My youngest son started Kindergarten this year at St. Sylvester Elementary School here in Chicago. I went to the open house a few nights after school started. One of the things the principal said was that we parents were the primary educators of our children.
At first that bothered me. I thought my son spends more waking hours per week with you so doesn’t that make you the primary educator? I also wondered…well what the hell am I paying tuition for then? But taking him at his word…I just listened.
After the principal spoke we had an opportunity to go sit inside the kindergarten classroom and talk directly with the teacher. There she talked about the curriculum, its purpose, its aims and the outcomes she was looking for. And while she spoke, my gut told me this was not going to work for my child. So much so that I wondered how did he get placed in this classroom with this teacher using this curriculum approach? On what basis and what is that recommendation saying about his learning strengths and weaknesses?
So like any concerned parent, I sent a note to the principal expressing my concerns and asking for some clarity. I explained that I knew it was early in the year but this program Super Kids just didn’t seem like it was going to work for my son and so I wanted to know what the alternatives for differentiation might be. I advised him that I was concerned that if my son is not challenged, he will become disruptive and talkative in the classroom out of boredom and so I wanted to discuss this right away so that bad habits don’t develop. I wanted to know how was it determined that this was the right fit for him…because I was not confident that it was.
Now the principal and I have had numerous conversations (my son also attended PreK at St. Sylvester) but our conversations have never been about the curriculum and how it relates to my child. Further, in most cases, while I always find the principal a little strange he’s always been helpful and responsive. So naturally I was assumed he would continue to be so.
His response however was not. Basically, while he said he heard me, he suggested I wait. Now I know my child and waiting is not a luxury that teacher can afford. I know this. He is my child after-all…so I write him back right away.
I thanked him for responding and immediately proceeded to tell him that I found his response most unhelpful for a number of reasons…
- You can not tell me my son was placed in that class based on a recommendation from his PreK teacher and then not tell me what that entailed
- You cannot tell me it was based on a recommendation and then not tell me what the recommendation means about his abilities
- The Super Kids program looks like a program for Low Income and English Language Learners of which he is neither?
- The Super Kids program does not look like it is going to be challenging enough.
I concluded my note with should my son’s behavior start to go awry because of this, I am not going to be open to entertaining alternatives outside of the concerns I am expressing in this note.
Well that turkey wrote back and instead of addressing any of my concerns, he went on and on about the tone of my note, how he felt about it and how if this is not the right environment for my son I could move him to a new school.
So I wrote…You’re damn right I can move him and I will move him if it comes to that but don’t you think I am going to allow you to deflect from what I asked because it makes you uncomfortable. When it comes to my child, I care not a fuck for how you feel!
But that’s inflammatory…so I didn’t send that.
I did meet with the teacher however and guess what happened…
a) she confirmed that my son is too advanced for the curriculum Super Kids in the current format
b) she outlined how we might differentiate the curriculum to meet his needs and gave me a sense of things I can do at home to further it
c) she confirmed that his behavior had been taking a turn for the worse and too thought it might be linked to his not being challenged
d) most importantly she was open and cooperative.
So what did I do you ask:
I wrote that fucker of a principal back and I chewed his ass out as nicely as I could. I reminded him that it was he who told me that I was the primary educator of my child and that he would be wise to listen when we parents come to him with questions and concerns…for we do know our children and their needs better than he, or any classroom teacher ever could.
And then I signed it Dr. Carlton Triolo-Sapp and put my phone number on that bitch should he wanna call me to discuss it further. (Slamming the mic down and walking away…)