Last Wednesday night, I attended a PTA meeting that made me feel pretty darned good about the direction my childrens' school is headed in. The hard work of parents and teachers is paying off; through fundraising and volunteering, we are able to provide enrichment programs in art, music, drama, gardening, nutrition and character education. I love the garden at my kids' school, and I fell asleep thinking what seeds we will soon sow for a great harvest next fall.
I can see the headline: "Concerned parents put their heads together to create a strong school in the face of non-stop budget cutbacks."
On Thursday morning, I was jolted back to reality. I got a text from someone at school saying that I needed to come pick up my 2nd grader because he was having a huge meltdown, and his teacher, despite her best efforts, could not help him calm down.
Our son has anxiety. He struggles aspects of school that most kids love--like recess, for example. He gets overwhelmed by noise and feels extremely stressed when he doesn't immediately understand his schoolwork.
Last week, feelings of anxiety about school work and friendships hit him hard at bedtime, and he didn't fall asleep until many hours after his 8:30 bedtime.
My son's challenges interrupt the kumbaya feeling I get from our school (or that I project on to it, because I want it to work for us so much).
Our district has done a good job maintaining class-size reduction in the face of budget challenges over the last few years. While many surrounding districts are staffed at a ratio of 1:31 for lower grades, our district has managed to keep first and second grades at 1:20. For third grade, that number jumps to 28 kids per classroom. So, we worry about a louder, more chaotic environment will affect a child who already has difficulty in a classroom with only 19 kids.
Our PTA, like parent groups all over the country, brings wonderful events and enrichment to our school. But PTA work doesn't really seep in to the classroom, where of course kids spend the lion share of time. We can't affect rigid California curriculum requirements and testing standards. I can't be there to hear every comment classmates make about my son.
At the end of the day everyone has to do what is best for their child. I remain dedicated to improving our school however I can, but my first priority, of course, is to my own family.