Every time I have a parent-teacher conference with one of my kids' teachers, I usually come back with extremely mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel proud (and relieved) that my child is doing well, that he/she is not causing major disruptions in the classroom, or eating paste from the jars, etc. But on the other hand, when the teacher discusses one of the few problems my child is having, I usually end up wanting to bash my head into something, or head to the state department of education and start banging other people's heads together and ask, "What the hell are you people thinking??
Today, it was the Impossible Son's second grade teacher, and I was glad to hear my son is getting better at sitting still in class, at focusing on his work, at taking his time, though he still rushes through things.
He is having a problem in math. Mostly, it's the rushing thing. He'll get the first part right, then start on the second part of his work, see that he's getting close to the end, and then start rushing because he just wants to get done. And he gets those problems wrong.
But then... there's the other thing. Teacher points out that he's having trouble with the section they're working on now, that is teaching associations and groupings. Okay, I said, so what's going on?
She decides to give me an example and pulls out one of his tests to show me a specific problem he had trouble with.
"Cecilia is having 9 people over for dinner. She has six places set at her table. How many more places does Cecilia need to set at her table for 9 people?"
Well, that seems like a pretty straightforward problem to me and in my head I think, "I know
Mr. Manzie knows to think, okay, 9 - 6 = 3."
Then the teacher says, "And he's having trouble getting the right answer, which is right here," and she points at the multiple choice answers, where I see the above answer as option C. But that's not the answer. The answer is option A. And what is option A, you ask?
6 + 3 = 9.
Yes. You read that right. The answer to what is very clearly
a subtraction problem is an addition answer.
I blinked and said, "Wait a minute. How can that be the answer?"
She grimaced and said, "Well, you see, the whole point of these problems is to teach the kids to associate all these numbers together. That 9 -6 =3, and 9 - 3 = 6, and 6 + 3 = 9, and 3 + 6 = 9 are all the same problem, all associated with each other."
I nodded, then said, "Okay, well, here's my question. How can he, or any other child in this class for that matter, possibly get that
answer from what is obviously a subtraction problem? How can any kid read that and think, oh, I need to ADD to get this answer."
"Well, you see..."
"Okay, wait, wrong question," I said, seeing her getting a headache just thinking about this. "How many kids in this class actually got that problem right?"
"Well... none of them," she said.
I nodded, then said, "But, you're being required to teach it this way, aren't you?"
She looked so relieved. "Yes. I am."
"And they're not getting it."
"Can't you go ahead and teach it the right way, and then
explain what they need to do?"
"No," and she looked very clearly frustrated. "I am required
to teach it this way."
"Is it okay with you if I
teach it the normal way?"
This is the point where I start thinking I should have just gone ahead and home-schooled my kids. Not for religious reasons, but because of stupid crap like this. When the Impertinent Daughter was in second grade, they were teaching this really odd... well, it's hard to describe, but basically, what it did was get the kid somewhere close
to the answer, without actually getting
the right answer. As in "close enough is good enough."
I had enough of that really fast and went ahead and taught her the algorithms to actually get the right answer, which were much easier
than all the waffly, poofy, fluff-bunny crap they were confusing her with, and kept it up when she was in third grade. Because, of course, they were still
teaching the fluff-bunny math. When she took the Math TAKS that year, she got the highest math grade out of all the third grade classes at her school. Gee... I wonder why?
I tell you, there are times when this school district drives me nuts. My daughter doesn't have homework, and she's not
learning to write, at least not from school! My son is expected to have good handwriting, but the class only works on handwriting twice a week, for ten or fifteen minutes. And they're learning cursive this year. So that means that along with practicing his vocabulary words, and doing his reading (which is his actual homework), as well as going over his math homework, and practicing his addition and subtraction (which isn't
homework, but work that I
do with him to help him out), I will now be working on his handwriting with him...
They only assign him fifteen minutes worth of homework, but we end up working for about an hour to an hour and a half on just me supplementing what he should have gotten in class. And what are they doing in class? Well, he takes the TAKS for the first time next year. THAT is what they are working on, preparing him for the TAKS. And for those of you who don't know what the TAKS is, HERE
is a link that explains it.
The Impertinent Daughter doesn't have homework, but... we've required her to bring her math work home so we can go over it with her. It just works out better that way. And I sometimes ask her to write something for me, and then go over it with her after, because... they're not teaching structure. She wasn't writing in paragraphs when we started. Or indenting. Or using quote marks.
Which makes me wonder what the hell they're teaching in "Language Arts."
Yeah, I'm pretty frustrated with the schools here, but we can't afford to move at this time. I guess we could suck it up and pay the extra fee to send them to school in Hays County, but the drive!! OMG!!
Nah, I'll just do what my mom did, and what I'm doing now. Half public school, half home-school.
*groans and tries to stave off impending Migraine of Doom*
Shoot me. Someone just... shoot me now!