Tag Archives: Memphis

My Fifteen Seconds

Last week I wrote about the crazy line procedure that is a Memphis staple for getting your child into a passing school. I could be generous and say, “good school”, but after what we parents have to do, I think my kids deserve more than fake P.E. and teachers who think fish have eyelids. In most cases, it seems to have degenerated to the point that good means your kid will not likely be jumped by a gang member. Of course, seeing as how they write their own standards, I’m not really all that surprised. At least the district merger got rid of the phasing out grades program.

Test scores tell us that there are less kids reading below their grade level now versus ten years ago. Judging by the every increasing insanity of the Optional School process, it may not be so much that the schools are better, but rather that more and more parents are moving their kids from ineffectual schools to ones that at least are mediocre.

I have high expectations. An excellent school would have physical education more than once a week, and they would play sports rather than watch them on a screen. No, cup-stacking is not a sport and neither is the Wii. Kids would be able to run and play. There’s a place for fancy computers in the scheme of teaching, but there’d be a library overflowing with books of all kinds. It would be standard to teach a foreign, basic computer and typing skills, and the arts would be a core part of education. Teachers would understand that children should not have to be quiet both in class and in their free time. Lunch rooms and playgrounds are loud. Buy earplugs.

Granted, not even the schools I attended boasted all of that, but many had pieces of that mythical excellent school. Even when I was a kid, funding for the arts had dwindled to a trickle and I think some of my playgrounds were older than the teachers.

In reality, such a school is unlikely to rise from the ashes of the Memphis Public School system any time soon. Charter people are coming in and trying to overhaul schools, with mixed reception. I’ve looked at charter schools over the years, but none of them have impressed me. Putting fancy uniforms on students and making them into little tin soldiers that follow rules well may make for good PR pictures, but doesn’t teach the kid how to be anything more.

I had my share of teachers that were there to collect a paycheck and go home. I distinctly recall my seventh grade history teacher chatting with the teacher in the next room while we were supposed to be working. She hated teaching and was working to become a banker. She complained often and didn’t seem to care that kids might hear. I doubt I was the only nosy student. She left the following year. Still, despite the outliers, I received a good education and was well prepared when I went to college. In all honesty, much of the material I covered my freshman year was review, which made the transition from high school to college less daunting.

When I have to re-teach at home what a teacher supposedly taught at school, why are my kids in school? I don’t want a glorified baby-sitter. Some of the fault lies with the policy makers. Changing how a teacher presents a subject does no good if the teacher does understand what they are presenting. In one case of Miss Diva being confused on an assignment, I suspect the teacher had no idea why the lesson was there, let alone how it applied to multiplication.  I always ask, “Why?” It took me a minute, as algebra II was a good eighteen years ago, but that rusty little file cabinet in my brain squeaked open. “Matrices!” I could not for the life of me solve a matrix math problem now without the aid of Google, but just that little spark of memory helped me understand why the book presented it as such and explain it in a way Miss Diva understood. Maybe that teacher had not had that sort of math, or had not done it in so long that she forgot it entirely. The system should help teachers stay up to date, not just on the latest ways to teach to a test, but staying qualified to teach.

Maybe if the Shelby County School system supported the teachers better (less ipads and more training), got rid of the ones that are idiots (eyelids on fish…really?), and regularly expelled the kids that posed threats to the class and the teachers, parents wouldn’t have to jump through hoops just so their kid is safe, let alone educated. It would improve the entire city. Instead of a handful of neighborhoods being desirable, any neighborhood with a school could become a good place to live, because children and families are the cornerstones of a community.

Until then, we parents get to wake long before dawn to stand in frigid temperatures, in order to do nothing more than fill in a scant three or four lines of information. The rest is all online. One would think in this age of computing that the school district could find a way to make the entire process online, at least for those already in the district’s system. Of course, what else can we expect from a system that thinks parking a kid at a computer qualifies as tutoring or hires substitute teachers that tell kids, “God’s gonna get you!” when they misbehave?

I stood outside in freezing wind for an hour and forty-five minutes. The parents around me were all very nice. We huddled together and chatted. You know it’s cold when your smart phone does not respond because your finger is too cold. Also, thank you to the nursing student who loaned me the blanket!

A news anchor with the local Channel 5 news interviewed me. You can click here to watch my fifteen seconds of fame. After the interview, I realized I forgot the year I moved Mr. Smarty Pants from one middle school to another, so I’ve done the idiotic line-a-thon six times.

http://www.wmctv.com/story/24554009/scs-optional-school-application-process-begins?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9771650

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Trip Lessons

I went on a last minute trip over the weekend. While the reason was a sad one, death in the family, the trip itself was not. I even learned some interesting things!

  • I’m still allergic to Houston.
  • I drove by one of my old high schools and it’s as big, and likely bigger than I remembered, thus confirming that when people ask, “Do you remember so-and-so”, no I do not have dementia. I simply didn’t know them.
  • I’ve forgotten  a great deal of the road layouts, but even had I remembered, NOTHING looks the same anymore.
  • Google navigator will fail you when you need it the most. I was looking for the funeral home and it took me to a dead-end street in a town-house complex.
  • Asking Google to find an alternate route in heavy Houston traffic will likely result in you getting to your destination before Google ever finds that alternate route.
  • As much as I like warm weather, I still find it bizarre to have 80+ degree weather and 100% humidity in November.
  • Forgetting to take off your belt will earn you a TSA pat-down.
  • The TSA is anal retentive about their pat-downs. The lady patted down my hair. My hair is so fine and thin it couldn’t hide a microchip, let alone a weapon.
  • The TSA is biploar. Sign stated, “Leave your shoes on!” TSA agent said, “Take off your shoes.”
  • You can have your boarding pass sent to your phone now and they’ll scan it! Of course, they don’t mention that you probably won’t have signal.
  • Planes are a LOT smaller than I remember them.
  • Airline ticket booking is illogical. Book months in advance and it’s still frigging expensive. A week? Still highway robbery. Wait until the very last possible second and spend two-thirds the amount.
  • It’s been sixteen years since I went off to college and bid Houston, Texas adieu. The population density has effectively doubled since I left, meaning there are too many damn people and cars.
  • There used to be trees and woods aplenty near my grandparents’ part of town. It’s now suffering from a severe case of strip-mall infestation. I liked it better before.
  • Driving in Houston made me really, really appreciate Memphis– yes even with the idiots that don’t understand the concept of a turn signal.
  • I wonder how anyone gets anything accomplished in Houston, since half the day is spent getting from point A to point B.
  • Telling your kids to clean while you’re gone ensures that they’ll do absolutely nothing until an hour before you’re due to come home.

Half past time flies

I registered the kids for school this week. They start on Monday. I’m not entirely sure where the summer went, but I think I should get a refund. Summers are supposed to be slow, and fun, and lazy. Okay, I didn’t once get up before 6 a.m., but I wouldn’t call that lazy, so much as normal. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment that school will start even earlier this year. 

I mentored a student this summer, possibly made a fluorescent nucleoside (I have to purify it to know for sure), cursed at cells as they once again decided to throw a tantrum and quit working, and started writing a paper. I’ve also reached level 32 on Star Trek Online. I’ve gotten adept enough to only walk my avatar into walls on occasion rather than every other move. I suppose that counts as fun, but it isn’t a beach vacation.

So as I prepare for battling hordes of desperate parents as they seek out new binders and new backpacks, boldly going to big box store after big box store to secure supplies, I also have exciting things of my own to prepare for.

I’m not sure if qualifying exams count as exciting, but I’ll be prepping like mad over the next couple of months. What is exciting is that I’ve got editors assigned to me for both books which are in the works.

On August 17th I’ll be participating in a local multi-author book signing and meet and greet event held the past couple of years at a local independent book store. My publisher will also be in attendance, both as an author in her own right and as a publisher. We’ll be revealing my cover and announcing the release date of my book, Fated Bonds, and taking pre-orders.

I’ll have a few freebies: copies of the issue of Midnight Screaming, a local magazine no longer in publication, in which my short story, “Hunted” appeared. While not in the same time period as the novel, it is part of the same universe.

Seeing as I started writing Fated Bonds roughly six years ago, this process seems to have taken forever, but this summer has flown by. I’m considering asking for a winter discount, since summer opted to have fun without me.

In the meantime, I’ll rely on weekend hikes and completed chapters for my dose of fun.

If you’re interested in checking out some local talent, feel free to check out the event details on my Facebook page.

Strange Coincidence

I’ve written a couple of posts about the idiocy of my eldest son’s school administration regarding math and topics which should not be used to demonstrate math concepts.

They responded by taking ALL the posters down and saying not one word more on the subject. Okay, it galls me that misinformation is still out there, but it was at least a tolerable solution.

The first week of school the administration gave me a headache because they couldn’t read their own enrollment lists. School has been in session for two and a half weeks. I had been told that everything was fine. Today, I get a call:

“Hello. We’ve pulled your son out of class. He doesn’t belong here. We can’t enroll him. You need to take him to your assigned school and enroll him there.”

“He was on the list when I registered! They assured me they had it sorted out.”

“We can’t enter him in the system.”

“I got an approval letter!”

“I’m sorry, but he’ll need to go to Wooddale.”

“He got approved for an open choice transfer BECAUSE that school has been failing for a decade!”

“If you can bring the letter up here…”

“I shouldn’t have to. It isn’t my fault you can’t read your own damn lists and he is not going to that ghetto school.”
***

At this point I hung up, dropped everything I was doing, hauled butt down to the school board offices and asked for a copy of my letter. As expected, this was not a problem. They did notice an issue in the system. It seems he was approved for an optional transfer, which no one bothered to tell me about. Gee, thanks. So, the nice lady walks me to the optional enrollment office…. right next door.

“Oh, yes, I spoke with them this morning about your son.”

Open enrollment lady adds, “He was approved for Ridgeway Middle via an open choice transfer. So she just needs to void the other transfer?”

“Yes.”

She hands me a pink form which takes all of two minutes to fill out and sign, she clicks a little button, and done.

“The school called me, pulled him out of class, and insisted he wasn’t assigned to them and I needed to go enroll him at Wooddale.”

Optional school lady looks at me in disbelief. “I hope that’s not how it happened.”

“It most certainly is.”

So let’s summarize:

1) School can’t read list, but then learns to read and locates my child’s name.

2) Speaks to offices and knows there’s a conflicting optional transfer in the system.

3) Does not inform me of conflict.

4) Insists I must pull my child from school.

5) Pulls my child out of class, not once, but twice, causing him to miss instruction time, despite the fact he’s been in school for two and a half weeks.

6) This happens after I made a fuss about my child being taught inappropriate and incorrect information.

I’m sure it’s all just one big misunderstanding. Sadly, as he’s already enrolled and attending Ridgeway, he can’t transfer to the optional school he DID get into. That makes SO much sense.

Tomorrow I get to march into the office for the third time, wave my little letter, and inform them in a saccharine voice that I’m sure we won’t have anymore issues.