KTM User Pages
31 Mar 2006 - 19:06
Just got a call from our old principal at Dows Lane (K-3), Joe Rodriguez. Golly, we miss Dows Lane. We miss Main Street School (4-5). Homesick!
oops, out of time Christopher's been sick for days, and is getting worse.....and our doctor is out of town. So I'm off to Ossining to see the doctor who's filling in for her. Back later -
Home again; Christopher will live. Also, he will probably not end up in the emergency room suffering dehydration, as he did this time last year, when he had this same virus. Good.
Anyway, back to Joe. Long story short, I had asked our school board president what the proposed 'Math and Handwriting' books for Dows Lane were. Our board president had apparently forwarded my question to the assistant superintendent for curriculum, and the assistant superintendent had asked Joe to give me a call and fill me in. So he did. Turns out they're not buying "Math and Handwriting" books, they're buying some math books and some handwriting books. They're two different things. That's cool, because Joe said Andrea, the occupational therapist who works with Andrew, told him they must give the kids another year of practice with printing before starting them on cursive. They used to teach cursive in 2nd grade; now they'll teach it in 3rd grade. GREAT! I told him what a mess Christopher's printing is, and what a problem it is when it comes to math, and added that everyone over 70 has great handwriting because they were taught handwriting at school until they'd mastered it. Joe disagreed. "My handwriting isn't any good," he said. Joe is 50. 55, tops. I said, "Joe, you're not 70." Joe said he had 8 years of handwriting instruction and daily practice in Catholic school and it didn't work. That was depressing. He said back when he was teaching, he had to concentrate to write legibly on the board. He'd start writing a sentence in the top lefthand corner writing a sentence, and end up down in the middle of the board. A lot of teachers, he said, can just blast their way across the board and it comes out looking great. I told him I call that Teacher Handwriting.
Talking to Joe made me homesick. Back at Dows Lane we weren't having to fight constant skirmishes over bullying teachers and lousy computer-generated mid-term reports delivered to your mailbox on Christmas eve and 20-point deductions because the State Test made you do it. At Dows Lane, and at Main Street School, you had conversations about things like How come Joe had 8 years of handwriting instruction from the nuns and he still can't write a straight line on the blackboard? At Irvington Middle School, when you see Scott he tells you, "I'm very protective of my teachers." Or, "I protect my staff." One time he asked me, on the phone, if I thought he was protective of his teachers. At the time I was in the full flush of gratitude that he'd rescued Christopher from Mrs. Roth's class, and I said, admiringly, Yes! I think you take good care of your teachers. Which is what he wanted to hear. Of course that was a sign. I was talking about that to Ed today. He said, "If you listen, people always tell you who they are."
update: compare and contrast Ed just ran into one of our closest friends from Dows Lane at the video store. This mom is very on top of things, and has been extremely concerned about TRAILBLAZERS, to the point of enrolling her child in KUMON. She told Ed she's resolved 'every' concern she had with the school. She's worked closely with her child's teacher, and the teacher has responded to every issue, and made changes where necessary. Every one of her concerns has now been addressed and resolved. Ed said, "Joe runs a tight ship."
a cordial email Meanwhile, we are not working closely with our teacher. We are not working with Ms. K at all. Ms. K. has not responded to our emails. Ed raised this issue with Scott Fried, who said something about cordial conversations. Our emails, he said, were not cordial. True. So, on Wednesday evening, I wrote a cordial email to Ms. Kahl:
Ms. K — we haven’t heard back from you about Christopher’s grade on the blueprint project. I’ve never complained about his grades in your class. Every time he’s gotten a bad grade—and he’s had many, many bad grades—we’ve worked harder. And now this. This project was his one and only success in math this year. He spent four hours working on it. Ed had to supervise; he couldn’t do it alone. But he did all the work, and he figured out how to do all the work with guidance. We’re working so hard to keep his motivation up. This is the age when boys check out. Some of his friends already are checked out (these are kids who moved from Phase 4 to Phase 3). Before I started working with him he was completely turned off to math. I got him liking it again. He’s very discouraged now. We really need some help here. Catherine
Radio silence. This doesn't happen at Dows Lane.
update 4-19-2006: 20 days and counting.....still no response...
-- CatherineJohnson - 31 Mar 2006 Back to main page.
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Ms Kahl's probably panicking, doesn't know what to do, and is hoping that if she ignores the emails it will all go away. -- TracyW - 01 Apr 2006
Our emails, he said, were not cordial. I'm sorry, that's irrelevant. If anything, it's all the more reason to write you back or suggest a meeting. Not responding just makes it worse. That's Common Sense 101. Even if they thought you were a nutcase they still have to deal with it. There are parent nutcases everywhere. Do they just decide who they want to shut out and ignore? I don't get it, really. -- SusanS - 01 Apr 2006
Catherine-- Did you copy the principal (and/or the superintendent--heh heh) on the email that you sent to Ms. Kahl? I'm wondering if that might increase her motivation to respond. -- KarenA - 01 Apr 2006
Susan I'm sorry, that's irrelevant. If anything, it's all the more reason to write you back or suggest a meeting. Not responding just makes it worse. That's Common Sense 101. Even if they thought you were a nutcase they still have to deal with it. There are parent nutcases everywhere. Do they just decide who they want to shut out and ignore? I don't get it, really. right you are -- CatherineJohnson - 02 Apr 2006
Tracy My guess is that Ms. Kahl isn't panicking. The principal told her not to respond to the two non-cordial emails we sent (at least, that is the clear impression he gave Ed.) He may have told her not to respond to any further emails. Another clue: I emailed her on another subject....oh, I remember. She sent homework home saying I had to sign his update and send it back. (That's homework; he loses points if I don't do it.) I didn't have an update to sign, and Christopher said she hadn't given it to him. So I sent a cordial email saying I didn't think I had the update. She replied immediately saying she'd forgotten to send it home. So our evidence is: radio silence on the 20 points, instant response on anything else. AND: instant response is a big departure from the norm for her. She's very hard to reach, very spotty on email. Other parents have all had the same experience. She's spacy. I now have at least 3 different emails from her saying "I forgot." Which is hilarious; Ms. K may very well be a MATH BRAIN! That's another issue: it's entirely possible that she is mathematically talented, AND that she's good at explaining math to students. I've asked Christopher about this many times; he always says her explanations are good. The fact that he comes home not having a clue what she explained isn't evidence against this, I don't think. I've read and practiced many, many crystal clear explanations of various concepts in Saxon and then, later on, realized that not only do I not remember the procedure, I also don't understand it. The next time this happens, I'll remember to take notes..... So, with Ms. K, I'm always in a bit of a quandary. She's a good-hearted person, I think; there's no Mrs. R. issue. She may be very good at math. She may also be very good at explaining math. BUT SHE'S A TERRIBLE TEACHER. She has no idea what kind of practice sets to assign, she has no idea how to perform formative assessment, she seems to have weak pedagogical knowledge at best, she has ZERO concept of how to motivate, inspire, or lead students, she can't even organize herself to assign two weeks' worth of effective practice for the state test even with a test-prep booklet written specifically for our test. And she can't even begin to work with parents. She is a disaster. That's really not too strong a term. But here's the thing. She may just be a space cadet math brain type WHO CAN EXPLAIN MATH WELL — SHE NEEDS A HANDS-ON MENTOR AND EDUCATIONAL LEADER HERSELF. It doesn't seem impossible to me that if you told Ms. K, 'Every day you must give students a 1 or 2-problem formative assessment which you discuss with the chair of the department' or 'Read your email from the parents each day and respond within 24 hours' or 'Carefully monitor student learning and create a remediation plan the instant a student drops below a B+ average'......OR WHATEVER...... My feeling is that Ms. K is failing to teach most of the kids, and her elders are failing to teach her. -- CatherineJohnson - 02 Apr 2006
Karen A Did you copy the principal (and/or the superintendent--heh heh) on the email that you sent to Ms. Kahl? I'm wondering if that might increase her motivation to respond. No. We're taking this step-by-step. I've written a cordial email to Ms. K. Now I'm waiting. On Monday or perhaps Tuesday one of us will write a cordial email to the principal noting that we have now sent Ms. K a cordial email, and yet Ms. K has again failed to respond. We'll supply a copy of our email to Ms. Kahl so that he can satisfy himself we have indeed taken a cordial tone with his teacher. We'll send this email to him alone. We won't blind copy his superiors, or the school board. Then we'll wait for him to respond. -- CatherineJohnson - 02 Apr 2006
We have time. -- CatherineJohnson - 02 Apr 2006