We’ve lived in Indianapolis for ten months now. The kids have been in school for eight months. As many of you know, we chose the Indianapolis Public Schools deliberately. Having come from a district school setting in Michigan, we knew that we (and the kids) would need to adjust our expectations of education and community. We understood there would be disappointments and frustrations. But, we committed to IPS.
As the year comes to a close, it becomes harder to maintain that hope we had for our daughters’ educations. I still believe that they could go through IPS and graduate with an education good enough to get into college and compete with people from other schools. But some of that belief comes from knowing that they are getting an education in spite of going to IPS. We read at home. We talk about ideas, news, how our values either do or don’t fit in with the people in our lives. We travel a bit. And so as the days pass, and I watch how IPS operates, and I live through seeing how it affects my girls, I am beginning to lose my faith in a public education for my kids. Sure, the education is good enough and being a part of the city of Indianapolis is an interesting and valuable cultural experience, but its also stressful, lacking, and sometimes an exercise in mere coping.
My first experience with going to school function (a series of one-act plays) resulted in me getting candy pieces repeatedly flicked at the back of my head while the principal took ten minutes to get the students settled down enough to watch the show. The lecture he gave on how to act as an audience and how to show respect was shocking for me. I was sad that grades 6 – 12 still needed someone to tell them what it meant to be respectful. To be clear, I’m not blaming IPS for the kids being disrespectful. I’m just noting that its sad (and a waste of time for my kids) that Education at this point has to focus so much on behavior instead of academics.
Manolia’s substitute teacher. Her regular teacher had a baby in mid-February and has been on maternity leave since. The long-term sub that was planned to replace her walked off the job (as I understand it) after her first day. This resulted in a different substitute teacher that has had my child in tears on a regular basis for the last month. She had Magnolia believing that the word ‘microbe’ was pronounced my-crow-bee. While this frustrates me, I understand that this sub is not trained to be a teacher. I understand that the school has a certain pool of substitutes it must draw from. But enduring a class monitor for six weeks is very long haul for a fourth grader. Last night Maggie came home with more than three and a half hours of math homework: concepts that were brand new to her and that Josh had to teach her. Maggie felt terrible that she didn’t understand it. She felt exhausted from working and concentrating for such a long period. She hadn’t even gotten to her Spelling homework. We actually encouraged her not to do it. We actually told her that her sub was not a person that we felt like we or she needed to take seriously. Respect her at school, sure. But realize that she doesn’t understand how to be a teacher and we were going to have to work around her expectations and inexperience.
The letter that came home from Eleanor’s school regarding how troubling it was that the school could be facing a state takeover. Yes, very troubling. It’s the only IPS school that values the arts and humanities so highly. But what’s even more troubling is that the letter was so poorly written. Granted, I may have higher expectations of grammar and usage than most people, but I want to be outraged with my community. I want to stand up for this school. But for fuck’s sake, give me a few reasons!! Because I’m running out of hope.