Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Parent teacher activism!

In reflecting on my conversations with parents this past week, I found one particular conference to be so telling of how teachers and parents function within such a dysfunctional system. This conference was for one of my first graders, a child of Mexican immigrant parents and a sibling of a student I had 2 years ago. Both of her parents came to the conference and it was nice to see them again after 2 years. These are the type of parents who chaperone field trips, bring in food for cultural events, and help their children with their homework. Their son did really well in first grade, but their daughter has had a much different experience.

It all started last year when they tried to enroll her in Kindergarten. They were told that they didn't have the proper documentation to enroll the girl and were sent away. The mother returned a couple of hours later with the proper documentation and was turned away again, told that Kindergarten was full (which it actually wasn't). She was told she would have to enroll the girl in another school. The mother pleaded her case, saying that she wanted both children in the same school. Our school secretary laughed and told her to take both children out of the school (This is where I am livid!!!). Thankfully for us, the mother left her son in our program and took her daughter to another neighborhood school where she completed a full year of Kindergarten.

Meanwhile, I had no idea that any of this had happened until the little girl was brought into my classroom a few days after school started. When I saw my previous student's parents picking her up, I assumed she was a cousin, but they said "no," she's Miguel's sister. Just like him, she is like a sponge, absorbing everything that I teach. The only difference is that she came in with a very limited academic foundation from her Kindergarten program at the other school. She has had to have reading intervention just to catch up to where her classmates were in September. She has made great gains, but is still not up to grade level.

It was very hard to explain to her parents that the reason we had to check the "Promotion in doubt" box is because she came ill-prepared from a Kindergarten class they had not wanted her in to begin with. When I asked the parents about her K program, they said that the students were always dancing and that they were unhappy with the academics. They were thrilled when they were able to enroll her at our school for first grade along with her brother who is now in 4th.

Throughout the conference, their third child, another girl, was looking at books in my classroom. I asked them how old she was and they said four years old. I told them, "You can't let the same thing happen to her." I said, "Siblings have to be accepted, it's a rule." (although I'm not sure EXACTLY where it says that, I'm pretty sure it is a rule). She said that she had told that to the school secretary last year and had been turned away rudely. I told her to hold her ground, to REFUSE to leave the office until her child was enrolled this time. I told her to let me know if the same thing happened again and I would do the same. I know if I had been there the first time, this would have never happened. It makes me mad that school employees on power trips can do whatever they want and treat families like crap, and we don't know about it so we can't do anything.


peace in the classroom said...

I just wanted to add that I was telling this story to another first grade teacher and she had the same situation. A sibling of one of her former students was turned away from our Kindergarten. This time the parents complained to the administration and made a huge deal about it publicly and guess what, the child was enrolled in our K. AMAZING!!! What is wrong with our secretary? Is she on a power trip or something? Does anyone know the rule on siblings? Don't they have to be accepted?

Capt. Schmoe said...

What kind of pull do you have in these situations? Can you ask a VP to intercede, or do you risk unofficial retribution from the secretary?

It just doesn't seem right.

peace in the classroom said...

I told the principal what happened. He listened and indeed confirmed that siblings do have priority. He said he would talk to the secretary. I'm not worried about retribution from her. I don't even think she'll connect the dots. Thanks for your comment.