Monday, July 30, 2012

A Future Full of Drones... No Thank You!

School doesn't even start until Thursday, and already I'm disappointed in my kids' school this year.

Today was the meet and greet, where we got to tour the kids' school and meet their teachers. The Ginger is going into 2nd grade, The Girl into 5th (though we got asked today if The Girl was attending the local middle school... She needs to stop growing... Seriously). The school we chose is on the military base, since we've applied for base housing and are on the waiting list. Makes my life a heck of a lot harder for the next 2 months driving the kids back and forth to the base, which is about 20 minutes away, but will make things a heck of a lot easier in the long run once we get base housing.

The kids' teachers seem great, especially The Girl's teacher. The kids' new school seems to have it together; they teach life skills as well as basic education, and I really liked this. Life skills- you know, respect for others, responsibility, motivation... things kids need.

Things were going really well until I asked The Girl's teacher if she'd be teaching all of the subjects, or if The Girl would be switching teachers for math or science (common practice in the Virginia school system we just came from). No, all subjects were taught by one teacher, except for a supplemental math program done in the mornings once a week, and PE. Then she throws in that they were lucky to have been able to keep the PE teacher on this year, with all of the budget cuts.

My brain started working overtime, processing through the information that the teacher wasn't saying out loud. Me, being the outspoken person I am, just called out the elephant in the room.

"But the kids will be going out of class for resources like art and music each day, right?"

The Girl's teacher looked at the floor and hesitated before saying, "Unfortunately, no. We had an art teacher last year, but she was cut due to funding. So, the kids don't go to resource this year, but I do art projects in the classroom, because I feel art is still important to the children. They just won't be going to an actual art class this year, as far as I know."

No art, no music, and the school is lucky to have a PE teacher. Seriously? My heart hit the floor with her words.

We all know I'm the artsy fartsy type. Part of that is due to my mom being an artist so I was raised around
creating art and doing crafts, but I was able to explore my interest of art in school- elementary school through high school. The school systems nowadays have gotten so bad, funding has been cut so much, that the first thing gone is the arts- music included. That's where I became the eclectic, creative, walks-to-the-beat-of-my-own-drum person I am today. That's where I learned how to express myself. And it's not even being taught in schools here.

Another family started making their way into The Girl's teacher's room, so she started to wrap up our conversation, but as a closing remark, I mentioned to her that I'm an artist and would be happy to volunteer in that field if she ever wanted me to. She seemed happy to hear that, but we'll see if she accepts my outstretched hand or not.

It makes me want to head to the office, talk to the people in charge, and volunteer to be the art teacher. No, I'm not a certified teacher, but if I'm volunteering, I don't have to be. If funding has been cut, though, then I guess that means there will be no art supplies. This seriously makes me want to scream.

Every kindergartner deserves to make flowers out of their own handprints, to make snowmen out of cotton balls, to create that thing that is supposed to be a clay bowl but looks like an ashtray. Every 2nd grader deserves to paint a beach scene with watercolors. Every 5th grader deserves to painstakingly sit in front of a bowl of fruit and draw it with chalk pastels. And yes, I feel this all should be done while they are at school each day.

Think about the lack of musical appreciation being taught, as well. No wonder music nowadays sucks so bad. Kids aren't taught to appreciate what makes a good song, so when they hear that repetitive beat with the same lyrics being sung over and over again come on the radio, they start singing and dancing, as if it's good music. It's garbage. And, as much as I hated the sound of The Girl practicing her recorder at night (seriously, it made me want to shove the recorder up a cat's butt), it's a rite of passage for every child to annoy their parents with practicing the recorder when they are around 10 years old. I did it to my parents, my kids are doing it to me. But now, The Ginger won't even have that pleasure in a few years.

My kids and I both were completely spoiled with the school system in Virginia. It is one of the top school systems in the nation, so there was art class, music class, gym, computer lab, library day, interactive nights for the parents, students and teachers, field days, winter carnivals... It pains me so much that not all schools are as fortunate as that.

I will do something about it. I'm not talking storming the school board office with demands of adjusting the funding to include the arts again. I understand what it's like to be broke, and to make the best out of what you have. If the school systems here are broke, then there's not much they can do. But I will volunteer my time, my skills, and see what I can do. Maybe we can get something planned out for next semester... just 30 minutes a day with the different classes, making a craft or something. Then every kindergartner can eat paste while they glue together that snowman... that's a rite of passage, too, you know.

This post really doesn't even begin to express how much I feel about this subject. As I type this, I have tears in my eyes. It's a sad day (in my world) when children aren't allowed to make art. I can't have that. My kids are going to be fine, I know that. We have art supplies here, we do crafts. They'll grow up to be artsy and free thinkers. It's the other kids out there, that aren't fortunate enough to have an artsy parent. They need an outlet, too.

I'm going to see what I can do. Fingers crossed the school will take me seriously, and will let me volunteer my time. Every little bit helps, especially since this is our future generation we're raising. I don't know about y'all, but I don't want the world to be run by rigid, nerdy, non-free thinking, non-creative individuals who never picked up a paintbrush or learned what rhythm and beat actually are. That thought scares the shit out of me. A future of drones. Fun.

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  1. I teach Art for each of my 3 boys. Luckily we do have an art teacher, but I do a monthly supplemental class when they learn about a particular artist, genre and medium, then do a project based on that. I will send you the lesson plan if I can get it from the head of the program.

  2. This is definitely something I think is important. I also think one of the most significant ways we can impact education is to volunteer in our schools. If we have people from the community volunteering, we don't have to pay as many aides, our students get exposed to a wider variety of people, and we can have so much experience put in those classrooms.

    And, yeah, art and music are, in my opinion, just as important as history and science. After all, there is no reason you can't integrate art into history and science. And, who hasn't heard the Elements song?

    1. The last school the kids went to here in Tucson had contracted out with University of Arizona students in music and art who came an volunteered to teach the kids stuff. I'm disappointed this school isn't doing something like that.