How -- HOW -- is it that even when we reach almost four decades on this earth, we still have to deal with drama? Why would one go out of one's way to stir up drama? IF someone is talking about me behind my back, why would someone else confront me with it? I am not asking anyone to fight my battles for me, at least not anymore. It has become clear to me that few people have my back. It saddens me, and hurts my feelings, but I'm becoming resigned to it.
I was hit out of the blue by a FB message chastising me for being angry at a PTO meeting last week. And I will admit that I was angry. But I take back nothing I said -- and possibly not even the WAY anything was said -- because it is all stuff that I believe, and feel strongly about, and believe that I should be able to communicate.
It started with talk of testing. There is a shift going on in the types of tests done at the elementary school level here (possibly at upper levels too, but since we receive almost zero communication from the middle school, I wouldn't know about that). It is meant to align with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, something I know a little about from my work. But the testing is being implemented in what seems a suspicious way, and the more questions asked about the testing, the more it seems like the administrators and teachers are kind of unclear on why it's being done the way it is, and what kind of data they expect to collect, and, ultimately, what it means for the students. Now, I'm not the primary instigator in this topic; there is another parent who is more upset with how things are being done than I. But I do know something about it, from my background, so I get drawn into these discussions. And the feeling put across when questions are asked is that those questions are not welcome from parents, and teachers and administrators are not prepared to answer them.
The next controversial topic came up when The Polar Express was proposed for December's movie night by the PTO president. Like the good Berkeley liberal I am, I raised my objection to a Christian holiday-related movie being shown at the public school by the PTO. I was not surprised that the movie was suggested, nor did I feel "judge-y" about it. But I firmly believe that no child should be excluded, and certainly shouldn't be forced to be the ignored silent minority, in school, especially when there are other possibilities. I was floored, however, when my objection was countered with stubborn resistance, and "judginess" of me in return. I felt like I had just become the face of the conservative movement's ridiculous, fabricated "War on Christmas." I was told that "the kind of people" who have been attending movie nights so far would not object to a Christmas movie. (This still bemuses me -- how could that person know who likes Christmas movies and who doesn't? Had she been surreptitiously checking for yellow stars of David or headscarves?) I was told that since the majority of kids in the school celebrate Christmas, it shouldn't matter if we show a Christmas movie.
But you know what? It does matter. I know that it's hard for people in the majority to put themselves in the place of those in the minority; I don't expect it to be an automatic instinct. But when it's pointed out (nicely, always nicely) that someone believes an action is bigoted, wouldn't it be nice if we could step back and try to objectively see the other person's point of view?
So there was that. I was stunned by the turmoil raised by my objection. There was an insistence that the movie had to be a winter-themed movie (still not sure why that is; previous movies have been Tangled, Gnomeo & Juliet, and Despicable Me). Eventually, the compromise of showing Happy Feet was reached. (I refrained from pointing out that although Happy Feet was set in a snowy landscape, that was because it was in Antarctica, not necessarily in winter, and was proud of my restraint.) But I felt pretty personally bruised (and unjustly labeled as a troublemaker) by the time that happened.
Finally, the issue of the lack of support for the PTO from the school's teachers was brought up -- and not by me, I'd like to point out. I did, however, chime in, if only to lend weight to the claim and to bring my experience/observations to the principal and new VP (who was attending -- in December -- for the first time). The disconnect between the teachers and the PTO is like nothing I experienced as a kid or parent in other schools, or have heard about from others. The teachers support the PTO by paying their $5 annual dues. For almost all of them, that is the extent of their support. When the teacher who had served as the liaison between teachers and PTO for 10 years or so stepped down from the position because her child was moving to middle school, it was with great reluctance that her position was filled. There are at least four teachers/paraprofessionals who have children who attend the school; I have only ever seen two of them at an actual PTO meeting, or helping out with PTO events. Trying to get teachers to come fill out a Wish List for the book fair is like pulling hens' teeth. We had a Literacy Carnival last year, and hoped for volunteers from the staff (I remember how cool it was to see my teachers in the off hours); 4 teachers helped -- and one was a sub! I just don't understand how the PTO can try so hard to form a community, a relationship between school, parents, teachers, students, and administrators, and have this hole where the teachers should be. My understanding from parents in other schools is that it's not a districtwide issue. I am stumped.
When I tried to make some of the above clear, I was countered with the following arguments:
- The teachers do pay their annual $5 dues. (And in return, they are supported by the PTO with books, supplies, and financial support for their individual projects, field trips.)
- The teachers have lives and families and full-time jobs. (Hint: So do almost all of the PTO volunteers.)
- Sometimes, the teachers have been at school since 7:30 a.m. (See above.)
- Not all of the teachers live close enough to attend events. (However, clearly the ones with kids in the school do.)
I don't expect 100% teacher turnout at every event. But wouldn't it be nice if there was a smattering of teachers at each event -- something to show that the teachers care about the students outside of classroom hours? Note: I'm not saying that they don't care about the students; I understand the hard work teachers put in, and the kind of investment their work takes. But sometimes, it would be nice as a parent to see an external display of this.Well, anyway, this is what got me "in trouble." Because, you see, "the teachers" (as a bloc? dunno, but that's the way it's been presented to me) are still not over the fact that they are upset with me because I suggested that class sizes could be made slightly larger during the budget carnage last year, and that remark was carried from the open-to-the-public budget meeting and twisted around so that I was painted as someone who didn't care about cutting teachers as long as my gifted child didn't have his program cut. This resulted in one of the most traumatic episodes in my life, and left me more than a little bit scarred. And now, apparently, the teachers don't feel like the PTO supports them. But you know what? I don't care anymore. Honestly, screw 'em. You want to get your panties in a wad because I (and I'm not even a board member anymore, just a vocal parent) suggest that you're not supporting the PTO? That's just too bad. Prove to me you're involved; come to a friggin' meeting. Take on a fundraiser; hell, just come to the cafeteria after school to distribute products. I know teachers work, but so do I. Otherwise, let's stop fooling ourselves and take the "T" out of PTO.
And as far as the "drama," screw that, too. I am what I am. I try to be nice, and civil, and respectful. That doesn't mean that I keep my opinions to myself. I am smart, and I am confident, and I am ready to stand up for what I believe. Those who can't accept that will just have to fall by the wayside.