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Skipping the Field Trip

This is supposed to be a great place to learn?

Today Big Girl should be on a field trip to Queens Farms. Instead, she’s with her Daddy in the city.

When the paperwork for the trip came home I was excited to see that all parents, for once, were welcome to come along for what seemed like an all day event. But then I saw the fine print: no siblings allowed. Okay, so maybe I could try and work it out. Maybe I could find someone to pick up and drop off my little one at preschool, put her down for her nap, and wait until we got home. Hmmm. Maybe I could drive Big Girl to the trip, dropping Little Girl off first. Maybe. Could I? Hmmm.

My thought process took a few days longer than the teacher would have liked, so I got a call home asking about our intentions. By then, I was in a tizzy. In between getting the permission slip and getting the call I also got a lesson about this annual trip. Several other parents I know told me that they would never allow their kids to go to the farm alone. It was “crazy,” they told me. A “zoo of people,” and “not something a second-grader should be doing without a parent.”

“Mrs. Husband’s Surname (GOD, I hate being called Mrs. anything!), I was wondering if your daughter was going to be coming on the trip,” the teacher wanted to know. Yes, I told her. I was going to drive Big Girl, and yes, I would be coming along. “So sorry, Mrs. Surname, but it’s school policy that the children must take the bus. She will not be able to attend the trip if you drive her separately.” Ack. What would happen if I was running late? What would happen if I got a flat? After all those warnings I didn’t want Big Girl wandering around that farm without me. Frustrated and angry, I coolly replied that I would be keeping Big Girl home that day after all.

This lack of access is one of the things it’s been most difficult to get used to in public school. This isn’t the first time I’ve been at odds with an attendance policy, either. For example, I have never been allowed to go into my child’s classroom — not once since the beginning of the year. There have been four or five parties, but even then I have been excluded. The class moms, chosen by the PTA, are allowed to go to every party. The parents who say their kids have serious allergies — yeah, they are allowed in the classroom, too. The rest of us? Two other parents are allowed at each party. We get our names picked out of a hat. I’ve never been chosen.

What a difference from our private school! At Big Girl’s old school parents were always welcome. You could attend any trip. You could stop by during the day and, respectfully, drop into the classroom. You could call or email the teacher whenever and about whatever. Education was viewed as collaborative. Oh, and everyone called each other by their first names — teachers, kids, and parents. It was a warm, healthy, happy environment. There was no picking out of hats for in-school parties. The kids thrived, I think, because they knew that the school and the family functioned as an integrated team.

We also got regular updates via a website, where teachers posted photos of classroom events, discussed what kids were learning, and gave us a heads-up about future events. At public school? I have no clue what’s going on aside from what Big Girl tells me. Paperwork is sent home without any updates or explanation. It’s like playing telephone — and my partner is only 7-years-old!

I get that the public school is a “system,” and that certain controls must be put into place, but would it have really hurt anything for me to drive my child to the trip? Or, even better, if I could have brought my 2-year-old along in a stroller?  Instead, I am left feeling like my child is just a cog in the wheel — a nameless, faceless cog. And because this parent of a cog wasn’t willing to let her kid go to a field trip alone my kid didn’t get to pet chickens today. How fair is that?

2 Responses to “Skipping the Field Trip”

  1. Chris says:

    I don’t like this. I worked in public schools, and I always had parents popping in (the only negative being that sometimes they disrupted things). Parents would call and email. I would call and email them in return. I kept my website through the school updated. I sent home newsletters every so often when things were getting really busy (or I needed help, or the class was getting out of hand). They were welcomed for in-class activities/parties. Our only thing was that for field trips we could only have two chaperones — the teacher and one other, which sometimes was an assistant, so then no parents could go unless they paid for themselves.

    There is something going on at that school which shouldn’t be. As a taxpayer in your town, you are paying for your child’s education. You are paying for your child’s teacher, for the school building, for all of it. You should be able to talk to the teacher without issue and partake in activities with your child (of course, I do think that everyone should have a fair turn, so this doesn’t necessarily mean you should get to go to everything if there are other parents that also want to participate).

    Just my two cents as a former educator.

  2. susan says:

    Every teacher is different and has their own rules for his or her classroom. Opportunity for involvement should be available to every parent, though, should it be desired. There are fewer chances as the kids get older, but we usually have two days in the academic year when the classrooms are opened to all parents for one period of the day, rotating through the grades. We are not welcome into any classrooms uninvited and are most definitely on a first name basis with the staff, but I have found my public school to be responsive when I have questions or complaints. What is happening in Big Girl’s school is not universal to all public schools, and might not be indicative of what next year will bring. And while Joy’s teacher this year is lazy and unorganized (can you believe that her class took a test in FEBRUARY and still haven’t received it back?!?!?) and focused solely on preparing for the state tests, I do see growth and improvement in a lot of areas. Hang in there! There’s only a few weeks left.

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