Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sucking Less at Algebra

Thursday was Parent/Teacher night at Jess' high school. I was there for 3 hours, because I'm one of these parents who goes and sees every single teacher. Every. Last. One. The teacher I wanted to meet with most was her Algebra teacher. A little backstory that I didn't blog about in September as I just didn't feel like getting into it, but you should know so I can gloat about how awesome my daughter is.

At the beginning of the year at parent night this teacher informed us that the kids were "all struggling with the class, none of them were doing well... and it was encouraging us as parents to encourage them to come in for extra help."

I was confused... last year she was an A+ student in geometry... what is the deal that she'd be struggling with all the other kids with Algebra.

And then I looked at her schedule and noticed it was Algebra II, not Algebra I.

"Um," I raised my hand... "Why is my daughter in Algebra II and not Algebra I? No wonder she's having a hard time... she doesn't know any Algebra. How'd she get in this class?"

"They changed the curriculum so ..." the teacher started to explain.

"Wait. Whoa. What you're telling me is that the school district changes the curriculum midstream, takes the kids in 9th grade and places them in a level 2 class for tenth grade with absolutely no pre-preparation, doesn't inform parents of this, and you expect "the children" to do a good job? And you're disappointed that they are not? What did you expect from them? Are you kidding me?"

I was kind of mad and told her that I wasn't taking it out on her, but this was all news to me. I hadn't heard a peep about anything changing in the curriculum. Had I known, I would have taken measures to see to it that we got her some training over the summer to prepare her for skipping an entire year's worth of education on a topic.

The teacher, she's so young and so beautiful and sweet and kind... God bless her... she felt my frustration, and the similar concerns and frustrations of the parents of the entire class. She told us that the kids are frustrated and she's doing the best she can with them.

"I know, I know, I'm sorry. It is what it is... I'm doing review with them..."

Oh honey. Stop. No.

"Review?" I gaped, "You're using the wrong word. It isn't review if you've never seen the material."

"In eighth grade they had pre-algebra. They were exposed to some of the concepts..."

"Eighth grade! These are tenth graders who don't remember what happened at the beginning of the summer, much less what happened academically two years or 18 months ago. It's not review of a full year's worth of course work that they studied and know. It is like you're expecting them to be fluent in Latin after reading a take-out menu from an Italian restaurant two years ago. That doesn't work too well, no wonder they're struggling."

Some parents started to leave because the bell rang and it was time to move along to the next stop on the schedule. But I was not satisfied with the situation and I was going to argue. Momma bear's hackles were up and the teeth were showing.

"I know, I know, I'm so sorry...but it is what it is. Please encourage your kids to come in after school, I'm here three afternoons a week and I'm here at 6:30am daily, a full hour before school starts. I have three free periods during the day. I will work with them, all day every day..." she offered. I thanked her for her time, and reiterated that I was not mad at her at all, I just couldn't understand what the hell the school district was thinking putting her in this position, not letting us know, and expecting good work out of the equally frustrated and confused kids.

After that night, I complained to the district and to her department head, not about her -- but about the situation. I didn't get any satisfaction there, so I knew that it was on us, actually... more on Jess... to get through this. I spent a lot of time following up with Jess, staying on top of her, checking how she was doing.

When she got her first test back, she got a 50. I had a minor stroke. This is not good. How is she going to go through the rest of the academic year with a grade like this?

Then, she said something that made me totally check my attitude.

"I think that for never having seen the material that a 50 is pretty good," said my sage daughter, my seniorita smarty pants. And I knew she was right. 50 for never EVER having seen this crap? Okay.

You know the family philosophy... suck a little less every day. So we applied it. I said "Think you can do a little bit better the next test?"


And she has. She is up to a 92 average. And out of all the teachers at the school, I wanted to speak with Ms. Algebra the most. I went to her class and waited a half hour to see her as she had three other parents ahead of me. I think I was her last visitor and when I came in she was so glad to see me. We talked for over a half hour. She is so impressed with Jess and how she's doing. 92 average... constantly making strides, not being afraid to raise her hand and say "I totally don't get it..." She told the teacher that the class sucked out loud, and everyone in the class laughed and they all agreed, and for all of them, it was kind of a cathartic moment -- to let it out, laugh, express their frustration.

All the kids in the class (except for one kid who sleeps and drools on the desk through the entire class) are making amazing strides... the teacher told me she could not be happier with how they've risen to the occasion... she is so proud of them. But told me that of all of them, she is most proud of Jess. Every day she is thankful for having her in the class. Her blunt honesty, her joy when she gets it... how she is respectful and thankful to her, and helpful to other people around her. The sense of humor she exhibits... all this was so refreshing for me to hear.

I told the teacher about the "suck a little less" thing and she LOVED it. "Oh yes! I'm so going to use that going forward... so you got a 67 on the test. Next test, just suck a little less and maybe get a 72. And you'll keep getting better and better!" We laughed at that and she really was wonderful to talk to.

And I'm so relieved that Jess has her for a teacher and that it is going so much better than I could have dreamed. Hallelujah!

Today we need to pull our ACs out of the windows and get the storm windows down... winterize the joint. We need to get all of our winter stuff ready. We haven't ordered wood yet, and that's pathetic. It's going to get cold soon and fast. I just don't feel like dealing with it. I also don't have the money, so that sucks. The house is also a disaster again and needs a total cleaning. I wish I had a cleaning crew to do this for me... meh.

I'm also in the midst of a web project that I'm not 100% happy with and sure of. I am switching someone from Godaddy's pimpyassed Website Tonight product to a hosted account because he wants people to do online payments (not a webstore, but pay your bill online for all different amounts...) and Website Tonight doesn't support that.

It is one of those situations where they signed up for it, and Godaddy said "oh yeah, you can do that. We'll just switch you over later when you're ready to do it!" They didn't know what that entailed. I thought an hour or two's worth of code and development and a phone call to switch. Ha! It's never that easy. Fifteen to twenty hours later, I find myself right now sitting on a website waiting for the DNS to repoint so I can load the new page. It's been a pain in the butt. All because the right questions weren't asked up front. Even the guys at the tech support place have said to me "gee, this should go faster... I wonder why it is so slow?"

Well, because it is the story of my life, I think. It never goes as smoothly as you expect or want it to.

So as many of you have already seen, the Fox 25 news segment (featuring me in all my really large, orange-fleece encased body, rather luxurious and beautiful hair and silly table finger-tapping glory) about adults who use social networking aired this week. If you still haven't seen it, oh... why not. Go here. Check it out. It is all the rage. I'm such a huge celebrity. My 15 seconds of fame.


And some of my rebel Shakespeare kids had their pictures from my photo gallery splayed upon the TV screen. That was kind of cool to see. I wish they'd shown the Midsummer pictures, not because King Lear wasn't GREAT but because... well, fairies and ass heads. That's so cool.

What other news... nothing really. Just that aside from my brief moment on the TV news, which the girl found hysterical, I've got a lot of stuff I need to be doing. I guess I should... get to some of that, eh? More later. Have a good day and a good weekend in all you do. I'm off to put down some storm windows.

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