First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Monday, September 2, 2013

What's New

Here's what's new:

The Peanut started first grade in a new school (same school system). Her old school, while the teachers were lovely and the principal was talented, was a mess. It was originally a junior high, so the facilities were not anywhere near appropriate for little ones. The floor where the lower grades reside felt like a basement. The bathrooms had been "retrofitted" by the lowering of old sinks so that you could still see the imprint on the wall where they used to sit.

During recess, all the kids headed out to an empty section of the parking lot where they ran gaily over cracked asphalt and splashed wildly through the dirty puddles that collected between old frost heaves, oohing and ahhing over the oil slick rainbows floating thickly on top. It was a bit of a downer. 

Also, the principal was pregnant/just had her first kid, so one can't totally rely on her heart being all the way in the game for a year or so. Especially since she doesn't live here.

The new school has a green field and an actual fenced-in playground and colors and facilities  befitting the tiniest of scholars. So that's cool. 

Of course, we came to find out that even when the playground is empty, the first graders often spend recess right next to the usually empty playground in the cozy chain-linked confines of the basketball court. School-to-prison pipeline much?  It's one of the first issues I plan on tackling once the Peanut has had a chance to establish a bit of an identity. No one wants to start in a new school known as "that tiny girl with the huge pain in the ass parents." We'll give it a couple of weeks, and then dig in. Meet the PTO prez, get on the school site council, and make some noise. School site council, for those that don't know, is a group made up of parents, teachers, and other members of the community. In Massachusetts, School site council members get a say in budgeting, hiring, and school improvement. It's a great way to be a big pain in the ass.  Google your Department of Ed regs today and you too can be the parent no one likes to see coming. The squeaky asshole gets the grease.

Wait  a second . . . 

Let me say, this is not an adversarial thing, this being a big pain in the ass. Teachers and administrators are constantly squeezed by their bosses, the media, the government, over-crowding, and budget cuts in to making decisions that aren't always in the best interest of students. It's human nature. If you're always being beat down, eventually you act out of self-preservation.*(UPDATE BELOW) The thing is, parents have a lot of power in public education. No administrator or teacher really wants to deal with an angry parent. So, you get on that council and you squeeze'em a little from the other direction so they can have the impetus to do the right thing by the kids. Look in to it. The council rarely meets more than once a month for an hour or less, and you can really affect change through it. 

The Peanut's been stressed. She loves routine, she loves knowing all the rules, and she loves being the best student. In a new school, all that stuff is up for grabs, at least at first. She's had trouble sleeping and she's worried about finding her way around. Plus, with her kidney issues, sometimes the need to go to the bathroom goes from no where to emergency in no seconds flat. We talked to her new teacher and principal about it, so we're hopeful it should be all set.

My wife got a new job! She is now one of two literacy specialists for high schools in her entire school system (in the interest of protecting her anonymity, the city she works in rhymes with Austin).

This basically means that she will rotate between about 6 schools all year, helping the English teachers teach better, or helping non-english teachers (voc, history, science, etc.) be better able to help their students access their textbooks and other written material. She's a teacher's teacher and hot shit.

She's also nervous as hell. Worked at her old school for about 17 years. Wasn't so long ago that her school was operating about as well as it could considering it was a vocational school in a disadvantaged neighborhood filled with at-risk students. Newspeak alert. 

Over the last two or three years especially--and according to plan--, things deteriorated quickly. As more than one person affiliated with the school has put it, the school is "a cancer to work in."

Her school was quickly identified as enemy territory in the War on Education and dealt with accordingly. That is, fucked over on purpose.  Dismantled. It'll probably eventually be closed and then sold to the private university that has been slowly encroaching on the neighborhood for years now. That's the War on education though. Like all our wars of late, it ends up with territories being controlled by factions who probably aren't healthy for the region in the long run.

That phrase the "War on Education" makes me think of a dude in a camo suit with a matching tie going, "Gonna teach you to read, son. Double time! Hold on now, son. Gonna get my (mmph) grenade launcher and stick a literacy grenade in it and shoot you right in your illiterate mother fucking face! (Shunk  . . . . Boom!) You're literate now, son! You hear me? You're li. . . son? You alright? Shit, we lost another one. (Sigh) Goddamn it. Education is Hell."

Best thing to me about that image is that it's kind of accurate.

More testing and more rigorous testing. Test prep classes in lieu of arts education. Longer hours, longer school years, lower pay, smaller budgets. Race to the top. This is the way we run or education system now. We're tough. Tough on education. Education, it ain't for children. Like everything else in the U.S. it's a war. Because war makes money.

Test companies make money. How much money? How about hundreds of billions, Rupert Murdoch, level money? Private consultants also make money. Charter schools are referred to as public schools though unlike public schools, they can raise their own money, make partnerships with corporations, and turn their schools in to test passing factory training grounds for the investors who've given the most cash. It's FUBAR, to borrow a phrase. 

This has little to do (or everything) with my wife (score one each for wine and digression)  personally, however. Although, keeping with the war analogy, she is a lot like educational Black Ops now. She only answers to one person. The various headmasters and principals at the schools she'll visit hold no administrative power over her. She'll get in, teach those teachers how to fucking teach, and get the fuck out. It's pretty cool, all in all.

Also, the PMan starts Pre-K 4 on wednesday. Should be fun. Maybe this year he'll sing Alice Cooper songs at his teacher while he lights the reading rug on fire. The possibilities boggle. 

And that is the deal from Homemaker Central. How're you all doing?

*It occurs to me that this statement is pretty adversarial. If educators had been ever  been interested in self-preservation, they never would have become educators in the first place. 


  1. Congrats to Mrs. Homemaker Man. Her job sounds incredibly important and valuable, and I hope she finds it fulfilling.

    Peanut is gonna do great. I remember stressing out about how my daughter would do in a new school, and she certainly lost some sleep over it herself. But kids adapt so fast, and they rise to these types of challenges in such an awesome way. I wish I had that skill as an adult.

  2. "Musings from the Big Pink" has been included in the A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.

  3. Wow! Lots of news from the Back to School front. Congratulations Tumbleweed! Help those teachers do what they want to do best! I hope that Peanut has settled down into a smooth routine and is less stressed. As for PMan, WTF? What are you going to do without a kid at home 24/7? Oh yeah, join the revolution and practice becoming the biggest, squeakiest, asshole parent on the block!. Hope that works out for you and those 1st graders get onto that grass and that colorful equipment.


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