Scanning my RSS feed as I do when I get a free moment to catch up on my blogs, I read an old favorite, A Little Pregnant. When she described how her son, just entering kindergarten, had a “home visit” from the kindergarten teacher prior to the start of school my mental Foley kit played the record needle scratch–whaaaaat? Is that done now? My “WTF” radar immediately went up and I thought about commenting with my own rant until I read the comments.
As always, her commenters were enormously insightful; this is definitely not a black and white issue. One said after explaining how this seems akin to a social worker visit at the hospital post-birth (“Do you have help, do you have a safe place to go?”) and being able to see the child at home is so helpful. You can’t draw much from a 15-20 minute visit, but you can definitely get a feeling if something just isn’t right. As she then put it, “We are not the droids they’re looking for.” And many of the actual teachers who read mentioned that at their home visit, it’s all about meeting the kid on their turf and lessening the child’s fears and worries about this adult with whom they would be spending their days. That is all completely valid, useful, and important. Moreover, that kind of concern is a kindness, and “above all else, [a la Kurt Vonnegut in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater] you have to be kind” is the main value we want to instill.
But still…ick. Ick. Double ick.
It comes back to the same reaction I felt when I heard that Hawaii was going to furlough teachers on Friday, cutting the school week to 3.5 days (many towns have half-days on Wednesdays for…something. Teacher enrichment? Planning? I have no idea). So you can imagine what kind of strain that put on families who had to now figure out alternate childcare in a state that’s already at the economic breaking point. That has since been resolved but my first thought was “This is our tax system. These are our schools. The citizens of Hawaii should not have to work their lives around to fit the system; the education system exists to serve the public.”
Now, I’m pretty liberal. I like the idea of my taxes going to fix things, provide public services, what have you. But this edges into a watchdog kind of mentality that I’m not totally comfortable with. I get that I’m “not the droid” but I’ve worked with children before. You don’t have to see their home to know when things are fucked up at Ye Olde Homesteade; it comes out in a thousand little but completely visible ways.
I have no problem meeting the teacher, but the post didn’t mention whether it was optional or not to go somewhere else–maybe for coffee or a smoothie at the kid’s favorite shop, or a favorite park, or a mutual agreed upon meeting spot. I’d be totally fine meeting at the playground or our local Jamba Juice. Because if it *has* to be at home, that’s where I really feel uncomfortable. Teachers are human; they judge and have biases just like me. Just like anyone. I’m not about to give a perfect stranger a tour of our bedrooms and I’m not going to plant things that aren’t usually in the living room for appearances, so when a person walks into our house they’re going to see an LCD TV, about 200 DVDs, a few books high out of reach, my wine rack, and a real shabby couch. Unless Maggie brings them out, the teacher isn’t going to see her art notebooks (which she has already so enthusiastically filled with scribbles), the handmade toys, and the stocked bilingual library. Worse…what if she isn’t an “Arrested Development” fan?! What if she–rightly, I might add–summed us up as post-grad hipsterish snark addicts with a fondness for unpretentious cabernets and she likes “Friends” reruns and doesn’t drink? How would that affect her relationship with Maggie? It might not, but it may, and even in a way that the teacher doesn’t realize is happening.
And the final point I’d like to make is that even if these visits are required by the school district, the parents that have things to hide are going to stall, ignore, screen calls, or just flat out refuse to let the teacher in. So if I refuse on general principle, like feeling icky about the visits in general, that lumps us in with a category that is labeled difficult at best and with something awful to hide at worst.
So, yeah…if Maggie attends school (the debate over long-term finances and homeschooling is happening in fits and starts over here, but it is happening–at least, Tom hasn’t flat-out refused me yet ;-D), I want her to meet her teacher and feel comfortable. I want it to be a cooperative relationship, honest and happy and open, the kind that makes me enthusiastic about classroom volunteering and happy to tuck a nice big Target gift card into her Christmas card.
But I hate the idea of the school district telling me I am required to invite someone into my home, and I hate if I refuse on the basis that they don’t get to tell me what to do, I’m going be labeled difficult or shady. It seems as though my right to say no would automatically taint Maggie’s relationship with her teacher before it even starts, and that just isn’t right.