Posts tagged ‘Chicago Public Schools’

Oh God, what have we done? (Part 1)

I had a conversation today that put me into a panic about entering CPS (I am guessing what will be my first among many.)  I had a nice young woman come over to meet us as a potential babysitter.  She works as a Kindergarten/First grade teacher in CPS.. in a big, big school on the West side.  Of course I had to ask her subtley interrogate her.  I don’t get the teacher POV very often so I was a bit out of my element.  The “insiders” have a slightly different viewpoint than the parents do, I’m finding (I was tipped off by her comment of “wow, I would hate dealing with all those parents” as I started giving her background in my school involvement history.)

She seems like an intelligent, capable person – the type I’d easily hire for a job in the business sector.  The type who will probably have ideas about how to improve CPS that will never get heard, let alone implemented.

The school where she teaches exemplifies the problems of CPS.  The student body is huge and she told me how the principal is busy dealing with things like gangs and fighting.  Parents are not involved.  Test scores are low, yet the principal can barely focus on academics when she’s trying to keep kids and teachers safe. (I remind myself that near here, the schools are smaller and safer, something I am grateful for.)  

It was her feedback about the big class sizes was more relevant (and frankly frightening) to me.  I asked about the experience of teaching a large class with no aide and she said it was “challenging.”  “It’s all about the management” she said.  It took her a few years to figure out how to do it.  (No mentors?  No advice from the principal?) She had continued with one class for Kindergarten and First grade which helped make classroom management easier in year two.  It’s a good idea which I’d never thought about before.  The kids know the drill right from day one which must help immensely.

So ugh.  I’m sending my son into an environment where he will be “managed?”  It just sounds a bit too much like the army and not the type of place where he’ll be inspired.

Oh, how much better I’ll feel if I run across a few CPS teachers who say “I LOVE my job!”  Or a principal.  I asked the Bell principal on my tour what the most challenging part of his job was and he said it was dealing with the bureaucracy of CPS.  He has ideas that can’t be implemented for one rigid reason or another and frustrations with the systme abound.

Can parental involvement/interest/silent auctions/raffles really overcome this behemoth of bureaucracy and inefficiency?  Sometimes I wonder….

June 17, 2008 at 11:08 pm 2 comments

Kindergarten Craziness

The Kindergarten decision.  In Chicago, the stress involved is as great as applying to college.  Or come to think of it, maybe more stressful.  At least for college the child in question will share in the decision-making, sparing the parent the burden of single-handedly choosing the “wrong” school and messing up their kid for life.  For now, it is up to us to make the call, wondering what the 8th grade version of our child will be like and what type of education/environment is best suited for this nebulous concept of a child.  (Of course most of us are envisioning studious, vibrant, and talkative 8th grade offspring who have developed a true love of learning rather than the type who will roll their eyes at us, slack on their homework, mumble answers to our questions, and cause various types of trouble at school.)

And Kindergarten Chicago style is more crazy than any friends in the suburbs or other states can even imagine:  Touring schools, sending out lottery applications, gifted/classical testing, application fees, play parties, reading message boards, shmoozing principals, talking to random strangers at the playground…. it is almost enough to drive one to the suburbs.  Yet we persist.  And pray to the Gods of the CPS lottery hoping we’ll hit the jackpot.

I have been preparing for and anticipating the Kindergarten decision for over 2 years.  Half my son’s life, in fact.  And now, with a brain full of knowledge and experience, I feel the need to continue charting my progress as we dive head first into CPS.  I’d also like a place to share information with other parents who are going through this strange and interesting journey.

At the aquarium the other day, my son and I threw pennies into the fountain and made a wish.  He wished for a machine that could transform him into a robot.  I wished for a good school experience for him.  Not to be selfish, but I hope mine comes true before his does (although I could put that robot to work around the house….)


June 10, 2008 at 7:15 pm 1 comment




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