I have been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of weeks now. I’m trying to be sensitive to all sides of the story while at the same time being honest to my experiences. I went down to Texas to hopefully get some work in oil and gas as it has all but dried up in Wyoming and Northern Colorado. I also needed a change of scenery and that felt like the best idea at the time. I took Yaya out of school and we spent a week at our “Kansas House” before heading down to Dallas. Once in Dallas I tried to enroll Yaya in the local elementary school. That was a pain in the butt. I had brought her birth certificate and immunization records as that is all that I ever needed to enroll her in school in Colorado and Wyoming. It turned out that I needed her physical Social Security Card as well. Once I had that in hand I was able to register her at the local school.
Here is where I might begin to sound like a bad person but if you will hear me out I promise to try and redeem myself. Please refrain from judgment until the end. If you think you can’t hold out, please stop reading now.
The kids and I were staying with my mom. She lives in a suburb just north of Dallas. I thought that the school district would be an ok one, given the location, but I guess I wasn’t prepared for the clientele that was served in the area. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the clientele, just the education, from my humble point of view. The process to get Yaya into school took hours. Half of the forms were in Spanish and I had to use my very rudimentary knowledge of the language to answer the questions. My mom and I were both participating in it and it still took forever. Finn was about to lose it when I finally finished and Yaya and I got to speak with the school counselor. She, fabulous woman, had toys to occupy Finn for the final portion of it and he loved it.
Her school in TX required uniforms and, after a frantic search of Target and a raid of the extra clothes at the school, we were finally ready. The sign when we walked into school on her first day read “Today’s language is English.” I didn’t really think anything of it – I really want both kids to learn Spanish as I think it is very beneficial in this day and age. Yaya even took before-school Spanish classes when they offered it at her old school. I did get a bit offended at being forced to register for free/reduced lunches. Talk about a blow to my pride. They wouldn’t even let her enroll until I filled it out. But enough about my pride – we didn’t need the service and I wasn’t about to take it from students that actually did need it. We are in enough trouble financially in this country without trying to take from people who deserve it and need the breakfast/lunch program to build strong bodies and brains.
Everything was going fine until Yaya brought home her first homework assignment. I was shocked. It involved verb endings that Finn could have answered if he could read (which I think he can but he fools us really well just like Yaya did at his age). Then I found out that Yaya had missed recess because she hadn’t finished her assignment from the night before. I completely understand that, I missed it in her homework folder as well, but the homework was a joke. Math was fine but (and here’s where you will think something is wrong with me until you let me finish) I feel like the English homework was work for the parents and not her classmates. Every single one of those kids that I met was super sweet and spoke English very well. I couldn’t believe in my soul that the busy work was for them. I may be wrong but that is how it felt to me. I had enough trouble myself during my own school days with homework that was way too easy; I didn’t see the point in the busy work and that bit me on the behind enough times that I know I don’t want Yaya going down the same path at such a young age.
When I was growing up we moved to Switzerland and later to Germany. I know that if the native speakers had brought home the work in German that Yaya brought home in English there would have been an uprising. I did go to International Schools where the primary learning was taught in English but we did have German homework. At the time I was going to school there, late 80s and early 90s so it may have changed, students entering the local school system were required to take intensive German classes, so much so that they would be held back if their German wasn’t up to par. I didn’t face this task because I was in the International School System but one could risk being a year or even two behind if you couldn’t grasp the language.
I don’t fault the school district or the teachers - they are doing the best they can with the curriculum they are given - but by golly… I wasn’t going to let Yaya end up a year or two behind because of the schooling and my chance at trying to find a job. I guess my eyes were opened wide on the little sojourn I took. I certainly won’t take education for granted again. Also, as a side note, I spent more on school supplies for the second half of the semester than I have ever spent on an entire year at any of Yaya’s schools. There is something to be said for funding public education and I’ve never voted against raising taxes for our students. Something has to give to give these kids the best chances in life. I can’t begin to even pretend to know where they should start.