Category Archives: Education

Open Letter to the NRA

Dear NRA Leaders,

Hello! My name is Mariann and I am the mother of four children, whom I LOVE more than anything. My love for them is what brings me to write this letter.
Midway through the year of 2011, I packed my four children up and moved across the country. I left behind my parents, my sibling, nieces, nephews, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors, many of whom I’ve known for the last thirty years of my life.

Our drive down to Texas!

Our drive down to Texas!

Mainly, I did this because I wanted save my teenage son. You see, Detroit has become the belly of the beast, as it pertains to crime and violence. Crime has soared beyond the perimeter of the clouds and gun violence is amongst the highest in the nation. The homicide rate for black males is astronomical.
As I already stated, I love my teenage son. He’s my firstborn and I didn’t want to lose him to a bullet. So it was best for me to relocate somewhere completely foreign to us. Even if it meant leaving behind everything and everyone with which I was familiar.
When we’d safely moved away I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I was amazed that we’d successfully escaped. We’d escaped the vicious threat of unnecessary, untimely, senseless violence and/or a tragic death,  which would’ve  likely brought itself, unsolicited, to my front doorstep. Just as it had to so many of my fellow Detroit parents, attempting to raise their children within city limits.
I can’t help but feel that the life of a black teenage boy isn’t respected. Not by his peers, not by the law, not the gun lobbyist, the NRA, Washington and especially not by the urban law enforcement; seeing that no one has ever taken any measures to curtail the threat to their existence.
I called myself moving from that lack-a-daisy inner city attitude (as it pertained to my son) and into an area where he’d have a better chance at surviving his childhood and teenage years.
In my mind, the suburbs had to be better than the urban cement jungle. Right?
Well, I was partially right.
This last year and a half, I got the best sleep ever.  I haven’t slept so soundly, since becoming a mother nearly sixteen years ago. I was able to sleep comfortably because my child, my children were safe.  Not only were they safe, but they were also free.
No longer was I hesitant to let them walk to the neighborhood store. Now they could go outside and play, as children ought to be, without the constant threat of gunshots ringing out!
For the first time, in a really long time, I’ve been able to let my mommy guard down, rest and exist in peace.
Now what I’d like you to do is imagine how pissed I was when that peace was unexpectedly  interrupted and that protective mommy guard had to go back up!
July 2012 is when that maniac walked into that Colorado movie theater, in suburban Aurora, and opened fire on audience members waiting to view a movie.
Imagine the terror that infringed upon my person when I learned of that tragedy. Especially since my teens are at the movie theatre every free chance that they get.
With that horrific incident I was back in full mommy protection mode.
But wait Mr. NRA leader and other NRA people. It gets even worse! Just when enough time had passed, I started thinking, “that was an isolated incident, not likely that it’ll happen again.”
I, along with the rest of the nation, receive another punch in the gut, this pass December.
It goes without saying, our schools are suppose to be one of the safest places for our children, next to our own homes. It’s suppose to be that lone place, outside of home, where you can let your guard down and know without a shadow of a doubt, that your child is protected.
Never once did any of those Newtown parents think that they were sending their children into the direct line of fire. Never did it cross any of their minds that, “Today! A mad gunman could shoot his way into my child’s school and commit a heinous crime against them!” Never once did any one of them consent to sending their beautiful and innocent children onto a battlefield that December morning.
Those are NOT the thoughts that we, as parents,  have when we send our babies off to school! It’s not what we think about when we purchase tickets to watch a movie or when we pull into the parking lot of the local mall to go shopping.
When did going on about our daily lives, begin to mean that a little bit of deadly gun violence can be inserted in there, at any moment? When did our beautiful nation become an open battlefield? When did the American people become moving targets?

As that mother of four who fled to a suburban Texas city to flee the inner city gun violence, in order to save my oldest son, I want you to know I’m back to being filled with constant worry. My thoughts, days and nights are back to being consumed with being their protector.
Understand this, not only am I back to being concerned for the safety of my teenage son, but now I’m just as concerned for the safety of his siblings! I’m concerned times four now. Way more than before!

The open and constant threat of gun violence is no longer reserved primarily for the young black males that roam through the inner city. It has broken rank and has penetrated the beautiful folds of suburbia.
It has presented itself in the workplace, shopping centers, college campuses, high school campuses, and sadly elementary school campuses. So yes! I’m back. I’m back to worrying each and every single time I or my four children leave the safety of our home.
It’s clear that gun violence will rear its ugly head whenever and wherever. Gun violence is no longer reserved for certain areas, times, days or people. The threat is constant for everyone and can present itself anywhere and at anytime!
NRA Leaders, this doesn’t have to be. The American people don’t have to live under the constant threat of gun violence. The American people shouldn’t have to live in fear. They shouldn’t have to wonder nor anticipate when and where the next shocking and tragic act of gun violence will occur. Why does this have to be America’s new normal?
It’s no secret that the current president and his administration are not friends of yours. But if only, for the sake of the American people and being an American and loving this nation, as you so loudly proclaim, can the common sense measures that everyone agrees upon be taken? Can we agree to implement those laws? Can those be the first steps taken?
Mothers and fathers, such as myself, would like nothing more than to get back to our old normal?
For the sake of our children and our sanity, shed the labels and erase the party lines. Let’s stop the finger-pointing and find solutions. Let’s get back using common sense. Let’s get back to the times where people meant more than the right to possess guns. Let’s get back to being caring Americans. More importantly, let’s get back to being human.

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I want to successfully usher each of my children into adulthood. I want to experience high school and college graduations. I want to witness the big weddings. I want to see my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren! Those are the things that I, and a whole lot of other parents want. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.
We just want to live.
We want to get back to the way things use to be.

Sincerely,

Mariann

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Numbers Trumps Feelings Part II

So after being rejected for entrance into third grade for the 2011-2012 school year, I withdrew my son and decided to utilize Connections Academy curriculum to home school him.
Well, after a few weeks, I decided that Connections Academy was too structured and fast-paced for my liking. We withdrew from the program and opted to use our own curriculum, based on Texas educational standards. Our main focus were going to be  on reading, math, penmanship and the Texas State Start Test.
Monday through Friday,  the Littlest Boy and I worked diligently and hard to succeed in our quest to prove all of those teachers and administrators wrong. We were so motivated. All school year we worked extraordinarily hard.
Over the summer, we continued to study and read daily. By the time enrollment came around, for the 2012-2013 school year, we’d successfully completed all of the third grade curriculum and had even gone so far as to begin working on a fourth grade curriculum.
I proudly went back to the school and enrolled the Littlest Boy in fourth grade on a Monday. I was so eager to show him off, all of his work and what he’d accomplished. I could hardly contain my excitement as I filled out the enrollment forms.
I successfully enrolled him for fourth grade and we were scheduled to meet the fourth grade teacher on Wednesday, during “Meet the Teacher” night.
Well, Tuesday I received a phone call from the school’s principal. She called to tell me that she wanted to place my son in third grade, for the upcoming school year, instead of fourth grade.
Her words: “I know he’s age appropriate for fourth grade, but I think third grade is where he’ll be most successful. And, his being successful is my first priority.”
There is where I cut her off, explained some things to her and said that a face-to-face meeting was necessary.
We didn’t get to meet the teacher on Wednesday because they didn’t assign my son a teacher, plus my meeting wasn’t scheduled until Thursday. Do I have to say that the boy was pretty bummed?
At the meeting I was met only by the principal and the assistant principal this time. They tried to bombard me with statements such as: We want him to be successful. His success is our top priority. It’s in his best interest. We can observe him for a week and if he’s exceeding in every ares of the third grade classroom, then we’ll move him to the fourth grade class, yada yada yada!
My question was: Is this the protocol for all homeschooled students who are returning to the traditional school setting?
Their corroborated answer: Well, we’re basing our recommendation on the same recommendation that we reached last year, before you withdrew him.
Me: Well, why aren’t recommending that he goes back to second grade, since that was your last recommendation?
Them: No answer. (Literally, they had no response. Neither of them.)
Me: So it doesn’t matter that I used a State of Texas third and fourth grade curriculum to home school him?
Principal: Unless you kept grades in a grade book, then we’d consider that. Or if you have report cards.
Me: Well, what about  all of this school work that I have here, that he did! Can you test him?
Principal: He’ll have to score 90% or better in every test area, to be placed in his correct grade. It’s pretty rigorous.
Me: Sounds like it’s next to impossible for him or any child to pass.
In the end, I walked out of that school without having accomplished anything.  If ever I felt prejudged in my life, it was in this situation. From the moment I handed those administrators my son’s records from “Detroit, MI” until I walked out the front door for the absolute last time.
They didn’t even give my child a chance. They judged him (misjudged him, if I may add) no sooner than they learned that we were from Detroit. I felt bad for my son. He’d worked so hard and they would never know how awesome he is and how much he’d accomplished educationwise because they’d already had their small minds made up about him.

After speaking to several teachers in Katy ISD they concurred what I’d suspected the previous school year: Eff your feelings! Our test scores mean way more than you and your child’s feelings. Eff that you two worked hard all school year. Eff that you tested him and he tested above grade level. Eff all that! We take the Star test in November and we’re not about to chance effing up our scores, all because you decided to drag your little Detroit half-educated child down here to our magnificent school!

They weren’t interested in none of his school work that I’d bought to the meeting. They didn’t care to hear him read, witness his ability to comprehend what he’d read, they didn’t want to see him write, or care that he knew his multiplication facts, fractions, how to tell time, count money, place values or read a number line.
None of that mattered.
State and district test scores are all that matter!

Three months into the school year and I’m ecstatic with the progress that my little homeschooler is making. He was disappointed that he wasn’t going to attend school with his peers, but he’s since gotten over it. He’d rather stay home and do school than to do third grade work again.
I considered going to the PTA and the district Superintendent about this matter, but after speaking to several teachers and parents I knew my efforts would be in vain. I wouldn’t be exposing any dirty little secrets. I wouldn’t be blowing the whistle on anything that the district wasn’t already aware of.
So what would be my next course of action? How about exposing them to the very passionate and extremely opinionated world of blogging moms, dads, cousins, uncles, aunties, grandparents, etc.?
I’m eager to see their reaction to being bombarded!

The Littlest Boy reading. Reading slightly above grade level! Take that, West Memorial Elementary!

 

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Numbers Trumps Feelings Part I

When I first started considering the idea of relocating my family, the one thing that concerned me most was, taking my children from a lackluster educational environment to a phenomenal one. I knew (without truly knowing) that the Texas school curriculum was going to be more advanced and rigorous, than what we’d grown accustomed to in Michigan.
Out of my three school-aged children, I was only concerned for the younger two.
Two of my children have the tendency to start the school year off on the weak side. They struggle in mainly in the area of reading (on and above their grade level). But with my usual and constant help, along with a willing, supportive and patient teacher, I was certain that both of them would be able to kick it in high gear and get on the same page as their peers.
Last school year, we arrived nearly a month after the start of Texas schools. This concerned me because it wasn’t advantageous for two of my three.  But, I stayed positive and got them enrolled in their respective schools and grades.  My oldest was a high school freshman, the second child was an eighth grader and bringing up the rear was my youngest son, a new third grader!

As expected, my oldest blended right in. He picked up on the curriculum, as if he’d been doing it all his life. Easy Peasy! Much to my surprise, the second child also jumped right in and blended effortlessly. Whew! That was such a shocker because she’d never done that before. Admittedly, it was such a relief! I had one less child to worry about!
Sadly though, it wasn’t seventy-two hours post-enrollment of my third grader that I got the anticipated call from a school administrator– She needed to meet with me concerning some observations that his teachers made.

To make a long story short, I expected there to be an issue with his reading, like I stated earlier. I was going into this meeting expecting that we’d put our heads together to devise a plan to help him be successful with his reading. Imagine my surprise, when I got everything  but that!
At the meeting I was bombarded by the assistant principal, two teachers, the reading specialist and some other administrator lady. I was told, “that after close observation we are worried with our findings”. (Remember: He was a student for less than seventy-two hours). He’s reading below grade level. He doesn’t know place values. He’s not able to add or subtract……”

They went on and on, with a list of things that they claim my third grader couldn’t do, before telling me that he needs to be placed back in second grade.

I was completely shocked and caught off guard! One, I was shocked by the long list of things that he “couldn’t” do. It was all untrue, with the exception of his reading below grade level (I tested him on everything that they pointed out, and he passed every area. This they would have known if they’d tested him or spent  some more time with him!).
Two, I was shocked that this was their first and only recommendation, and that they’d resorted to intimidation tactics to get me to go along with what they were saying.
Three, I  was shocked that no other factors were even taken into consideration.

My response: Woo! Really? This is the plan that you all came up with after knowing a student for barely two days? As an educator, putting a child back an entire grade would NOT be my first recommendation to a parent, especially after having a child come into the classroom nearly a month later than everyone else. I definitely would spend more than two days observing and getting to know him and his personality.
There are many factors that I would take into consideration before making such a drastic conclusion. The first being, he has relocated from across country. Second, he’s brand new to the school, to the classroom, to the teacher, to the students etc. Third, he’s a rather shy and quiet child. He doesn’t like to be put on the spot or embarrassed. Instead of answering a question and getting it incorrect, he’ll simply say, “I don’t know.” Lastly, I would invest more time in observing him, minimally two weeks. Then after all of that, I would tell the parents about my areas of concern and together we can work on those areas, to fight effortlessly to get him on the same path as everyone else. If after several weeks (before the oh-so important state testing) then if there’s no improvement, we can discuss options and devise another plan.
Holding a child back, is the last option, not the first option.
Even after all those well made points, they still wanted to put my son back an entire grade. They already had their minds made-up and they didn’t take anything that I said into consideration.
In my opinion, it would be easier for them to put him back. Putting him back meant no need to put in any extra effort towards ensuring his success. And, their numbers and test scores meant more than all of my points and his self-esteem combined. When I realized that this group of people didn’t have the best interest of my child front and center, I removed him from Katy ISD. I decided that I was going to home school him instead of leaving him at that school, with those people over him.

What I’ve learned since moving to this state and to this school district: Eff your feelings! Our numbers trump you and your kid’s feelings!

Up next: Numbers Trump Feelings Part II: What happened upon fourth grade enrollment?

 

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