Thursday, September 01, 2011

9/1/11 Back To School Night

Whew. Busy, busy night. Back To School Night -- first, 4th-grade classroom for a teacher presentation, then a general assembly for parents, then the kinder and 2nd-grade classrooms at the same time, finishing up at 8pm. Homework wrap-up and filling out 3 folders for photos tomorrow also on the schedule for tonight. WHEW.

I was greatly encouraged by the 4th- and 2nd-grade teachers mention of homework. Both commented about the movie "Race To Nowhere" and that the value of homework was controversial, though the 2nd-grade teacher also mentioned that most parents were happy with the homework level (NOT US!). But our new principal's influence is felt, and to me a definite step in the right direction.

Still, there was a noticeable absence of murmurs of agreement at the general assembly when the principal commented that he'd advised teachers not to give homework just to give it, like if there really wasn't anything in the curriculum the next day. I wanted to stand up and cheer, but it was clear from audience reaction that this was not the general consensus. Indeed, in the classrooms, questions like "do you grade the homework? If not, what DO you grade?" came up, and questions about books to use at home to reinforce the day's lesson. Those questions make me feel more like a minority than all the sarees.

I was really impressed with Gabriel's teacher, a fairly young man who's been teaching at our school for 7 years. He has a lot of enthusiasm and new ideas, has a lot of humor and likes teaching through demonstrations and re-enactment. For example, he talked about teaching California history this year, including during its Spanish history when he would be a governor and the kids would have to apply to him for a land grant. He also mentioned something about writing a want ad to hire an explorer (or something like that) to demonstrate what someone would need to know back then. I liked that he seemed in tune with his class of 33, like that he'd have them do "room laps" if he sensed flagging concentration.

When I went to Julian's classroom, I was startled to sit down next to the same mom -- the other Caucasian one in fact -- that I'd sat next to in Gabriel's classroom. Not only do we both have kids in the same 4th- and 2nd-grade classes, but in both classrooms, our kids are seated right next to each other. Whaddya know, another pair of parents born and raised in the USA and with more than 2 kids in both the boys' classes -- even if it is the same set of parents (and they have 4. Actually, I recognized a lot of parents in Gabriel's class, not surprising with 33 kids and this being his 5th year at this school.

I think I took the day off work today. I went to the doctor in the morning and loaded up on bronchitis-symptom-treatment meds, then took a long shivering nap, then was ready to face the day at 2pm. Then I got a surprising amount of work done, before having to peel off to go do the school thing. I'm going into work tomorrow, though I expect it to be a short day since I'm still far below 100%.

Though I've been through this many times before, it was still weird not to be able to communicate normally today. For example, when a Starucks barista asks, "How are you doing today?" an unintelligible grunt with a friendly intonation is a common and perfectly acceptable response. Silence back is just uncomfortable! The usual carelessly murmured "good thanks" just doesn't come out; I have to make a real effort and push for every sound I make -- but so many sounds we make just aren't ones we think a lot about.

Well, I have plenty else to think about besides talking.


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