A brand new school day.

Even though – thankfully – my school district voted against this, I wanted to post this because there are other school districts fighting the same battle, I strongly feel that no child should go through a day like the one below. Please read and if your school district is considering it, please try to fight it.

Let’s paint a picture. Imagine for a moment that you are required to work somewhere with no alternative for whatever reason. Now let’s say that your hours get changed, with very little regard to your feelings on the matter. Instead of a normal say 9-5 you now have to work 8-6. During this time you may get ½ an hour for lunch and ½ an hour to walk around. The hour block, however, includes the time it takes to get your lunch, find a seat in the staff lounge, get dressed to go outside, get outside, get back inside and get back to your desk. You might get a break here and there but mostly, you are expected to sit still and do your work, without complaining, without fidgeting and without being silly. If you break any of the numerous rules , like not sitting, your break will be taken away. If you don’t finish your work, you break will be taken away. How does this sound to you? After work you are required to do a minimum of 20 minutes reading, and go over important words that relate to your job. You must build time in for this around dinner with your family, and any hobbies that you’ve been encouraged to do. If you don’t finish your work, you might have to bring some home with you. Things that you enjoy doing, perhaps watching an episode of that favorite show, or playing the new game you just got, will have to be put aside until this job is completed. Fun is overrated and we don’t get ahead of other countries by having fun. Again…how does this sound to you? Not so good I would imagine. Now…imagine you are 7. That is right, you read that right…7. Imagine you are 7 years old and your day will be completely taken up by school. That is what my school district wants to do, this is what I am fighting.

Extended Learning Grant – ELT – is a grant given to schools who have shown a drop in performance, (i.e. test scores), and are economically below other school districts. The schools must apply for the grant, knowing that they will be either extending the day or the year by at least 25%, in order to help close that gap. We were awarded said grant in the sum of about 2.6 million dollars. This money would go to the school to help institute said extended learning time. (pay for materials, teachers etc.) so okay, we got the grant. Now what…well now we finally clue the parents in and have a community forum. Now we start talking about what this will mean. Only, and I firmly believe this, only because some very vocal parents spoke up and said, hey now…why don’t we know about this?!!man-confused-cartoon-face
Here is a proposed schedule for above mentioned 7 year old.

Now you can see the times are 7:15 to 4:08. You have to account for how long it takes on the bus, so some of these kids will be on a bus at 6:30 in the morning. Look at the blocks – 105 minutes for math, 120 minutes for ELA. At first, when you look at this you think, they are joking right? They can’t seriously think of making 5-11 year olds go to school for that long? To sit through a class for that long? Can they? And look at the intermediate school! No break except for lunch! But they aren’t kidding, they are serious. The accepted 10K to research it and see how they could implement this for the 2015 school year. Finally – there is a community forum and here is what I took away from that:

*If you want to win over a crowd, have a background in sociology.
*Nod your head when speaking your points (this will make the audience subconsciously agree with you)
*Commiserate with the audience, make them think you care…you have kids to, we all want what is best for our kids
*Make sure to you use broad phrases and circle around to the same point, mix it up by using different words to say the same thing (most people won’t notice)

Except you came to Southampton buddy. We were prepared, we are well educated, we aren’t drinking the kool-aid. Still they tried.

*We like to call it expanded learning time because that is what we are doing – expanding the learning. The children will go to school and come home without having to do homework, because it will be done at school.
*Sports are part of enrichment – so don’t worry about wanting to play them because they can, during enrichment.
*The times aren’t set in stone – (except that we do need to extend the time by 25% and therefore don’t have much flexibility)
*Longer school years haven’t been as effective as school days so let’s just not talk about it
*It is all about partnering with the school, community, parents, teachers, and students in order for it to work.

Then the questions started.

~What about Boy/Girl Scouts ?
Well we can find ways to include them in enrichment- many school districts have many clubs that they incorporate in the school day. (okay – good luck getting religion in there but moving on)
~What about sports ?
Enrichment blocks for kids who don’t need extra help, will provide the time for practice…(so if my kid needs extra help he doesn’t get to play soccer? Got it)
~What about games on school nights with other districts who don’t have extended learning times?
In other districts this hasn’t ….trail off…we provide rescheduling…trail…off…and honestly it was here that people started firing questions, so it was hard to hear him…but basically I got from it, they didn’t have an answer.
~What about homework ?
Will be completed at school so your child is ready to spend the evening with you…except when it’s not, and please remember they have vocabulary (in multiple subjects and 20 minutes of reading to do every night) so…not really…
~What about special needs kids ? (The guy about jumped out of his suit over this one)
Well this is exactly who this is for !! The kids who are falling behind…now they won’t be pulled from class…okay…so the kids who are doing okay? Get to do fun things…hmm…so the parents of the special needs kids can’t decide to get extra help for their kids…and the parents of the kids who don’t need help can’t decide what fun things their kids get to do…the school decides all that…okay
~What about non-school related extras like gymnastics?
Well other schools partner with community programs we are sure Southampton can to.
~What about the teachers how do they feel about working a longer day?
Well in other districts we stagger the teachers…so they aren’t really working the full day. One may come in at 7 and leave at 2 and the other may come in a 9 and leave at 5. So you expect our children to work the full day…but the not the teachers oh…okay
~Well who is helping them with extras and who is helping with homework?Oh well in other districts we get high school students to help, community volunteers, boys/girls club. Etc. So it might not even be a qualified teacher helping my child  ? No. And yet they would be better than…me? According test scores …yes.
~What about local business that depend on after school business?
Well again we partner with the community….

Seeing a theme here? They didn’t have answers. They didn’t have anything. The kept circling around and around saying the same thing. Other districts did this, this district did that…and when hit with a hard question it was “well that is why we have these talks” I would have loved if the administrators, the guy from NCTL (Michael Selkis), the good fairy of the school district, could have actually answered one question for us.
One dad was very outspoken (in a good way) and asked…”where in Gods name are you going to extract another two hours from this kids life”? After he said his piece the entire room applauded. He said it so perfectly and so articulately it was beautiful. A father who works, who has a son he obviously cares very much about, wondering why the school is tying to take more precious time away from what really matters. Family time. I said it at the meeting too. Family is what is needed, not school. I’m all for extra help, homework clubs, more aids, but to have each student, for lack of a better word, punished, because of some test scores…it doesn’t seem right to me. This, along with common core, along with my last blog about how they are treating kids, just make me question the whole public school system. Please don’t get me wrong. I respect good teachers and realize their hands may be tied in all this, but this isn’t coming from them…it is a lot higher up. I want my son and his classmates to enjoy learning. I said it my last post…as adult I’m still curious about things…I want my child to be too. I want him to wonder about things. I see that disappearing and it kills me. I try to encourage it when I see it, to bring it out in every day things but it’s diminishing. My kid used to read, now because it is mandated, he refuses, and I hate it. He’s not alone either, I speak with other parents and they have similar issues…lack of interest at school (where there used to be one), crying over homework, getting sick, etc…it has to change. I don’t have options. I can’t home school because I have to work, we can’t send him to the one of two private schools because we make to much, and can’t afford the tuition. We can’t move. We are not alone with this, a lot of parents don’t have any other option but public school. I feel like something needs to change, because damn it our kids education, childhood, curiosity, and future is worth far more than a bubble on piece of paper.





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