Last semester, Laurel missed 5 days of school. Three of those – one, two, three – 3/5 of those…were for a funeral.
Last Friday I journeyed to our mailbox and found…
After stomping through the house, stomping downstairs with the letter to flail my arms about at Greg, and stomping back upstairs, I drafted one hell of a nasty e-mail.
Then I let it rest for a couple of days to see if I would still be pissed about this today.
See, here’s the thing – Laurel’s teachers knew she was absent for a funeral on 3 of those days. We specifically requested far ahead of time that she be given any assignments she might miss because we anticipated the funeral absence and wanted to be certain she would not fall behind.
Not that she would…the very idea that she would (which is alleged in the first paragraph) is flat-out laughable.
We expressed great regret at the idea that she would be missing this time…even though ‘this time’ consisted of 3 days the week before Thanksgiving and 2 days right before winter break – you know, those times when academic achievement is just ALL GUNG HO.
And I’m guessing (this is just a guess) that the administration never bothered to ask Laurel’s teachers about this or even run this by them before sending it out. It’s pretty tasteless to send out a letter criticizing parents for allowing their children to attend a funeral.
“Oh, it’s just a form letter,” you may be thinking. “They probably just send that out automatically.”
Yes, true…as to the form letter part. But the other part about it being automatic? Not so much – at least not according to our school handbook, which says – and I quote:
“Principals, counselors, and teachers send letters and make personal contact with families of students who exhibit patterns of attendance which impact academic achievement” (emphasis added).
Well, I hate to break it to them, but Laurel’s attendance (or lack thereof) has most certainly NOT affected her academic achievement – at least not negatively.
In any event, it is clear the author of the above letter had poor attendance in elementary school; else he/she would know that ‘school’ in the first sentence should not be capitalized.
I believe it was the venerable Margaret Mead herself who said, “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.”
I’m beginning to see her point.
And that, my friends, brings us to another topic I’ve railed on before – the grading of character education. My god, are we still at this? Seriously? It is fabulous to know that in our society we have now resorted to using arbitrary and capricious – not to mention subjective and shadowy – guidelines to judge a child’s character.
Laurel came home today with her report card, which reflected that she needed to improve in her ‘caring for others.’
I know, right?
This is the child who in the past couple of months has done the following (and this is all I can think of off the top of my anger-addled mind):
1. Given all (ALL!) of her souvenir money to a bum in San Francisco, followed by a heartfelt lamentation that in the richest country in the world we have people who are homeless and unfed;
2. Been moved to tears at the prospect that families her classes had adopted might not have a decent Christmas because people weren’t donating enough;
3. Consoled a fellow classmate whose (get this) teacher was loudly deriding a fellow classmate IN FRONT OF THE CLASS; and
4. Wrote and read aloud a touching poem in memory of her great aunt at the aforementioned funeral service.
I support our public schools. I think the collective and proper education of our country depends on the support public schools receive from us. I will do whatever I can to support teachers when they’re right.
But I will also do whatever I can to support my children when they are right. And Laurel, upon seeing the glaring black X (improvement needed) in the spot next to “is caring to others,” was hurt. She was wronged. THEY are wrong. Laurel is certainly one of the most caring children I know – so caring, in fact, that other parents have said so. We have done what we can by telling her we don’t give a shit what they put on that report card – if she is making good grades she is doing her job, we KNOW what an unbelievably, wonderfully empathetic creature she is, and if WE think there is something wrong with her character, she will by-god-you-better-believe-it know it. Otherwise, she shouldn’t worry.
But it’s hard, at 10, not to take such things to heart.
And sometimes, such as in the past week, it is difficult for me to support our public schools – even though I try. I try very hard.