts and the 200 words. Help your kid do their homework if you can and if you can’t here’s the information for the Resource Center that will help them or you. Oh and by the way why don’t you parents help each other help the kids, and here is a sign up sheet so we can all be in touch. Here are the exciting projects we will do while applying the learning of the basic facts. We will write essays about the life cycle of a frog, and play some math games.

No… this kind of speech did not happen. Alas. But that’s the speech I would have stood up to give.

Regrettably – anyone who could read and understand the Content Standards for Grade Two handout, which is a sort of legislative document written for school administrators and maybe teachers? Anyone who can understand this document is QUITE likely to have children who automatically will be able to do the things. Antonyms… synonyms… dipthongs… syllabication rules… comprehending narrative strategies. Yah, that’s really going to make all the parents in there all comfy and informed.


I’m going to go in during recess and play Parcheesi and stuff like that with small groups of kids in the library, if they let me. Perhaps that will contribute to their math skills and ability to learn, think, and become civilized human beings. I kept offering last year but the only thing I was ever asked to do was provide juice or drive the kids to a movie theater on a “field trip” with no educational value and then the trip was cancelled anyway.

Oh, and we had to pay 5 bucks per kid for the “pizza party”.

Did I mention that I’m feeling a bit negative about this school right now… and when I offered to set up a school blog and email list the principal said it was against both the district policy and the PTA’s national policy?

Am cherishing, suddenly, visions of the guerilla school blog and yahoo group for each homeroom. Seriously now. Or what about committing to have a person from each classroom in K-2 interview a teacher or report on what’s happening in the classroom and we make our own freaking newsletter and pass it out? No one ever knows what is happening. Last year the only way I found stuff out was by loitering around the hallway before school lets out, to gossip.

I am seething… I am not sure why… What do I even expect? I like Moomin’s homeroom teacher a lot . I can see they don’t get paid nearly enough and are overworked. What to do? How to improve things? I think the principal and this one teacher have already pegged me as a troublemaker because of my question-asking, and my gentle objection last year to their choice of the movie “Chicken Little” as a curricular linchpin for kindergarten and first grade.

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23 Responses to 2nd grade open house

  1. elswhere says:

    Wow. That sounds like a truly horrific open house. All your expectations and hopes for it are totally realistic and are more or less what I've seen at both my school and MG's, and I totally don't get why they didn't happen at Moomin's. Have they not done this before? Were they all just moved here from Mars? What??At MG's school the PTA has I think a Yahoo group and sends out periodic emails about school-level and legislative issues. Our gripe is that much much more could be done online, rather than people vaguely saying when you ask that oh, that important piece of paper can always be picked up (or dropped off) at The Office, which blithely ignores the reality that many families never get to the Office because they work full time and/or their kid takes the bus.But, anyway, such a group can be set up. Do you get a class-wide or school-wide directory?

  2. Momma to LG says:

    What you wanted to hear is exactly what a "Back to School Night" should be. Having taught second grade that is everything that I would want you to know. I am shocked and sad.I would talk to his teacher. I would also tell the principal. It sucks to be "that parent" but you gotta stand up for yourself and your child.I get some of what said but the way it was said sounds all wrong. It is stuff that I really wouldn't say to a group but maybe a small group of parents or indivuals.I am so bummed that you had that experience!

  3. Kate says:

    Hi Liz:Yup, time to keep in touch and raise some hell. Do you know any local journalists who can, say, take on a special project of tracking a class? (evil smile) Bad schools are such a downer. P.S. I'd suggest creating a "committee for homework fun" or some other innocuous name, setting up a yahoogroup for it, and recruiting hard. Then use it for action. Go, Badgermama – SUBVERT that mediocre education!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Now you know why some people homeschool! *shudder*

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    Hello Momma, Nice article but i have a question, How can I check on my son’s or daughter’s progress in school?

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    I’ve been gathering student work for what seems like months now. I was happy to get rid of mounds of student work, plus it’s always to fun to watch kids show off their hard work to their parents!

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