Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

We did Easter a little bit differently this year since my parents have their time split between Arizona and DC. So, Saturday we went over to my parents' Tucson home along with one of my brothers and my sister and her family. The kids got baskets, hunted for eggs, and my dad grilled out. It was low-key and the kids had a great time with their cousins.

Easter Sunday we went to church and then I made a big Easter lunch for my family, my mother, and my brother. Salad, mashed potatoes, gravy, pot roast. I also made some delicious bread that no one got to eat because I forgot about it under the broiler and it caught fire. :( The rest of the day was spent lazily. Playing with the kids, watching movies, dozing on and off.

Easter morning: Our youngest celebrated her first Easter today. She loved her big sister's pillow pet.
Yes, I finally caved on the pillow pets. My daughter has been asking for one for close to a year now. And I will be the first to admit that they are super comfortable. But seriously my kids have more stuffed animals that any any other child I know. Pillow pets are the last thing they need, but they love them!

Here is our almost 4 year old with his monkey pillow pet.
And here is our 5 year old with her unicorn pillow pet.
Two of my three favorite people. My girls wore matching dresses to church and while I am sooo biased I thought they looked adorable and my son just makes me want ten more little boys.
Hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Daughter the Drama Queen

The high school I used to teach at has a terrific fine arts program. The kids involved with choir, orchestra, choraliers, drama, etc. are amazing. If these performances weren't set in a high school auditorium you would have little clue that you were watching high school KIDS perform. This weekend they performed Disney's Beauty and the Beast so I decided to take my two older kids. My daughter, who is a lover of all things Princess related, was beyond excited at the prospect and my son, who likes "The Beast" was eager to see him in person.

The performance was incredible so I was glad I had the opportunity to see it. However, even better was witnessing the utter joy and amazement on my daughter's face. When the orchestra began playing the opening notes to the play, which are the same from the Disney movie, she looked over at me in awe. She was on the edge of her seat the entire performance. The kid who played Gaston was a stud, but he was despised by my children...due to the character he played, not due to his performance. He was a bit too real for my kids. He did a terrific job and at the end when each character came out to receive his/her applause my daughter refused to clap for him because she said he was mean and tried to hurt the Beast. The girl who played Belle also did a great job. She was very pretty and had a great stage presence and my daughter instantly fell in love with her.

One of the best parts was at the end all the performers lined up in the lobby to meet the audience. My daughter was enthralled with Belle and wanted her photo taken. My daughter wore her Belle gown to the play and received quite a bit of attention for her ensemble. When the photographer for the school wanted to take her picture with Gaston for their drama department my daughter refused saying he was too mean. She was more than thrilled, however, to pose with Belle and the Beast.

She spent the rest of that night and all of today talking about all of her favorite parts, the parts that scared her, the similarities and differences between the movie and the play, and all sorts of different impression she came away with. Knowing how well she enjoyed it makes me want to take her to the theatre be it high school or otherwise. After hearing about how much my daughter enjoyed it my father decided to take her and a couple of her cousins to a Broadway production of Les Miserables in June. She is stoked!

So, all in all we had a pretty good weekend. How was yours?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Takes a Village.....Part Deux

After this experience my husband and I talked at length about our main points of contention, which were primarily the time, place, and tone of the conversation and that is what we wanted conveyed to the principal. She was very responsive. She, of course, tried (albeit not very hard) to defend the secretary, but also acknowledged that the time and place were not appropriate and the tone was questionable as well. As far as the medical records go she said the only time the school generally requests documentation is when there is a long term absence (she defined long term as 30 to 40 absences which we are NO WHERE close to) due to a medical reason OR if multiple absences are affecting student performance. She acknowledged neither was the case in our situation so she seemed a bit dumbfounded as to why we were asked for this type of documentation.

The "funny" thing about educators is they (we) are always trying to explain how our system works to people outside of the education system. I understand why they (we) do that; it's because there are a lot more complexities to the inner workings, funding, budgets than people realize or politicians want to admit and acknowledge. However, I always find it funny when educators try to explain these inner workings to other educators, as is the case with me and my husband....not that she necessarily knew that.

Not truly pertinent to the story but a little funny was when she started to explain the role of the attendance clerk (which the receptionist doubles as...essentially pulling calls off the attendance hotline and recording the absences in the computer). My husband stopped her (politely) and just said, "My wife and I have both worked in many school districts as teachers so we are well aware the role of the attendance clerk. However, at no school we have ever been employed has the attendance clerk confronted a parent in the front office in front of other parents. Are you saying that here in (School District name redacted) School District the role of the attendance clerk is to confront parents publicly?" The principal reluctantly acknowledged that no, that was not the appropriate way to handle it.

She also began to explain the budgetary importance of attendance. Schools receive money based on how many students attend on any given day. When students are absent the school loses money. So, she began explaining that. My husband's counter to that was that in the state of Arizona school attendance isn't mandatory until a child is six years old. Our daughter is five. She is not required to be in school at all. Further, Kindergarten isn't mandatory in the state of Arizona. Again, she is not required to attend any school, so any money they receive from her attendance is gravy and should be viewed as such (according to my husband in his point to her). The principal had to reluctantly acknowledge this as fact as well.

Overall, we made sure to state that as a whole we were very pleased with the school. We wanted her to know we were happy with our daughter's teacher, the school culture and "feel", and that our daughter loved coming to school as well. So, while there were a couple of "moments" of differing opinions, she did understand where we were coming from and was responsive to those concerns. And having worked in schools and seen different principals interact with parents, this isn't always a given. There are principals who have very contentious relationships with parents and who don't validate or address their concerns. That really only breeds resentment and distrust. I can honestly say that despite little things here and there that irk me, the principal has always been responsive and does promptly address parental concerns while simultaneously defending her employees (as much as she reasonably can). Having been on both sides of that I know it is a balancing act. However, having worked for a principal who routinely threw teachers under the bus, myself included, in disputes with parents it was refreshing to see that while she understood our point, she also tried to make us understand the receptionists point as well, even though in the end we still didn't agree with it at all.