kitchen table math, the sequel: Individual Learning Plans

Friday, March 20, 2009

Individual Learning Plans

My son told me yesterday that in "Advisory" they had to fill out a form about their learning styles, along with answering many other questions that even the kids thought were inappropriate. This, apparently, is part of a new state-mandated Individual Learning Plan (ILP) process, which is part of the bigger high school graduation standards that include a big portfolio (spanning years) and a senior project/presentation. This all boils down to how they can expect more without really expecting better grades.

This doesn't bother me too much because the better students can meet the requirements without a lot of effort and the senior project can be about almost anything. What I don't like is the spread to middle school and the emphasis on areas that fall outside of education. The following is from the regulations:

"All middle level schools and high schools shall implement strategies for creating more personalized learning environments, including the provision of a structure by which every student is assigned a responsible adult, in addition to a school counselor, who is knowledgeable about that student’s academic, career, and social/personal goals."

"social/personal goals"

In other words, the school selected someone to act as an educational and social development mentor for my son. (This is a person who doesn't even like to have the kids say the word "war" near her.) They have him answer questions that I can't see or evaluate. Apparently, I can't opt-out.

I would like to hear about what's happening in other in other places. I told my son that when he fills out these forms, he has to be very careful about what he says. He doesn't know who will read them and what they might do. Apparently, counseling is trying to carve out a bigger, socially active niche in schools, and it's not opt-in.


Catherine Johnson said...

welcome to the middle school model

"we teach the whole child"

whether you like it or not

Catherine Johnson said...

and you taxpayers pay us to teach the whole child

whether you like it or not

Catherine Johnson said...

[W]hat we found is that by the end of 8th grade we are two years behind other countries, not in achievement…. but in the opportunity to learn. That is, the curriculum is some two years or more behind the curriculum of most of the rest of the world. I say it this way: in the United States most of our kids are still doing fractions, decimals, percents, ratios and all that kind of stuff; some even whole number manipulations. In the rest of the world they’re doing algebra and geometry. So it’s a big difference. We waste those years: 3 years when they’re transitioning into formal mathematics and by the way formal science, while we’re simply diddling with what they’ve done in the first 5 years… [I]t is nothing but the same, it’s just harder problems of the same elementary sort of arithmetic.

William Schmidt
Western Michigan University

Every single time I've been present when a parent brought up academics to our current middle school principal he has responded with a variant of" "We can't teach X,Y, or Z; we teach the whole child."

The expression "we teach the whole child" has routinely been used in my district to say 'no' to academics.

Ed has looked at a bit of the history of character education. He suspects that character education may always have been pitted against academics, going back to England, where it seems to have been invented.

Character education has meant different things at different times. At some point character education meant manning-up British boys who were becoming too foppish & intellectual in the view of some.

Fast forward to the beginning of Head Start and character education means teaching disadvantaged African American children how to behave like white middle class children.

Again: character education is opposed to academics. Disadvantaged kids need middle class character not middle class knowledge.

Catherine Johnson said...

And, of course, we are seeing the reiteration of this argument in Heckman's focus on "noncognitive skills."

There aren't many of us pro-knowledge types out there.

Or as Carolyn used to call us: "content freaks."

We're a small but merry band.

SteveH said...

Do you have some specific examples of what middle schools ask kids or have them do? Are there any web sites that offer these sorts of things? I'd like to see details and how they compare with what our school does.

Anonymous said...

I've seen more of that in special ed. My son used to meet in a group with a counselor and they would "talk about things."


Independent George said...

I have to imagine that a lot of teachers get fed up with this stuff, too. In my mind, school choice necessarily means choice for teachers as well as students.

Unknown said...

"the school selected someone to act as an educational and social development mentor for my son."

"They have him answer questions that I can't see or evaluate. Apparently, I can't opt-out."

This would bother me. I can't understand how a school can ask questions that you can't see or evaluate, when public schools are taxpayer funded. He is your child - not the state's. I would make this fact clear when I asked for a list of the questions they intend on asking my child.

What makes this type of thing - done without parental consent - even legal?

SteveH said...

"... that you can't see or evaluate..."

I asked to see the program and all of the information, but it's after the fact. I expect they will think I'm overreacting. People who like these things (it takes a village types) seem to assume a much bigger role for the village.

When I read the state documents about the (fuzzy) program, they expect that ILPs will keep more kids in school and help them meet the (low) state proficiency requirements. But when it comes to implementation, everyone gets it. It changes from a program to help students most at risk to one that is good for all. The problem is that most parents in our area handle these things quite well, thank you. We don't need young teachers, fresh out of ed school, acting as academic/social developmental mentors for our kids. I'll do the mentoring and you teach the times table.

SteveH said...

"I have to imagine that a lot of teachers get fed up with this stuff, too."

The people who "teach" advisory aren't necessarily teachers. In some ways, I see it as an expansion of turf by the high school counselors under the auspices of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA).

When I was growing up, nobody ever thought about seeing a guidance counselor until you started preparing for college. They knew about colleges. They also knew about vocational schoools. Now, it's grown back into 6th grade and is mandatory for all students. They have to justify their existance.

Apparently, kids flunk out and don't meet state proficiencies because they aren't teaching to the "whole child". It couldn't be a matter of bad curricula and teaching.

Barry Garelick said...

In 7th grade, I started what was then a "junior high" which went through 9th grade. We had a counselor, who one day met with all the students, one-on-one to discuss career goals so she could advise on what courses to take. She asked me what I wanted to do in life and I said "acoustical engineer". (That was my interest du jour). She wasn't expecting that and said she really didn't know what to tell me about what courses to take. Well, even I knew you would need math, but I didn't have the heart to break that to her.

Catherine Johnson said...

those were the good old days

Catherine Johnson said...

CT appears to have mandated the middle school model

Catherine Johnson said...

by law

Catherine Johnson said...

Advisories are hot in the middle school model. Private schools have advisories; it's possible the middle school folk got the idea from there.

Naturally, the public school notion of an advisory has nothing to do with the private school notion of an advisory.

In private or parochial school the advisory is a group of students headed by a teacher who makes sure they're doing OK. At Hogwarts the advisory group is called a "mentor group." The mentor -- his math teacher! (talk about a rewrite) -- teaches the kids to use their schedule books and checks every day to see if they've done so. In other words, she doesn't harangue them for not having the good character to write down their assignments in their daily planning books (provided them by the school), she builds the habit of doing so. She gives them daily practice until they do it automatically.

Middle schools are setting up advisory groups now, which I'm sure means extra salary for the teachers (you might want to check).

Here's an article on character ed & the advisory: "Character Education Provides Focus for Advisory" by Daniel Deitte. Middle Schol Journal, Volume 34, Number 1 September 2002

I think I'll post a passage.

Anonymous said...

I think it's driven by finances, as so much of life is.

In our district, they've moved the guidance counselors and psychologists into the "Regular Education" line of the budget. Now, the psychologists spend their time administering assessments to children whose parents have requested an IEP, and monitoring and reporting on the progress of kids who have IEPs, 504s, etc. The guidance counselors provide social guidance for the sped kids, and some counseling to middle schoolers. Most of the time, these employees are working on the sped side of the world. To count their salary towards "regular education" decreases the apparent increase in the budget for sped services, and makes the cut in the budget for regular ed seem smaller.

I believe they are also doing this as a way to defend those positions when budgets need cutting. They are providing services to all students, rather than a minority. I predict that teachers will be cut, rather than psychologist and guidance counselors. That's the pattern we've seen here. If you cut a psychologist, of course, an administrator would have to take on his work. Can't have that.

My child, having attended a progressive public school from kindergarten, is very cautious about entrusting any teacher or public school counselor with "real" information. It's the aftereffect of years of required public confessions, i.e., Writer's Workshop.

Anonymous said...

In my other child's private school, the advisor is a great system. It's one of your child's teachers. If you think your child is developing a social or academic problem, you raise the issue with your child's advisor. This is marvelous, because it provides a listener for the parent, who may very well have a legitimate complaint about the other teacher. Let's say, a child feels that the homework is assigned, but not collected, by a new teacher. The child's advisor can speak with the new teacher, encouraging him to collect the homework. The parent is not left in the position of having to complain either to the teacher, or to the principal, neither good options. As a parent, I don't want to make a stink about a small problem. In the public school, though, I've seen small problems balloon into huge problems, because there are no avenues for parents to provide rational feedback on their child's academic experience..

Anonymous said...

It's the aftereffect of years of required public confessions, i.e., Writer's Workshop.

That's a perfect description. I've been finding out that my son sometimes makes up outlandish stories rather than tell some teacher how he feels about something.

Aren't some of these jobs what the homeroom teacher used to do?

Our middle school seems to have an abundance of deans. I have no idea what they do all day.


palisadesk said...

My district has something like this for 7th-8th graders. It has a name like "Annual Learning Plan" but that's not quite it. The student is to do it once a year -- with an "advisor" (a randomly assigned teacher) and update it every term, I think.

When it first came in a few years ago there was lots of hoopla about it. I haven't heard anything about these plans for a couple of years -- I am sure they are still required, because nothing ever comes off the to-do list.

Steve H, we have guidance counselors too but they are all teachers. You can be a teacher certified in "guidance." Some do it full time, others may be part-time guidance, part-time library (or gym, or science, or whatever).

Anonymous said...

Yes, my child makes things up, too. I don't object, because I find the assignments purposefully intrusive and lacking in respect for the student's right to privacy. It is ironic that the program sabotages its professed ends.

The Individual Learning Plan Plan also may arise from a desire to stem the complaints from regular ed parents who complain, "my kid doesn't have a IEP." Anyone who knows a parent with a child on an IEP knows how difficult it can be to try to create and carry out an IEP, but never mind.

I suspect it's also another misapplication of the KIPP and charter school experience. Yes, children from disadvantaged homes, whose parents are not educated, need people to act like middle-class parents. Children in middle-class homes do not need school employees to act like middle-class parents, and using class time to do that is a waste of time, energy, and money.

Catherine Johnson said...

If you cut a psychologist, of course, an administrator would have to take on his work. Can't have that.

I hadn't thought of that.

Catherine Johnson said...

I suspect it's also another misapplication of the KIPP and charter school experience.

oh my god

don't say that

if you're right we will have come full circle: character education for disadvantaged kids because the secret to a good education is learning how to act like middle class kids and advisories for middle class kids because they need schools like KIPP

Anonymous said...

I would say that middle class kids don't need schools like KIPP. I have the impression, though, that there's some lazy thinking going in the education establishment. In short, anything which raises the academic performance of any group of children, anywhere, will raise the academic performance of all children. Then, they apply it to certain pieces of a "successful" school, very much like the blind men and the elephant.

KIPP has a longer school day. (The children come in with an identified deficit, when compared to middle-class children.) Thus, a longer school day will raise any child's achievement.

KIPP/charters task teachers and tutors with the job of teaching their students middle-class values. (The children probably don't have a middle-class parent at home.) Academic advisors will improve any child's academic achievement.

Requiring students and parents to sign contracts will improve performance, ignoring the fact that families freely choose to attend charter schools, thus freely enter those contracts.

And so it goes...

Catherine Johnson said...

anything which raises the academic performance of any group of children, anywhere, will raise the academic performance of all children


and, btw, my experience with Hogwarts has led me to an unexpected appreciation for character ed & "whole child" education, something I never thought I'd hear myself saying

Hogwarts is like a finishing school; they teach those boys manners!

manners & good grooming

I always wanted to send C. to KIPP, and now I have

Catherine Johnson said...

cranberry: did you tell us you live in NY??

I have a memory that you did...

SteveH said...

"The Individual Learning Plan Plan also may arise from a desire to stem the complaints from regular ed parents who complain,..."

Besides being required by the state, I think our school believes it's a form of differentiated instruction. One school board member told me once that the goal is to have something like an IEP for all students. Silly me. I thought she was referring to academics.

Anonymous said...

I live in New England, not NY. The middle school model knows no boundaries.

Anonymous said...

My kids attended 2 middle schools and 4 high schools in 4 different districts in 3 states. In none of the above did they have a guidance counselor with any significant knowledge of or interest in academics. Not in the courses needed, # of honors/AP to take, which standard tests to take etc. Some of the "guidance" they provided was flat wrong; resulting in students having to take SAT II test in the fall, when they should have taken them in the spring (at the end of the appropriate course). I was the one who found out about the JETS test for aspiring engineers. (great opportunity; kids who did well started hearing from engineering schools as sophomores) Their whole interest was in the social/emotional stuff. And as has been said above; can't opt out. Horrible idea and like lots of other horrible ideas, it takes time and focus away from academics; maybe that's the purpose...

r. r. vlorbik said...

"Yes, children from disadvantaged homes, whose parents are not educated, need people to act like middle-class parents. "

by what, pushing fairy tales on them
about how well the economy will reward them
for hard work? come on now.

let's try teaching 'em to read and write.
these aren't middle class skills i'm talking about
but tools for the revolution.

the state-as-parent thing cranberry is here
more or less taking for granted is precisely
what's so horrifying about the post itself.

be afraid. be very afraid.

Anonymous said...

Vlorbik, here's an example. I have a relative who lives in a rural district. Her child is very intelligent. The high school has a guidance department. No one from the school told any of the kids in Honors Chemistry that it would be a good idea to take the SAT subject test in chemistry upon completion of the course. My relative discovered that for herself, while researching the college admissions process. In the scramble for college spots and scholarships, not knowing which standardized tests to take can put you at a competitive disadvantage.

Having access to someone who knows how the process works can make a difference. I am not advocating schools parenting children. I am advocating that it can make a difference if children have adults, who understand the system, explain the system to them.

For example, does a child from a disadvantaged background understand that doing well in school can lead to scholarships, and a job? There are many scholarships available for children who are the first in their family to go to college, who graduate from certain schools, etc. etc. It isn't a fairy tale. Unfortunately, when you live in a neighborhood in which the most powerful and rich person is the local drug dealer, and no one has finished high school, the long term view isn't represented. (Note that in the same terrible districts, asian students, as a group do very well. Why? Well, their parents believe in education, arrange for more tutoring, and act as helicopter parents.)

The adult mentoring system does help students in urban charter schools and KIPP. Teaching children how the system works helps them. Many of these children's parents never finished high school, or are new to American schools. Some of the parents are not intelligent enough to understand the system's structure, but, due to reversion to the mean, their children are.

Is this sort of guidance parenting? I would say no, but middle class parents provide it to their children. So, parents do it, but it is not parenting. Then again, it seems to me that the academic advisor role often gets mutated into the "teacher as group friend" role, which isn't the same thing. "Lets hang out and chill together," with stipend, isn't the same thing as an adult who can look at your schedule and point out that your course of study wouldn't qualify you for admission to the UCAL system.

r. r. vlorbik said...

thanks for your thoughtful reply.

assuming that schools are there to *help*
individuals achieve their goals is indeed
very middle class. also dead wrong
as far as i can see. they're supposed to
get everybody used to filling their niche
and they do it well. anybody learning
how things *really* work will do it
against the concerted efforts of experts.

the trouble we're seeing here is that adding
an extra layer of expert dissemblers *right now*--
while the middle class is disintegrating--
is stirring up a lot of "emperor's new clothes" talk...

VickyS said...

My son was asked to take a "test" like the one you described, Steve, in his advisory too, as a way to assess "learning styles." It asked intrusive questions, like if he had friends, etc. I wish I could tell you the name of the test because I was able to figure it out--my son remembered one of two of the questions and I found the test online through Google by just searching for the question text.

Anyway...there are a lot of these touchy-feeling nonacademic tests around, and I have coached both my kids to NEVER take a test at school that asks them questions that are not academic in nature. Some states (mine included) administer tests that survey for all sorts of things like drug use, behaviors like cutting, etc. to kids that are pretty young, and this bugs me for a lot of reasons. I really don't care whether the test is something that you officially can or can't opt out of (what are they going to do if you don't take it?)...I tell my boys that when confronted with such a test, they should politely decline to take it until they receive approval from me, and that the school should call me. This takes a lot of guts, to stand up to a teacher or an administator, but I am trying hard to encourage them to hold strong.

Well my younger guy (he was in 5th grade) was unable to do this--when he told the teacher that she should call his mom first since this was a nonacademic test, she assured him that I "wouldn't mind" if he took the test. So he took it.

Turns out it wasn't that bad (I've seen lots worse) but I was nevertheless infuriated on principle that the school would talk him into taking it when they knew I would want to preview it.

You can bet I read them the riot act.

SteveH said...

"It asked intrusive questions, like if he had friends, etc."

I thought I tracked down his test online, but I don't think so. I'm still waiting for an answer from the principal. From the little bit of information I can find for our school, advisory is supposed to include parent involvement (somehow), but there hasn't been any yet.

Now that the state has mandated vague rules about advisory, which really should be more like opt-in advocacy, I think schools are left up to their own devices. Many teachers don't see that they are crossing any sort of line.

It seems like schools cross a lot of lines, both academically and socially, and there are no nice ways to deal with these issues.

"You can bet I read them the riot act."

Are you now marked as "one of those" parents? Do you see any change in your son's relationships with his teachers?

SteveH said...

[The following is mandated by our state.]

"The Regents’ Regulations require strategies for responding to, recording, and planning for each individual student’s social/emotional, academic, and career needs beginning no later than grade five."

"Ideally, all districts will have a comprehensive K-12 school-counseling program. In addition, social/emotional needs referenced by the Regents encompass the personal/social domain of the ASCA National Model"

"ILPs offer an excellent opportunity to engage parents in their child’s learning."

[Even if the parents don't want or need it. They assume that parents aren't doing it. Not just learning, but the total child; social and emotional. The following is a sample from the social area.]

Social Plan:

Community Service:
Family and Friends:

I'd like to:
Action Steps:
Possible Obstacles

Quarterly review: 1,2,3,4

Signature: Student & Advisor.

[This is a signed document that is reviewed quarterly. No parent signature is required. Here is one of the questions they recommend.]

"Write down 5 things that make you:

angry, sad, happy, tense, relaxed"

[Exactly who are the people reading this? What are their credentials? Do kids and parents get to select the advisor? This is all so incredibly unbelievable! These are the schools that select curricula like Everyday Math and prefer low expectation discovery over content and skills. I'm supposed to assume that they can mentor my child?]

[Here are some of their questions to schools about parent involvement.]

"How will you involve parents in the ILP Program (e.g., signing the academic audit, parent/teacher/ counselor conferences, attending family nights)?"

"What information do parents and partners need to be actively engaged in the ILP process?"

"When will parents and partners be trained?"

["When will parents and partners be trained?" I find it quite incredible that this is a mandatory, state-wide system. It's just like math open houses where they presume to tell parents what math is all about.]

[Let me get this right. Schools complain about heicopter parents even thought schools offer little information about what goes on in the schools both academically and otherwise. Some middle schools even have a parent-keep-out attitude. Then they say that kids need to take responsibility for their own learning, but school advisors will take on the role of the parent and advocate. In many ways, advisors end up as advocates for kids against their parents, not as advocates for kids against their schools.]

[So, instead of making sure that all kids know their times table completely by the end of third grade, they tell kids that they have to take responsibility for their own learning and let them believe that any of their academic problems have roots in their own limitations: social, home life, or otherwise.]

SteveH said...

ASCA's Vision

"The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is the foundation that expands the image and influence of professional school counselors through advocacy, leadership, collaboration and systemic change. ASCA empowers professional school counselors with the knowledge, skills, linkages, and resources to promote student success in the school, the home, the community, and the world."

expands the image " ... and influence of professional school counselors ..."

"... the home, the community, and the world."

Talk about expanding your turf. Why don't they make all public schools boarding schools and we parents can be done with it.

VickyS said...

Wow. What's going on in your state, at your school, Steve, is as bad as I've seen it.

You asked if I got labeled as one of "those" parents when I complained about the nonacademic assessment. The answer is sort of. By then they were kind of used to me. I was the one who had already insisted on sitting in on the quarterly sharing circles where they discussed such things as how old the girls were when they were allowed to shave their legs, if they could go to the mall alone, and how many hours their parents allowed them to stay home without an adult. One poor kid answered "4 days" to the last question and the teachers just pounced on him...but he just meant 4 days in a row after school. No parent there to help clarify for him. I was the one who pulled my son from the sex ed class where the kids were encouraged to write down *anything* they wanted to know, no matter how off the wall or on the edge, and hand the slips of paper to a male teacher, the lone adult in the room, who promised to answer every question without exercising any censorhip. I was the parent who told the 5th grade English teacher that my son would not be finishing Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy after the 4th or 5th dearly loved character met his/her death in yet another gruesome way. (The class is now in 7th grade and they are reading Maus by Art Spiegelman). I was the one who pulled my 6th grader from health class (again) when he asked me in the car whether he had bipolar disorder and I discovered that they were studying mental illness in great detail, including being given case studies and being asked to determine whether the person was exhibiting the symptoms of OCD, paranoid schizophrenia or general anxiety, and reading this Newsweek article, The Schizophrenic Mind, if I recall correctly. So they got used to me and for the most part accommodated me (although they always told me that I was the *only* one who had ever objected.)

The last straw was when a health teacher handed each child a sealed envelope with their name on it and told them to open the envelope and read the letter. The letter addressed each of them by name and informed them that some test results had come back from their last doctor's appointment showing that they had a terminal disease, that there was no effective treatment or cure, and that they had only a couple of weeks to live. It ended with a statement like, "I'm sorry to have to be the one to share this news with you."

The point? To get them to think about what is most important in their lives. Uh huh.

These were 5th graders.

Imagine if one of their moms was suffering from breast cancer. Of if one of the kids themselves had a serious illness.

More riot act read.

And bless my son. The teacher proceeded to collect all the sheets of paper after the exercise was done and he said, no, I think my mom would like to see this.

"Write down 5 things that make you: angry, sad, happy, tense, relaxed"

We had something like this at Thanksgiving. You'd think that at Thanksgiving, you'd be asked about something that you were thankful for? No. For some reason the sharing circle question was what was the saddest thing ever in your life. This brought up, in my son, the suicide of a friend a year earlier (my son was in 4th grade at the time, his friend was in 5th grade). The friend shot himself in the head. My son went through counseling. And so, in the sharing circle, this comes flooding back, and he starts talking, and some kids start giggling.

Well, sorry, but we just can't let this stuff happen in schools.

We have to take a stand.

Now this was a private school, and we have left it, in no small part because of these incidents.

The same things though are happening in the public schools, and some places are worse than others. I might be wrong about this but I would think, I would hope, that most of the time, at least in a public school, a parent/student can opt out of this kind of stuff.

Grrr. I think I'm almost as passionate about this as I am about math!

Anonymous said...

Reading about these types of things makes me *very* glad I'm homeschooling! It's absolutely incredible how these schools seem bent on driving a wedge between parents and children.

Anonymous said...


That was all sickeningly horrifying.

So, here, I have a question: why do so many of us feel the need to not name the schools in question?
Who, exactly, are we protecting by doing that? What are we afraid of? Our children being labelled? Our childrens' privacy being invaded? Have schools got us right where they want us because we won't disclose this garbage for fear of what happens to our kids?

Because, honestly, Vicky, it's EXACTLY WHAT YOU WROTE that we all need to know so we can never ever ever send our kids there. And you're in the Twin Cities somewhere, so conceivably, I might think of sending my kid to that school.

But this just makes me think homeschooling is the only option.

SteveH said...

"The letter addressed each of them by name and informed them that some test results had come back from their last doctor's appointment showing that they had a terminal disease, ..."

Nope. You win the prize. That is, unless, I just haven't heard about it. Sneaky schools. I think they try to keep things from going home. The way that kids recount stories, they can always use plausible denial.

I still haven't heard back on my email request for detailed information.

My son had to read Lizzy Bright in 5th grade and I thought it was simplistic and moralizing, like many of his books. Kids and teens in bad or horrible home situations overcoming all obstacles. The school's slant is quite obvious; kids as the center of their own universe, guided by teachers, not parents and family, because they're all disfunctional.

As anonymous says, they are driving in the wedge. It's more like an Agenda class than an Advisory class.

SteveH said...

From the ASCA web site:

"Following are some questions you might want to ask your child’s school counselor:

• How is my child doing in school?

• What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

• Are there any areas of concerns or delayed development?

• What are my child’s goals for this year?

• What are some suggestions for action at home?

• What programs are available to help my child to do better?

• Does my child get along well with adults?

• Does my child get along well with his/her peers?

• What can I do to improve discipline at home?

• Are there ways I can improve communication with my child?

• What can I expect after a change in the family (death, divorce, illness, financial status, moving)?

• If my child is (running away from home, being disrespectful, having other problems), what should I do?

• What resources are available at school?

• What resources are available outside of school?

• What do I need to do to prepare my child for college admission?

• What are the best resources for information on financial assistance and scholarships?

• What do I do? My child is (sad, not sleeping, not eating, overeating, has temper tantrums, etc.)

• What do I do if I don’t like my child’s friends? "

How about asking these questions:

1. Are you a psychologist?

2. What are your credentials and what specific training and education are required to be a counselor or an advisor?

3. Do all advisors have this training and education?

4. Are advisories mandatory?

5. What, specifically, is required by the state?

6. Do students and parents get to pick the advisor?

7. What makes you think you have enough information to answer the questions above?

8. Where and how did you get this information?

9. Did you get approval from the parents to collect this information?

10. Can I see all of this information?

11. Who else in the school (or outside) is allowed to see this information?

12. How often do you meet and talk individually with each student?

13. How much of your information and opinion is based on written material and how much of it is based on direct one-on-one interaction with the student?

14. How much one-on-one time is spent with each student?

And this is just off the top of my head. It sounds like they are practicing without a license.

SteveH said...

"Have schools got us right where they want us because we won't disclose this garbage for fear of what happens to our kids?"


Well, no. It depends on how you do it, and it's tougher in a small town. I'm always extremely careful. It's not the "school" that I would worry about the most, but specific teachers. My son doesn't have a union.

If I believe half of what my son tells me, teachers can make life miserable for kids. I've noticed that certain middle school teachers love to use sarcasm and not so subtle put downs to keep kids in line.

They also use kids' social self-consciousness to keep them in line. In fifth grade, one of my son's teachers loved to make up stories about which kids liked other kids. She used it for classroom control. In some ways, they think they're being hip and are connecting with the kids, but it's really about control.

Another one of my son's teachers loves to let everyone see someone's bad test grade. Oops! Ha ha! Have a poor attempt at homework? Tear it up in front of everyone.

If I went to the school and told them that I don't want my son filling out any of their intrusive advisory forms, I can't imagine what the teacher would have him do instead. My son has already told me about several disparaging comments teachers have made about me.

That is a real concern; not imaginary.

VickyS said...

Some of these intrusive and occasionally damaging school activities and assignments are tainted with what I consider to be "emotional voyeurism."

I did a google search of this phrase (which I thought I made up...not so!) and found this interesting observation (brackets are mine, adding the school parallels).

From Marylaine Block's My Word's Worth:

But the worst problem is that the culture of therapy is a culture of voyeurism. It defines private suffering [or feelings of any sort] as public property. Nobody has the right to shine a spotlight on us and demand that we tell the world about our grief [feelings]. This has nothing to do with serving the public's need to know, and everything to do with serving its emotional vampirism. The proper answer to that reporter [teacher/advisor/counselor/administrator] is "Just who do you think you are? What gives you the right to intrude?"

SteveH said...

"emotional voyeurism"

Yes. I really haven't thought about it that way, but I know that many people love to know what's going on. "What's the dirt?" "What's happening in that family?" "Are they really getting divorced?" "I can't believe they let her out of the house wearing that."

I've also gotten the feeling since Kindergarten that the school was purposely snooping under many guises, like writing in daily journals. I still have the one my son wrote about things he did with his friends and family, and the comments put in by the teacher. You could sense that she was watching and judging.

Anonymous said...

"snooping under many guises, like writing in daily journals"

Oh, absolutely! My 11th grade english teacher required us to write a daily journal, which she collected and read. I happened to know that she liked to read excerpts aloud in the teacher's lounge (my mother was a teacher in a neighboring district, so I knew a lot of scuttlebutt). I refused to write anything private in the journal, and was marked down and criticized for it. I eventually got frustrated and wrote a massive rant in French that got me sent to the guidance counselor's office. Fortunately for me, my counselor was an old hand (in this era, I'm sure I'd have been in much more trouble), and understood where I was coming from. I was the only student in school with a "get out of jail free" card -- a permanent pass to go see the counselor during English class if the teacher started to make my life too miserable.

I haven't seen it from the parent's point of view yet, but from a student's perspective, I guarantee a teacher who singles you out can make your life miserable.

Anonymous said...

Many of these comments have hit me like a ton of bricks.

Recently, my fifth grader was asked to write about his academic and social goals. One of his comments was how competition led to a loss of friendships. When I asked about this, he said in third grade he was too competitive and he learned it wasn't good. People didn't like it.

So when Allison asks what there is to be afraid of I would say from a fifth grader's perspective it is to be unpopular. The goals of the group whether they be social or academic is what is paramount.

From a parental perspective, I would say parents fear backlash. People have emotional ties to their schools and the teachers. While parents may not always like what is being taught, they still live and work in these communities. You can complain as long as you do it privately.


Unknown said...

"many people love to know what's going on. "What's the dirt?"

Actually, your younger children tell teachers this sort of information without us prying. I had a 4 yr old tell me her Daddy's living in the poolhouse now and a 2nd grader tell several teachers that she loves the rain because when it rains, "Daddy runs around the backyard naked and Mommy holds me up to the window to watch".

Do I really need THAT image in my head during conferences?