It’s the end of the school year. You must be so ready for summer vacation!
The kids must be climbing the walls!
It’s the beginning of June and everywhere I go, I am met with statements like these. At first, I am puzzled. Then I realize why I am confused.
And time seems to slow to a standstill as I consider how to respond.
At first, I figure that people are probably expecting me to chuckle and agree with them. I mean, it is the standard attitude about the end of the school year, so why would mine be any different? Where I run into a personal ethical quandary though, is that if I nodded and said yes, I would be lying.
To me, this would feel like one of those inauthentic social niceties where we all just pretend that things are status quo. You know…
“How is your day going?”
I mean no one REALLY wants to hear about your day, but if you actually said what you thought, you would be met with a wide-eyed look as to why you actually answered the question.
So, yeah, this is one of those situations.
(Tick, tick, tick…)
And what does it say about me if I agree with them? I mean, how would you feel if your child’s teacher was walking around saying “I can’t wait to get away from so-and-so. She is awful!” Would you take that personally? While maybe you’d understand or even agree, given it’s the end of the school year, but still…that’s gotta sting a bit.
But the fact of the matter is that the way things are structured causes students to behave poorly and teachers to be stressed out and angry. This only reinforces the stereotypical antagonistic relationship between the adult and child. And yes the kids leave in June so everyone gets away from each other, but the cycle starts all over again in August. (even though we promise ourselves this year will be better…)
(Tick, tick, tick…)
Also, in recent years, I have come to learn that children, parenting and schooling are extremely touchy and controversial issues. There’s been a lot going on in my neck of the woods from arguing about what to do about failing schools to tempers flaring over the redrawing of school boundaries. (JSYK, no matter what you say here, you are wrong and insensitive.)
Along with that, in this age of Social Media and the $60,000/yr college tuition, everyone and their decisions for their children are under extreme scrutiny. (I think we call that being “judgy” or “mom shaming”)
So when people make statements to me or ask me about Montessori, I need to tread carefully. I have to ask myself whether I really want to respond.
(Tick, tick, tick….)
Which brings me back around to my former life:
9 years ago when teaching middle school, I would have jokingly agreed with those statements. But then (because I didn’t want to seem heartless), I would have waived them off, acting like we had everything under control and I was doing fine, so no need to worry. Truthfully, I was so burned out by June and I could barely keep it together. After weeks of reviewing for standardized tests, then spending a painful number of hours administering said tests, we couldn’t show enough movies or do enough “end-of-the-year projects” that we pretended would count (a.k.a. lying.) to keep the kids contained. The last month or so was a complete waste.
And I can see from the Social Media posts of upset parents, much hasn’t changed. Looking back, and then seeing how things have gotten progressively worse, I am not sure how or why we have allowed this to become acceptable. I mean, I distinctly remember attending Grad School in the bluest state of Massachusetts and parents picketing the standardized tests and keeping their children home. So, why don’t people band together and stick up for themselves?
Then, I quickly recall my Economics professor in college saying (as he was handing out our final exam) that since there is a curve, if everyone just walked out, the whole class would get an A. When he left the room for us to come to a consensus, a few (including me) didn’t trust this, felt like we worked too hard to skip the exam, and didn’t want to risk failing (and more importantly, I didn’t want blow my 4.0.).
So I get it: It is scary to challenge the status quo. The people who do this do not have an easy road. As a result, however, we all just keep doing what we are doing, knowing it won’t ever change, but always hoping that someone will come along, take the bullet and save us.
But if you make that choice to challenge to status quo, you have to stand by it. And you must be prepared to explain to people why. Which is the tough part. Not everyone wants to hear it:
I recently came across some parents electronically commiserating about the end-of-the-year tests. Uggggghh I wanted so much to tell these people what really goes on. And I felt so bad because I knew things and they, whose children are actually suffering, didn’t. And I also knew that they would never get an honest answer from anyone that knows the answers. (Whistleblowers end up dead in a suspicious car crash or found at the bottom of a lake, you know.)
So what do I do here?
I bit the bullet, dipped my toe in and commented in this thread.
“This is why I teach in a Montessori school.”
After I pressed post, I feared sounding uppity, but for all intents and purposes, I was just stating a fact. Other than a response from another Montessori parent, no one else responded to my comment. No one even inquired about how Montessori helps. Maybe I should have phrased it another way, IDK, but then again, I am always one to just drop something and wait. I know that the people that are truly interested will say something.
All I heard was….
So I must ask: Do people want to know the truth? Part of me says no because in all my years of yoga and self-study, when you learn there is another way, then you actually have to do something. I think most people just want to vent.
But 9 years ago, I decided I just couldn’t participate in this any more. And while it was not such as easy peasy mac and cheesy thing, I had to close the door and not look back. Even when I had to deal with the painful repercussions of my choice.
Regardless of all that, everything has turned out for the best. And even though I had to face my fears in getting back into education, I have made a choice to not be insane by doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. I am going against the status quo.
Doing this, choosing to blog about it, and facing unsuspecting people who say seemingly innocent things to me…it is in these moments that the voices in my head start to scream:
Well, la-di-da Patty aren’t you super awesome?!? You are just sooooo much better than us!
Well, Patty, you just don’t understand what our situation is. Montessori won’t work for us.
Montessori? Isn’t that for rich kids? Smart kids? Where they just play around all day? Where they work the kids to death? Where the kids just do whatever they want and the classroom is total chaos? Where they…..(insert every negative stereotype you can think of)?
This is what comes up when I am called to say something: every excuse in the book of why I shouldn’t.
Tick, tick, tick…
I am suddenly pulled back to reality, after what feels like an eternity. Oh yeah. I need to respond.
“Ummmm no. The end of the school year is pretty much business as usual. Same as any other school day. No one is going crazy.”
I get a puzzled look.
And now, my task is to explain why my end of the year is so different…