There are perks to being an administrator in the school district where one's children attend school. There is also the inevitable downside. Today, I tried to walk the thin line than exists between making sure that I'm looking out for the good of my own child (as well as for the good of the 2200 other children whose parents entrust them to me each day) and taking advantage of my position to benefit my child.
I try very hard not to interfere in my kids' education more than the average parent would. I'm not the person who emails the teachers constantly, and I don't expect special treatment for my kids because of my position in the district. During the seven years that I've served as principal, I've received varying responses, encompassing the range of nonchalance to obvious discomfort, from my children's new teachers upon my entrance at "meet the teacher" night. In my kids' entire experience thus far in the district, I've only been less than pleased with two teachers, and we've gotten through those years without incident. Have I "disclaimered" enough now?
The latest: our district did some new math placement testing for incoming 5th and 6th graders, of which Gym Girl is one. However, Gym Girl was not tested. Only certain students were selected. The only parents notified of the testing were those whose students had been selected. Kids who tested will take regular math, pre-Algebra, or Algebra I based on the results. I learned of all this when Gym Girl's school principal called me to ask a question about the rules for teacher certification. I deserve bonus points in my book for not quizzing him about my own child during this conversation.
Instead, I quizzed Gym Girl when I got home.
Me: "So, have you taken any special math tests lately."
Gym Girl: "No, but some people did. They got a letter about it."
Me: "Hmmm....that's interesting. Who tested?"
Gym Girl: "I'm not really sure."
Me: "Oh, I see."
(Subject dropped as to not make Gym Girl paranoid)
I'm lost as to why Gym Girl would not have been tested. Honestly, I figure that she might or might not qualify for more than the regular math class, but she's always been good at math and has scored "advanced" on all the state-mandated tests in math over the past couple of years. She also makes A's in math and has seemingly "phoned in" the 5th grade material. If I were to guess, I think she'd score in the middle group, being ready for pre-algebra but not algebra. Why do I care? I've been living through Algebra I with Swim Chick in 7th grade, and while she qualified for the class through testing in as well, she would have been better served by taking pre-algebra last year rather than 6th grade math (though this was not an option for her class). If Gym Girl is going to do 7th grade Algebra, I want her to do pre-algebra next year.
So, risking being the overaggressive parent convinced that her child is a true genius who has been wrongfully overlooked, I sent an email to Gym Girl's teacher. I noted that I had learned of the testing and that I was surprised that Gym Girl had not been tested. Then I inquired as to what the criteria had been for selecting students to test. As of leaving work at 5:00 p.m. I had no answer. I'll be curious as to how he replies, knowing that just my sending it can be perceived as pressure. And I'm not sure yet how much pressure I want to put forth in this issue.
One of these days this parenting gig is going to get easier, right? Oh yeah, I think that's scheduled to take place around the year 2022 when Soccer Boy should be graduating from college! I'll keep you posted.