Last night, over dinner, Richard and I sat down to review, calendar (and toss) yet more school paperwork. The pile that accumulates over the week from two backpacks, repeated in the email Inbox, is truly overwhelming. But that’s for a different post.
One page was about our district’s newly adopted Math In Focus program, based on Singapore Math. We stumbled upon this suggestion on what to do at home:
“Challenge your child to identify symmetric shapes and tessellations….”
Three masters degrees between us and neither has ever heard of a tessellation. My first reaction — if this is one of the things on “The Test” then I have to question what we’re testing.
Of course, we looked it up.
From Wikipedia: “Tessellation is the process of creating a two-dimensional plane using the repetition of a geometric shape with no overlaps and no gaps. Generalizations to higher dimensions are also possible. Tessellations frequently appeared in the art of M. C. Escher, who was inspired by studying the Moorish use of symmetry in the Alhambra tiles during a visit in 1922. Tessellations are seen throughout art history, from ancient architecture to modern art.”
Oh. NOW I know. Sure. Cool. Probably a great way to pull right-brain learners into geometry. Nice.
And I think — OK — as a kid I played with and observed patterns too. But this word was never, ever slipped into our learning base. At least I’m pretty sure.
But it leads to the question — how, specifically, is our kids’ curriculum different from what we learned. I want context. I want to know what “worked” on my and what didn’t and what they changed and why. This is how I think and I need to understand this to be effective.
And I realize — sh*t. I missed the Math In Focus session offered last week. I skipped it because between a pretty short school day, 2 Kindergarten half-days, a back-to-school night, the family ice cream social, no sitter, and lots of my own work to do, I was truly tapped out on in-person school sessions. No can do. And yet now I realize, ….crap. I missed it and what’s wrong with me as a mom yadda yadda yadda.
But hey. Wait. Do I need to bear this guilt? If public school is relying on parents to help, can’t they (and the programs they contract) do better to help busy parents help our kids — something more 21st century than a faded xerox copy from a spiral-bound book?
Now I actually love our school district, our school, and our teachers. (BTW I actually am a product of this district. Represent!) Thing is, turnkey technology is here that’s better and cheaper. Can’t we step up to the plate? It’s a lot more than Smartboards. I’m talking, efficiency and effectiveness in the teaching and parenting process. So our time is used wisely and our efforts can have maximum impact.
Here’s what I need:
—Minimum paper. Dozens of sheets is bad. Different colors and fonts is terribly confusing and takes up a huge about of low-value time.
—Minimum duplicate communication. Just show us the revisions (as in any collaborative software)
—Context. Why are we doing this and how is it consistent or different from our experience or worldview, or what we would have otherwise assumed?
—Don’t require me to be there physically. The time and cost of showing up for an IRL session is high. Sitter, missed work, it’s just a bad use of time.
—Email ‘Idea Of The Day.” Based on the grade, based on Math In Focus. Spoonfeed me, and make it fun. Tessellation would a great dinnertime conversation.
—Livestream and record the In-Person sessions. All it takes is an iPhone, people. Do I have to be in the doghouse bc I couldn’t get a sitter? This is perfect stuff to watch on my laptop after the kids are asleep.
—District or school grade-based parent online forums. Or google groups. I want community that discusses what’s actually going on in the classroom. I want to interact with other parents about what our kids are learning — and not just who’s scooping at the Ice Cream Social.
—More automatic downloads. Better calendar download. Address book downloads of class lists. For pete’s sake can we step up to Google Groups?
—Private, collaborative online spaces. Let’s have a classroom workspace where parents can post photos from the first week or the field trip on a Mightybell or Dropbox. Then we can pull the latest when we need them, and just what we need, rather than clog our inbox. Slowing down my machine with heavy files grinds me and my fam to a halt and kinda makes me want to scream.
I’m sure there are lots more quick and easy ways. If you have ideas, post them below.
I’m dying to help my kids, their teachers and our school. Help me help. Please.