Cup and Saucer

Many, many, did I say many? moons ago I remember hearing people talk about standardized testing and how they are biased. The specific example I remember hearing was regarding a question along the lines of, what do you place a cup on? The correct answer was a saucer.

A couple of months ago during a volunteer opportunity/work event I was talking to a teacher who works with students of financially challenged parents. She was teaching her class to set a table for a meal. As she provided instruction for sitting down at the table, she said, “like you do at home” to which a student replied, we don’t have a table at home. That was a reality check for the teacher. Never assume the students have tables, chairs, or anything else.

When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate in our individual rooms and usually in front of the television. I remember a table at some point but I also remember them having a fight, breaking the table then using the top to break dance on. They were resourceful fellows and the first in the neighborhood to repurpose furniture for entertainment. The guys in the neighborhood learned how to break dance on that table, I became their agent and manager by finding places for them to dance for money.

But anyway…

I don’t remember sitting at the table as a family. I don’t recall ever using a cup and saucer. I would sometimes make my mom a cup of instant coffee but I didn’t give it to her with a saucer. I didn’t drink hot tea back then. I would not have been able to pick out a proper tea cup in a line up.

I honestly didn’t learn how to set a table until I was in my early 20’s. I learned after a very embarrassing incident during a visit at the home of the parents of my boyfriend at the time. It was Christmas. His mother asked me to set the table. Uh, what? At the time I swear she was trying to expose my ignorance in many areas in order to discourage him from dating me. I pulled him aside and confided in him my delimna. I had never set a table in my life. After telling me lay down, he told his mother I had a headache and needed to rest. He set the table for me.

Cup and saucer… we make a lot of assumptions about the lives people live and the experiences they have. The affects of those assumptions are evident when only a certain group of people are invited to the table to make decisions about an entire population of people. The decision makers pull from their limited experience without regard for others. I will not say it’s intentional, although I’m not ruling that out. I will attribute some of the decisions to ignorance, being out of touch with various people groups and perhaps not caring to understand.

Some might think or even say a person who grew up in a household without a table is doomed or will not have the ability to over come. These are the people who are easy to discard and write off. I say to you, you are wrong. I believe if given opportunity, education and wisdom most of us will thrive.

Are the tests bias? Of course they are. The question I have is, how do we bridge the gap between the decision makers and the experiences of the test takers?

Speaking of Education

I have just complete classes 5 and 6 towards my master’s degree. I have six more classes to go. I have never had a concern about my education. I always knew I would go to college. My dream was to attend law school and become a Supreme Court Justice. I distinctly remember standing on the porch of our house looking out over the horizon and having this thought. I was in the second grade. A lot of things have deterred me from that path but the desire is still in my heart.
I grew up and attended schools in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). I was always highly motivated to study and learn. We had Talented and Gifted (TAG) classes for kids like me. We left the regular classroom to meet in a different class to work on more advanced lessons. Looking back, I don’t know that we learned anything the rest of the class couldn’t have learned but I’m thankful for the experience. My elementary school teacher recommended I attend a TAG school within the district for junior high school students. That didn’t workout for many reasons. I was accepted to Law Magnet for high school. For many reason, I did not attend. Immaturity will cause you to make poor decisions.
I went to college, earned and bachelors degree and was accepted to a Master’s program at that same school. I didn’t attend. I moved back home.
Fast forward to today. I am in the process of achieving a goal of getting a Master’s degree.
When I look back on my education, I was never in a panicky state over whether or not I would have the opportunity to attend school. I never had to wonder if my school doors would be locked and all the teachers laid off. I never had to wonder what would happen if my school district could not afford to buy me a diploma or what they had done with the funds for my cap and gown. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/09/buena-vista-graduation_n_3248553.html This story not only breaks my heart, it also raises some concerns.
What is going on with the educational system in some of our cities? Please note I said some. I know there are some fabulous schools out there. The ones my children attend are included in that number. My youngest attend a charter school and the oldest attends our local school. I appreciate the ability to have several options available for students in my state. We have the standard local and private but we also have a good selection of charter and a number of my friends home school.
I never had to worry about my quality of education. I don’t worry about the education my children receive. They attend a great school with manageable class sizes. The teachers care. The teacher’s talk to each other about the best way to handle the students. I know because the Little Dude who is in second grade still gets to visit his kindergarten teacher when he is having a hard day. She loves on him, talks to him, encourages him and sends him back to class. We love her! She referred to my youngest three as her personal fan club. She couldn’t be more right.
Back on topic. Not everybody has the educational opportunities we have. I don’t know what I would do if I had to enter a lottery or if I felt the need to lie about my address or if I just felt hopeless and helpless to do anything about the education my children were receiving. Reading stories and seeing movies/documentaries about children and their families wanting better but being caught up in other’s agendas and power struggles is appalling to me.
No Child Left Behind? That’s an untrue statement. There are lots of children being left behind. I am not even hinting at the government getting involved. I don’t think we need more of that. We do need more understanding of what is going on with our educational systems that are not working and figure out what’s happening.
I hear a lot of blame on the teachers. Their classrooms are crowded and full of kids who either think they are the class prince or princess or who are bullies and everything in between. Teachers are not miracle workers. They are humans who are undervalued and blamed.
I keep thinking about Laura Ingalls as a teenage teacher. Yes, I am referring to a tv show. What happened to the one room school-house where the students were taught the basics? The good old days.
I don’t have the answers to my many questions. I want to understand why we are falling behind. I want to understand why some of the teenage young men I know are uninterested in school. What is the disconnect for them? Why do young ladies start falling behind in science and math?
I am passionate about education. I want the best schools for my children. Who doesn’t? What do you do when the best is not available to you. What do you do when sub par is all that is available? What do you do when your child’s name is not pulled in the lottery and you can’t afford private school? What do you do?

Life isn’t fair, is it?

For a few months, the stud would remind us all that, “life isn’t fair.” I must admit I was concerned when he started kindergarten that I would get a note from the teacher telling us he told her and the students that, “life isn’t fair.” One day the two youngest were playing basketball with an imaginary ball and goal. The stud had the “ball” and the little dude was guarding him. Stud kept dribbling and wouldn’t shoot the ball. Little dude got frustrated and said, “that’s not fair, you need to shoot the ball so I can rebound it.” Stud muffin stopped dribbling, looked at me, and said, “life isn’t fair is it momma?” My response was and still is, “no baby, life isn’t fair.”
I love the school my children attend. The are at a local charter school. Charter schools are free schools but not governed by the local school district. One of the many things I love about the school is Business Day. The students who are in second thru fifth grade are encouraged to participate. They develop a business plan, rent a space, fill out a form that explains their business, competition, how they will market their business, who their customers are and how much they will charge for their product or services. Over the last two and a half years we have seen some pretty amazing and some not so amazing businesses. I help my children decide what to sell. We have determined the best customers are the kindergarteners, they will buy anything that is sweet, a sticker or a tattoo. The money they use is money earned from their jobs and good deeds throughout the semester. Yes, every student is assigned a job at the beginning of the year. They have a payday folder where they keep up with debits and credits. They pay the teacher for rule infractions.
Mid year, some parents complained to the president of the PTA and the headmaster about how unfair the business day was because some parents were obviously assisting their children and some were spending lots of money on material and supplies. They were basically crying out, “that’s not fair!” Hello!!! Life isn’t fair. Ultimately the rules were changed and now all student are supposed to make their wares by themselves and not spend any more than $10 for the supplies.
My personal opinion is you are sending the wrong message to your children. Life really isn’t fair or equal and everybody is not a winner. Let that soak in for a moment.
Everybody doesn’t get into the college of their choice. Everybody won’t marry Denzel, Taylor, Brad, Oprah, Justin, Demi, Chris, Jada or Selena. Everybody won’t buy a house and even if they do, they may not have the biggest house in the neighborhood. Have you seen the statistics for the number of college athletes who will actually play professional sports? Everybody can’t get into our school because there is a waiting list. When a job is posted in my department, we receive hundreds of resumes. Only one person gets the job. Life isn’t fair!
The sooner we understand this and begin teaching this to our children, the sooner they can wrap their heads around competition, doing your best and encouraging your friends. I understand the parents were saying the school should level the playing field this providing their child with a better opportunity to succeed. Well, is that fair? Should the playing field be leveled? Should all the children have the same opportunities? I thought the point of the whole exercise was to teach the children about small businesses and how to run your own company. In the real world of business, lots of people start companies but not all of them are successful. Some people do have financial backing and others do not. Some have great marketing teams and other do not.
At what point do we accept the life isn’t fair but chose to live our best lives anyway?