I’m About to Fail Kindergarten


I just got the folder back.  It’s been a week, and you’d think I would know how to dress a kid and send him to school, considering I teach and I have 240 kids on my own high school roster.

But I’m failing. Kindergarten at that.

The first day, I sent the wrong snack. We’d been planning for the Big Day and Declan wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. We packed his lunch box with one cookie, an apple, and some carrot sticks, each in a little no-waste plastic container.

Now, granted this wasn’t any run of the mill chocolate chip cookie—I’m a bit of a food freak.  I’m as close to grow-it-myself as I can be, and my single goal in life is to rid the world of processed goods.  I shop at farms, grow whatever I can–I’ve even been known to put swiss chard and horseradish in the perennial garden, much to the chagrin of my ex-military order-loving husband.  But since chocolate chip cookies do not grow in the perennial garden, we made them with locally sourced eggs, fair-trade vegan organic sugar and King Arthur flour, milled up the road a piece in beautiful Vermont.

I don’t believe that a chocolate chip cookie ever killed an overactive skinny self-proclaimed fruitatarian 5-year-old.  And I thought it was a democratic society where parents had options until I received the note from the Snack Police, using the commanding “we.”  “We drink water. You may send a cup or one will be provided. We also pack healthy snacks.”

I sent back a note, “We pack a variety of beverages and snacks, including organic juice, milk, and water.  Additionally, we rotate fruit, veggies, and home-baked goods. We are nearly entirely organic and do not eat processed foods.”

Now, I knew we were off to a bad start. Challenging a kindergarten teacher is never wise, even for a teacher like me who hustles basketball games against six-foot students.

It was about to get worse.  I had to fill out the forms.  I filled out Form One–twenty minutes. Form Two was an exact copy of Form One, stamped “nurse.”  What, the nurse doesn’t have a copy machine? I filled it out.  I also put “did not receive” on the form requiring me to acknowledge the school handbook, which I did not receive.  I read what I sign–it’s a throwback from my first career in insurance.

The very next day, I received Form Three.  It was nearly the same as Form One and Form Two, but a different color and size.  I filled out half of the form, putting one emergency contact, and a note on the back of the Friday Folder suggesting, “These forms take a long time to fill out and are very similar. It would be helpful if it could be filled out once and copied.”

I didn’t get a reply. What I did get when I vented was a bunch of my Mommy Friends was, “Get used to it.” and ” I HAVE TWENTY-FOUR FORMS FOR TWO KIDS!!”

“Get used to it?”  We’re supposed to be reforming education and making things better, streamlined, and more efficient. If oblivious bordering on inconsiderate is the systemic norm, how can we reform education?  I will not “get used to it.”  Half of education reform is systems analysis.  I’m just dealing with a form here, and in fairness, the teacher is really sweet, but in reality the form symbolizes all of education reform.  If we can’t analyze the efficiency of how we do the smallest thing, then macro-reform cannot be accomplished. End of story. Education reform isn’t about evals, Race to the Top money, or adoption of technology if we fail to focus on the customer we serve–the student and his or her family.  Education isn’t about power-tripping, it’s about humility.  We serve our students.  When the systems we use do not, we need to change those systems. Sure, we’re the professionals, but I like to think of myself as a consultant to a hesitant client. I provide the expertise, and get them on board with the vision. And when the vision isn’t serving them, I adapt and overcome.

In my own classroom, I think daily about how I can make things better, easier, more productive–more streamlined for my students. I don’t want them memorizing facts–I want them internalizing information and applying that material to visions and situations which change the world.  Students have given me suggestions that have revolutionized the way I teach.  I will not “get used to” systems that inconvenience the family, the customer. In my mind, these forms should all be digital anyway, but since we’re not there yet–24 forms for two kids?? And no news reporters are picking up on the vast destruction of the rain forest for this?

But right now, I can’t worry about any of that–I’m still in trouble, a fact which I confirmed when the Friday Folder came back once more.

About five of the forms were returned. The one with my note about what I serve for lunch had not been properly cut on the dotted line.   I know this, because the word “cut” was highlighted in neon yellow and circled three times in case I was working in Braille or hadn’t learned to read that word.

The last emergency contact form, on which I’d put one neighbor because we’re moving in a week and I don’t really have friends in this city, was highlighted too. Each of the seven empty contacts were brought to my attention.  I must need eight contacts in case the entire city can’t be reached and the apocalypse comes.  The words “fill out completely” were highlighted in you-are-stupid yellow and circled three times.  Did I mention I have never liked yellow highlighter—I find it loud, visually obnoxious, and it annoys me.

And now it just hurt my feelings, because the seven blank spaces underscored the fact that I have no friends.

When I got to the last item in the folder, Declan’s work, I noticed something.  On the line that says “name,” he had, in fact, written his name, but backwards–inverted and mirrored.  He can write. I said, “Why did you do this? You know how to write.” He gave me a slick smile and walked away. He had done it on purpose.

Normally, I would have “a talk” and make him apologize and do it right.

Today, I just smiled.

[image: knightoftheroundcookie.com]



18 thoughts on “I’m About to Fail Kindergarten

  1. You didn’t fail. That teacher is insane and rude. What if you in fact didn’t have 8 friends? It would be really poor etiquette of her to point it out… I think she fails. Also, considering her abusive use of highlighter, she obviously has hands, so she could have cut the paper herself.

    On a more serious note, you may want to have a conference early to clear the air (actually more to make it sure she knows it wouldn’t be a good plan for her to try to take it out on your child.

    • My husband met the teacher, who he said is really sweet–she’s old school. The school just has these systems that no one ever even considers… when it becomes about “me” and “my systems” then it’s the wrong focus and we need to rethink:)

      We’re moving in a week or two, so no big deal, but it makes me think…schools need to consider running more like successful businesses which put their customers first. If that happened, we wouldn’t have to have so many manifestations of school reform.

      • I agree with the rethinking part. I keep a journal each year and keep track of things that worked, things that didn’t, and student suggestions. However, I don’t know that I agree with the business-model schools idea. There’s a serious risk of turning into “the customer is always right” even when that isn’t best for the customers (students). Kind of like when a salesperson tells me I look great in a dress two sizes too small. Good luck with the move 🙂

      • Thanks:)
        As a business owner (and from my decade in Corporate America…) I’ll still support the business model…because…anyone worth their salt should operate with integrity. The customer is not always “right,” but if you believe in your services or expertise, you will feel qualified to educate him/her and provide your services such that the customer will come around in the end. I did this with cases involving high emotion and a ton of cash in the corporate world. No, they were not always right, but I had to get them on the same page as me–it’s a skill, to be sure.

        In business, sometimes you have to be ready to fire a customer, and do it nicely. Your services/vision might not be for them. In education–public education anyway–this is not always the case. When I have exhausted my repertoire of skills, sometimes we have to agree to disagree. It doesn’t happen often–maybe once or twice in my career… I still see the similarity.

        The slimy salesperson has a counterpart in every industry:)

      • I can see your point. I don’t mind business-like if it means efficiency. I do worry about business-like becoming one-size-fits-all (which incidentally is what self-styled reformers like to criticize about public education) or turning my job into students = commission. I know I have seen too many administrators caving in to dubious demands to satisfy the “customer”, not because they lacked integrity, but because, well, lawsuits are a pain. I do think that some day soon, education will turn into corporate big business. I just wonder what the results will be for the kids. Speaking of which, I wonder why that’s not the direction the countries we are supposedly competing with are going.

      • Yes and no… Absolutely, money is a driving force–in my prior career, I was forced to crunch those numbers all the time for big money, and evaluate legal tipping points. Sadly, that’s the nature of the beast in most industries.

        As far as education goes, there’s a failure to find an intersection in so many of the lines…Reform changes with the political wind often times. A lot of the countries against whom we are competing have different measures–some don’t employ universal education, others are entirely homogeneous, and still others revere education and attract the best of the best as teachers, and they are given respect, latitude, and authority to do their jobs. In our system, it has been suggested that teachers w advanced degrees don’t provide better education. Not sure who won this debate, but it horrified me. I could have saved my bank account 1.5 extra degrees.

        This is a loosely disguised fiscal equation–teachers w more degrees cost more. Also, teachers w more experience cost more…it’s like any other career…who wants to go to the least experienced doctor?

        I think the bottom line in ed reform is often the almighty dollar, as it is in most industries. So, you could be right–it could corporatize. However, I can’t evaluate fully whether that would be a bad thing till I see some results:)

      • It seems we speak the same language after all; maybe just different dialects 😉 As far as other countries, I brought them up because competitiveness is often the impetus for much of a reform, yet we like to ignore what other countries are like and do. I am definitely with you about the social status of teachers. My friends abroad have a completely different reaction (positive) to my career choice compared to my friends here.
        I just hope the results do work out for the best as this is a high stakes gamble.
        Looking forward to reading more of your blog. 🙂

    • I think the administrators (in my state) have enough to read–the 101 page Teacher Eval & Support System book (101 pgs), the Basic Education Plan (new state law re education) the “Strategic plan…” Doesn’t leave a lot of time for saying, “Hey, got to read Casey’s blog.”

      I just used Learnist (http://www.learni.st) to make a learnboard trying to simplify the 101 pg teacher eval book. Here’s the link…bit.ly/P7N7MG
      There’s so much out there that needs to be done–I think it can be made a bit easier w common sense customer service:)

  2. So laughing. I teach 4th grade, and I have a kindergartener this year and a second grader. I think I filled out the same forms you did. And, we recently moved to a new city and have no immediate family nearby or close friends. I actually listed our real estate agent as a person to call in emergency because I had to fill in the blank lines! I also listed my mother who lives across the country– not sure what she will do, but she always answers her phone.

    • That’s awesome. I wanted to call the teacher and say, “Yeah, I really don’t have friends,” but that’s not true. They’re teaching w me. If you need me, I will come. Or my husband will come. Someone will come.

      Love your blog. It’s awesome:) You have so many clever ideas–I’m just trying to clean my desk.

  3. Four kids, three different schools….shoot me!
    Put down some overseas contacts for Declan….that should shut them up. Either that or you will get more than the highlighter…you may get the RED PEN! The nerve!

  4. I laughed out loud. I also rarely have enough people to fill up those emergency contact lines. My son’s preschool was very much into “healthy snacks”; his elementary school gives candy as rewards more often than I’d like. Like you said, it won’t kill a healthy, skinny, active, nearly-fruititarian boy, but really, candy?? Whenever I supply the treasure box, it’s always pencils, notebooks, pens, things like that. There are always “hoops” to jump through to be a school parent…but as our son is in a school that the whole family loves, and whose teachers and administrators suggested evaluating him about skipping a grade before I barely got to mention his boredom, I’ll put up with a few hoops. Press on!

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