"Condoms? You found condoms in my first grader's backpack? I don't know where he got those- we don't use them at our house!"
"what do you want me to do? Tell her what to do? I'm her mother."
"I'd be happy to come in and have a parent conference. Let me just get a pen and write down that time. Oh look- I don't have a pen. Nope, no pen in the whole house. Too bad, I really wanted to meet with you."
Most of these parents truly want the best for their children, but are overwhelmed with their jobs, their many children, trying to pay rent, feed their families, and stay above water. These are the children who rarely do homework, tend to need to repeat kindergarten, and need to spend a lot of time with the guidance counselors. They are sweet, wonderful children, whose lives just haven't exposed them to good problem solving strategies, immersed them in language and literacy, or prepared them for school's academic environment. Many of them come to kindergarten able to wash dishes, cook food, and translate for their parents' at the hospital, but have little idea of how to spell their name.
Today, during kindergarten free choice I walked by the youngest members of one of these families. He looked up at me with his bright kindergarten smile and said, "Hey, want to come to our show?"
Quickly he explained that he was getting his friends to put on a Knuffle Bunny Play like his brother had seen on Friday when the first grade went on a field trip. He was directing a whole of children around him to take part in preparing for "the show".
I smiled, said "of course" and then asked him what his brother told him about the play.
Turns out, the brother had the family spend the weekend re-enacting Knuffle Bunny The Musical over and over again.
The family who seems to never turn in homework, avoids parent-teacher conferences like the plague, has let us know that academics are not nearly as important as their children's survival- the children in that family spend the weekend acting out a book, not because it was homework, but because they wanted to.
I died. The first grader in question is the most notorious of this particular family, and the one brother who spent the most time meeting with our fabulous administration. The one who acts like he, at 6, is way too cool for this school stuff. Yet he organized the rest of his brothers to put on a play- a play he'd seen in school- a play based off a book.
On Friday I wrote about how awesome our field trip was, and how much the kids got out of it, and that it was an event they would remember forever. But to be honest, I didn't expect anybody who wasn't already an avid reader to go home and bring the play home to his family.
We can talk all about data collection, high standards, merit pay, accountability, and student outcomes until we've exhausted the subject, but until we find the spark for each of these kids- until we are able to inspire our most troubled learners, no real reform will take place. It's events like our Friday adventure that allow children to connect with the world, and motivate the learners we are so desperately trying to teach.