Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crabby School Mom Seeking Advice

I try to be a good "kindergarten/public school" mom. I really do.

Okay, that's kind of a lie. By "good," I mean, I let the teachers do their jobs and stay out of their way. I'm not a hovering helicopter mom, and I'm able to keep my mouth shut that the kindergarten curricula used in public schools (which, generally, is formerly a 1st grade curricula that they sped up for testing purposes), even though I think about 90% of it is ridiculous and creates a bad experience for the kids who are "not advanced" (aka "average.")

Because, truth be told, I'm a Crabby School Mom.


My kindergarten sons are basic boys, bright and active, but their attention spans and learning capabilities reflect the fact that they are indeed 6-year old boys.

For a fascinating read on gender differences in learning read Why Gender Matters. I wish the educators in my children's school would. Because then they could untie the knot they get in their undies over the fact that one of my Haitian Sensations only uses the green crayon. Get over the green crayon, preachy school people.

It's not a trauma thing. It's a Perfectly Normal Boy Thing.

Another great book that every parent and teacher should read is A Mind at a Time.

So, I need some advice from other people.

Keenana Banana (his nickname because he always writes an extra "a" at the end of his name. Why does he write an extra "a?" "Because I like 'a.'" He'll explain.) and his kindergarten class are participating in a Living History Wax Museum with the 1st and 2nd grades.

Each child is assigned a historical figure. They have to come to school in a costume and give a 30-second speech in first person (as their historical figure.)

Just like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Okey dokey.

Now, I should tell you. I think this whole thing is STUPID. I have a SUPER BAD ATTITUDE about the entire project. Because my kid, and many of the kids, don't get this.

I personally think the school does this because it's cute to have little kids with cute little learning impediments get up on stage and say words like "his-tow-icky im-poh-tent" in lieu of "historically important."

I think it's a HUGE OLE PAIN IN THE A$$ for the parents and a wasted opportunity for my kid and a way to fill in time at the end of the school year.

So, guess who Keenan is? You know who I'd like him to be? A strong black man in history. I don't care who. There's a whole bunch to chose from. But a strong black man with whom he could identify himself in by skin tone alone. That in this white bread, feel good, stupid-ass school we sent him to, they could have given him someone with whom he could identify, and even if he truly doesn't understand exactly who the person is or what they did, he would have been exposed to, at the very least, at least one black man did something important in this world. Because thus far, at school, he hasn't been exposed to anyone other than President Obama.

Because, news flash: schools don't promote a whole lotta diversity at times other than funding "Diversity Club" or "People of Different Culture Celebration Day."

But you know who they gave him?

Walt. Disney.

Barf. I will stop my rant right there.

Anyways, here is my problem. Here is the "speech" they sent home for Keenan to memorize (in two days, no less, because this is happening on Thursday):

"I am Walt Disney. I created the first animated musical, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I also created the first amusement park, Disney World. I was born in 1901 and I died in 1966."

Here's the thing. No kindergartener talks like this. Keenan can't say "animated" to save his life.

I can explain to him over and over what the words mean. But he'll spend so much time focusing on pronunciation, he won't grasp the meaning. He's freaking 6, for God's sake.

So, is it horrible if I rewrite it to this:

"I am Walt Disney. I made the first music cartoon movie, Snow White. I also built Disney World. I was born in 1901 and I died in 1966."

Because that he grasps. He knows what a movie is, what a cartoon is, and what music is. He can't say amusement park easily, but he can say Disney World.

So what do I do? Do I "dumb down the speech" to make it kindergarten appropriate? So that my son can kinda sorta understand what he is doing?

Or do I just try to get him to rattle off the big words so all the other parents can awwww, and did you know he was an orphan from Haiti? Isn't that just amazing? his performance?

Or maybe I'm just making too big of a deal of this. But the whole thing just irks me.

So what would you do?


Diana said...

Coming out of lurking, here!

What would I do? Keep my kid home and call in sick. That kind of assignment would trigger my kids over the moon. No, I don't think you're making too big a deal of it. I think the assignment is quite inappropriate...and expensive!!! I mean, really, did anyone stop to consider what it might cost to make a cute little black kid look like Walt Disney (who should be rolling over in his grave by now anyway with what Disney has done lately in the name of "children's entertainment.")

Or, you could just change the assignment and send him as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and not tell anyone at the school. Just let them find out and shake in their own boots when he gets up and gives his awesome "I have a dream" speech that you've taught him.

Aves @ Call of the Phoebe said...

simplify the speech so he understands it and share your concerns with the teacher


Amy said...

J was Ferdinand Magellan for Historical Figure Day. But he was in 6th grade and they performed for the kindergardeners. I can't really see getting 6 year olds to do this. I would simplify the speech.

I wondered why J couldn't be a black man. He didn't seem phased by it though and enjoyed dressing up. Then he found out he got honorable mention and won a free movie pass. He was a happy camper.

ManyBlessings said...

I say dumb it down, but this is what really got me...
"Or do I just try to get him to rattle off the big words so all the other parents can awwww, and did you know he was an orphan from Haiti? Isn't that just amazing? his performance?"
Yep. Dang it yep. Drives me bonkers.

Julie said...

I'm a teacher and that is one of the dumbest assignments I've ever heard! I'd like to know what academic goals are supposedly being learned by these kinders. And Walt Disney? I would go with the other suggestion and have my son go onstage as a black man. Forget Walt.

It is maddening as a public school teacher to hear about things like this still happening when we KNOW what best practice is and it's easily found. My son is 3 1/2 so I haven't dealt with school issues but I would not let him be Walt or probably even participate.

I wish you luck with this and hope Keenan gets through it ok. You definitely have my sympathy!

J. said...

some how I missed this post but I am wondering what you decided in the end. As a teacher I think that is one of the dumbest assignments I have ever heard about.

bbbunch said...

Okay. Couple of thoughts. 1. I don't think the assignment is dumb (as in: good assignment, wrong age group). Mikah did this in the 4th grade and we all really enjoyed it (ironically, speaking of being strong men of color...he was Roberto Clemente. Quite an interesting humanitarian - and you may have been wrong to think he only played baseball ;) ANYWAY. I actually quite liked the project and one of the things I enjoyed most about it was that the kids drew the names from a hat, so an African American girl in his class was Betsy Ross, and not Oprah (brought to you by an extremely fair skinned child). 2. Again, I think it's not an appropriate assignment for 6 year olds. That part is crazy. And I don't think it's "dumbing it down" to have Mr. Banana say things in words that he can actually pronouce and understand. That just makes more sense. First of all, WHY are they having 6 year olds memorize things to say in front of a group of people? That's crazy. They should be able to read it. What?! They can't read these huge words at 6? THAT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE SIX!!! 3. I think you're awesome.

That is all.