All learning came to a grinding halt this week when my son started getting in over his head with radicals. The trouble is, I couldn’t quite remember the rules for radicals myself, and the book’s explanation was not helpful to either of us. Nor did my math backup, the Khan Academy video, help. I needed time. And help from an on-site colleague. I had neither.
After taking extra time, missing our scheduled History test, and getting hopelessly more perplexed by my failed schedule, I called a halt to the school day and we paused for the weekend. And I tried to find a time when I could re-teach myself the algebra that I haven’t encountered in more than 20 years.
Ever have those days?
I often wish I could call a substitute teacher when I wake up with a sinus cold and can barely move, let alone think. It would be so nice to take a sick day, drink some tea, and not have kids bouncing off the walls asking if they can have more screen time.
Back when my oldest went to preschool, every other Wednesday was a “late start day” and school didn’t start until 10am. Presumably, teachers had “meetings” during this time; I need to have some meetings to re-group and figure out how to help my non-visual learner make the connection that letters make sounds. But if I take the time out to do this, the whole school goes on hiatus, and people keep interrupting and asking permission to watch TV or some such nonsense.
I would like to have parent-teacher conferences in which I made wise suggestions for helping a child with his or her behavior problems and then didn’t have to be the one to handle the problem at the end of the day.
I would love a few professional days, or some conferences to attend where I could get together with other teachers and discuss theories and strategies. I could go to the homeschool conventions and do this, but instead when I get a break away, all I want to do is NOT talk about homeschooling. I want to go to the beach and nap in the sun with a book and a fruity drink.
I also want a teacher’s lounge. You know?! The kind with comfy couches, coffee, and “No Kids Allowed!” While I have my few minutes of peace, the playground monitor handles the fights, scrapes, and hurt feelings.
But really, what I want most? A janitor. When there is glue on the carpet at the end of the art project and the trash cans are overflowing with paper scraps, I want to leave a note for the janitor (“Sorry about the glue by the art table!”) and walk out, drive home, and come into a nice clean house where no one has lived the whole day and the bathrooms are still clean. That’s what would be really nice about a “real” school.
But, then I start thinking about all I would miss. Sure, school would end whether or not we finished the material and my students met their goals or not. But maybe my son would never really ever get to understand how to simplify radicals, or he would fake it enough to get by. Because he is really good at that, and tricks me up, and I’m his mom. If I didn’t see him day-in-day-out (nights and weekends too), would he fool me? He just might.
And honestly, we do have late starts. Almost every Friday, because we are so exhausted we can barely move. But sometimes we have them just because we need to take one right then. And we don’t have to schedule it. I can give kids that are in a growth spurt and struggling to get enough sleep an extra hour to get started. I have the power to switch to a different curriculum without getting approval from the school board. And when my littlest learner is really not ready to learn to read, and might need a few more months to color, cut, paste, and let letters and sounds settle in, I don’t have to explain to anyone why we are hitting the pause button.
Instead of waiting for things to escalate, we can deal with attitude issues right in the middle of the school day. I might hate the disruption to our schedule, but when I can stop the teaching and parent when I need to without letting wounds between people fester, learning will happen in a better atmosphere.
I still need a good, long “conference” on a beach. I would love to have a substitute now and then. And I really, really want a good janitor. But this is the life I choose. And it is pretty good.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka.