Wednesday, September 28, 2005

grateful for small things

About two weeks ago, I was officially installed as the vice-president of the PTA at the Bee's elementary school. It's a sort of bizarre post--similar to the VP of the country, I guess, a lot of it is spent waiting around to see if you're going to have to step up and do the ultimate job. Unlike the executive branch of our government, though, being the VP of the PTA guarantees you the top slot in two years. There wasn't really an election or anything--they asked me to do it, and I said yes, all the while looking around me to see if there wasn't someone else who really wanted to do it.

I got involved with the PTA at a time last year when I was between jobs, and I'm kind of afraid that these women think I have that kind of free time always, which I just don't. But I also have a hidden agenda, which is to help transform the PTA into an organization that isn't just about raising money, but is also about raising expectations at the school. Some of our test scores are bad, and when I raised concern about this last year, I was told (by both other parents and teachers) that this was attributable to the large number of students who speak English as a second language, as well as the high 'transient' population. (To decode, this refers to the Latino & black students who live in a moderate-sized apartment complex in our catchment area.) Now, I'm not actually sure that these students are any more transient than the white kids--of the Bee's class last year, four left between K-1st grade, and two of those were white kids. But that isn't really the point. The point is that it's apparently okay with some parents in the school community that the school is failing to educate all of the kids here, as long as their particular kid is doing well. It's not okay with me.

So last week, I was in the city, and went out to lunch with two former co-workers, some of my working mom pals--we all have kids within a couple of years of each other. We caught up on each others' lives, and after hearing my friend J's update of her divorce & custody fight, I started to tell them about my exciting new PTA position. First, they laughed for a good solid minute (and I did too). After they had fun at my expense, I starting telling them about the reasons that I got involved in the PTA--the test scores, the "soft bigotry of low expectations*," the cookie baking opportunities (kidding!). And J said, "shit, in the district that I moved into (since the divorce), I'm worried that my kids aren't going to make it to school at all! I need a landismom for my school PTA." She went on to describe her worries that her son, who's now in middle school, was going to suffer social promotion, because he'd be the kind of kid who is quiet, and teachers would like him because of that, but he'd fail every math class.

Suddenly, the Bee's school didn't seem so bad. But I did want to fight even harder to make it better.

*Damn you, Karl Rove, you master of phrase-turning!

• Posted By landismom @ 9/28/2005 06:38:00 PM
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