As it got closer to my son getting ready to start school (Kindergarten) this year, I had some hesitations with public schooling. I live in Utah and we are not know for having the best public education. The state of Utah this year is ranked 38th in the Nation. The area we struggle in is funding our schools. Utah does not spend very much on their students when it comes to other states. You hear more about funding transportation projects than you do education.
I can say I am guilty for not being as involved because I have not had a young child in school. Prior to enrolling my son this year, we had to look at things like expenses and could we do a private school. I did try to get him in a charter school, which is still public but at least they have strict limits on class size. We were not picked for the lottery enrollment.
So once it came down to having to go with our local Elementary school, I vowed to be very involved in any way I could so I could see if this was a good fit and I was just worrying for nothing. What did I do you ask?
I joined the PTA, signed up to run on the school community council, and got chosen to be the room mother for my son’s class. Obviously this is not something everyone has time to do, if you are working full time its very hard and I totally get it. But I strongly advised you to at least try to spend 1 day a month volunteering for a bit in your child’s class, especially young kids.
Why am I so passionate about being involved, and not running the other way? Well since becoming Room Mother for the class, I am in the class room several times a week and helping to coordinate other parent volunteers for things like reading group, special projects, and homework pass off. The teachers just do not have the time and the resources to do everything they would like. It’s really become an eye opening experience for me to see the teachers do everything they can to keep up but with little pay, time, and help from the school itself its a never ending battle for them. I think as parents we sometimes blame the teachers for not doing enough for our kids to help them catch up, but when you have overflowing classrooms it’s nearly impossible for the teacher to give every child the one on one time they need.
This is definitely the case with my son’s class, there are 24 Kindergarten students which is too many to me even if they schools do not think so. I cannot wrap my head around how the government says you can only have so many children to an adult in a daycare but a school classroom let’s give one teachers 20-25 5 and 6 years because that’s totally different. Yay right!
Then in my son’s class’s case, there are 5 to 6 kids who are a variety of challenges. One Autistic child, several behind with no basic knowledge of their alphabet or numbers, and a couple with bad behavior problems. I am in no way judging or singling out these kids. My biggest concern is for the children who have learning disabilities and no classroom aide. I have a younger brother who is autistic and my parents fought for him to have aides so he was not behind.
So to have so many with different challenges, and these children alone take so much of the teachers time. It has become a huge problem in the classroom, it has taken the teacher away from being able to teach and has also put the children behind in curriculum for the school year. That is the part that set me off, you all these children at different learning stages and the teacher asking the school for assistance so that no child is left behind and nothing was happening.
Finally those of us parent volunteers who had been spending a lot of time in the classroom and could see this and see how it was affecting not only our own children but all of them. We went to the principal and all voiced our concerns some parents even threatening to pull their child out of the school if this was not taken seriously.
The acknowledge our concerns but I do not fully feel they cared, since we said something there have been other staff and aides coming into the classroom almost daily to assist. I have seen some improvement, and I am so happy for the children with special needs who are getting the one on one help they need and deserve. Sadly I have not seen their parents very involved in the classroom. I cannot judge though I do not know their situation and I hope they are being given feedback so at least they are aware of what’s going on, because that is obviously not my place. I am also glad I have actually seen my son’s teacher be able to teach in class.
I am giving it a chance to improve and we will see what the next few weeks show, but I am still not sure if I will keep my son at this school. So you can see why I say be aware of what’s going on in your child’s classroom, especially at such a crucial age when they need to get the basics down. I think we are too quick to put blame on the teachers when they can only do so much and they school may not be listening to your child’s teachers about assistance needed in the classroom. And if you live in a place like I do where not much funding goes to the schools to get the teachers full time aides, its even more important that we as the parents volunteer what time we can to make a difference in our children’s education.
I have found it very rewarded too, not only am I involved in my child’s education but I am also helping other kids to do better.
I’m sure I am not the only one learning these tough lessons, so if you have any other advice or stories please feel free to share in the comments. I love hearing from you all!
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