Friday, November 09, 2007

Thirty-six Down, Thirty-six More to Go

Parent-Teacher ConferencesHave you ever been in the middle of a chore and you're happily going along thinking you're nearly done only to realize, much to your horror, that you're hardly half way?

Well today I had an epiphany.  And not the good kind--somewhere along the road of motherhood I had the vague impression that because my youngest child had now entered kindergarten I was nearly done with parent-teacher conferences but driving home from the latest four conferences today it dawned on me that though I had survived 36 interviews so far, I was exactly smack in the middle and have another 36 parent-teacher reviews before Lillian graduates from middle school.  Thirty-six.  Three dozen.  Just under forty!  I'm only half-way done.

Not that I don't look forward to these interviews, my children have great teachers so what's not to like?  It's a win-win situation, right?  If my child is having problems in school I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend twenty minutes than discussing those academics or behavioral failures with their teacher, it's a guaranteed pick-me-up.  Pass the Prozac please. On the other hand, if my child is blessed with a good grades it works out to be time-consuming formality--kind of like checking in with your parole officer or something.

Okay ma'am, you can go now, we just wanted to see if you'd show up.  Make sure you're still a fit mother and all . . .

So after thirty-six conferences I've figured it out, the whole parent-teacher conference thing is just a scam by the PTA to get money for the school.  Every year they plan the book fair during the week of interviews, encouraging parents to come and buy books for their children, because if your child is getting bad grades in school what he or she really needs is Bratz Beach Party or Yugioh Forever! to bridge that academic gap.

It's even more obvious than that, at the book fair's grand opening the school takes the kids on a tour, giving them paper and telling them to write down every book they would like their parents to buy then take it home to Mom and Dad to beg for the books.  Because no child should be denied a book--though I don't know that I'd consider Vader and Yoda are Friends: The Early Years great literature.

Twice a year when I pick up the kids at school I'm pelted with these blue half-sheets and a barrage of begging:

"Mom, can you buy me this?"

"No."

"Can I have this one. . . . puh-leeeeeeze?"

"No."

"It'll help me read!"

"Can you read my mind? Because no is still the answer!"

Apparently you just can't get cross-over fiction like Jack Sparrow's NASCAR Chronicles or quality reference guides like Hannah Montana's Perfect Pedicure at the local public library. I guess they'll just have to wait for the movie.

It's just a comfort to me to know that if the whole school thing doesn't work out for my kids they at least have a marketable skill: panhandling.

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35 comments:

Mary Alice said...

Sigh – I dislike that. I also dislike the fundraisers where the children are promised that if they just sell 500 dollars worth of overpriced wrapping paper to their relatives, they can WIN a small piece of useless plastic that one could get for 25 cents out a vending machine in front of the supermarket…..I finally told the PTO president that I thought it only taught them the value of prostituting for a pimp…and the PTO was the pimp. I don’t think she had ever thought of it that way.

CATHY said...

I'm relating with the book fair shenanigans!

We've had entertainment books, fruit, coupon cards, giftwrap, magazines and t-shirts in 2 months of school (and we live in a wealthy school district)!

Shalee said...

Oh, amen. I don't do the PTA thing either, although I am a very involved parent. And as far as all those fundraisers go, my kids know to not even ask anymore... even if there are all sorts of cool prizes for selling a certain amount.

Besides, why buy something that's just as good and available for free at the library?!

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

Michelle,

You may want to check out a post at Outside The Toy Box discussing the whole Scholastic = literature? issue.

http://outside-the-toybox.com

I'd write about it too but I'm so busy writing about the toy recalls and finding non toxic toys that I'm almost unable to write about one of my favorite subjects...reading- I'm glad you are!

Patois said...

Okay, I'm a sucker for the books. But we don't do wrapping paper or See's Candies or the other random things. I just ask at the end what the average per student take was to the PTA, and I write a check in that amount. We're trying to go more green around here, and the wrapping paper doesn't fit into the equation. Not when I've got my Sunday comics to use!

Mrs Mecomber said...

Wow, hmm.

My next blog article: Thirty-six Reasons Why I'm Glad I Homeschool!

Meetings-- yukkkk!

The kids grow up fast; this too will pass. ;)

littlemiss said...

You've just started my day with a smile. I'm still chuckling over the too real titles of the type of books offered at school book fairs. I often stand dumbfounded thinking, "Someone was paid money, actual money, to churn out THIS?" Reading about Chrostopher Columbus is never going to seem fun if they have the option of reading Strange Body Peircings-A Ripley's Believe It Or Not Glow In The Dark book.

ames said...

You know which books actually *did* help me and my brother to read growing up? The Eyewitness visual encyclopedias. They're full of great pictures if you're just getting started reading and there's so many titles out now that you could fill a bookcase (we did).

And they are insanely helpful for school projects - we became the reference library for everyone in our class. Now wouldn't it be nice if these were what they sold at those book fairs? Who's in charge of those anyway...?

J. Lynne said...

I spent most of my allowance on Scholastic Books growing up.

I absolutely hated having to sell things for school -- candy, toys, wrapping paper, Current magazine products. I think that's a horrible thing to force a child to do, especially when they have to go back to their neighborhood and compete with every other kid on the bus. My parents never helped me either. To this day I'm always surprised when my co-workers bring in candy and order books for their kids fundraising. It's cheating.

April said...

After my three years of teaching, I would have to agree with you. Total waste of time. The students whose parents you wanted to see were the parents that never showed up. And the parents you didn't want to see spend the whole time telling you about dance, soccer, their family issues...(the list goes on and on). I'm jealous you only have 36 more. I haven't even started yet! :)

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

Oh my, and we're only at the beginning of the whole 'school' experience here... I see many, many more conferences, fund raisers and book fairs in our future. Sigh...

My kids have had some of their biggest meltdowns at the book fair when I couldn't buy them the exact book that they wanted this very second! I guess I'm glad that they're so passionate about books, but I do think the schools go too far with pushing things on parents. And don't even get me started on the fundraisers...

Kristin said...

This whole PTA thing is new to me since we had been homeschooling. I'm getting used to it, but you gave me a good laugh this morning and a reminder to not take it so seriously.

Melissa Garrett said...

HAHAHAHA!

We have conferences next week. With a daughter not doing well in math and a son in dire need of OT for his fine-motor skills, it should be interesting.

Can't wait.

Cocoa said...

This post made me laugh. We homeschool so I don't have personal experience being a parent at a parent teacher conference. (Well, okay, I talk to myself all the time but I don't think that counts). But I have very vivid memories of us children trying to get my mom to buy all the 'trashy' books when she'd come in for parent/teacher conferences. Times haven't changed all that much!

Lisa Milton said...

My kids always come home with their book fair list full of junk too: Dumb software, plastic toys, posters.

I wish Scholastic stuck to books - real books. We always have to search to find them.

Lisa said...

I just set up the bookfair at school today. I am totally DREADING the "wish list". I love books and I don't mind buying books, however, it really is too much sometimes.

The worst part is the Scholastic Warehouse is right aroudn the corner. their 1/2 price sale is in a month. Same books 50% (or more) off.

Today's experience was a HUGE turnoff for me, everyone is getting these kids so hyped up and most of them will want to buy the "educational (ha) toys" rather than the books.

jubilee said...

Our book fair coincides with Grandparents Day. Not a coincidence, obviously.
And as for conferences, I don't have any horror stories yet, but my whirling dervish has two years before kindergarten. So, it's not far off!

Carinne said...

I'm with you! I HATE the Book Fair. The wish list annoys me more than about anything. The kids constantly forget to bring me the newsletters from their teachers, but they never forget to give me the wish list. Then follows the begging - please its only $5.95! My answer is always the same "Do YOU have $5.95?" "NO? Well, I don't either." The bake sales are the same thing. "Can I PLEASE get a muffin/brownies/cupcake...." One week I added up all the requests for time and donations that came from the teachers and principal at the school and it was AMAZING how many it was. I have no problem donating some time on occasion and I have no problem donating money or things once in awhile, but I have a problem with being expected to do the teachers' job or help fund a bowling trip or new basketballs. Schools has become as bad as kids thinking that they "need" all this new stuff. And, they blackmail you in order to help fund it by trying to convince you that its all in the name of your child's "education". Since when does a child need bowling and basketballs in order to do well in math? All this only helps to enforce to kids that you're not happy unless you have new, better and more. And, you're left to look like a horrible parent if you don't participate. I'd change schools, but its my observation that all schools are this way.

Karen Olson said...

I was shocked that the PTA actually sent out a memo to parents directly asking for money for the new playground. No silly contests. No hat day. No Tshirt day. Just a simple request for money. Amazing.

We just had the book fair as well, although the parent teacher conferences aren't until next week. But we did get that Scholastic book catalog home yesterday. As if there were no book fair last week. They just get you coming and going...

Stephanie said...

Having been on the other end of those meetings, I can't tell you how frustrating it is that parents who you really need to talk to because you are concerned for the child don't ever show. Good parents with kids who are doing well always show. Their kids are doing great, and you get to have a nice chat though. ;)

As for the books I think we are so desperate for kids to enjoy reading anything we are willing to compromise on the quality. Luckily my oldest enjoys both kinds of reading!

Loralee Choate said...

When I was PTA President, my bookfairs were during conferences at the overwhelming request of parents (One trip is appealing).

My book fairs had BOOKS. Not crap. BOOKS. They earned a huge amount of money and it went straight back into our library.

I wish the future president kept it going. Now? Crap. Not books, crap.

It makes me sad and frustrated.

Bobbie said...

I have a few issues with the book fairs here in town.
1. They are not accommodating to working/single parents. The hours of operation are only during P/T conferences. Great! It's hard enough in my case just to get the time off from work to attend the conference.
2. Both of my kids birthdays are in December. My kids know to stop asking for "random things" a few months before their birthdays.
These "wish lists" just add fuel to the fire. The book fair in my opinion is just too close to their birthdays-holidays.
3. How many fundraisers must we have? We have wrapping paper, cookies, book fairs, silent auctions & entertaiment books.
I believe there are other ways to be involved in my childs school without emptying my pocket book 3 or 4 times a year. I like to think I am an active parent and can't stand feeling pressured to buy from every single fundraiser out there.
Great topic!

Jenna said...

I could not agree with you more! I can't stand those "junk food" books! It's like thinking that if you give your kids enough candy, at least they're eating, and eventually they'll want vegetables! This is only part of why I homeschool.

luckyzmom said...

I think this is one of the reasons there is so much credit card debt problems.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I know I left a comment here this morning ... not sure where it went?!?

I went to Keri's Scholastic Book Fair yesterday and I didn't enjoy being bombarded by all the marketing. However, I was at least grateful that they did stock some good books as well.

K T Cat said...

This had me laughing the whole way through. My daughter's Catholic school has these kinds of book fairs, but I've never seen them pushed by the teachers. It's just a chance for the kids to shop for books.

By the way, I made sure to mention your blog repeatedly this week at BlogWorld Expo as what a great momblog looks like.

:-)

oh amanda said...

I hope you made those book titles up...

my4kids said...

Yep I get what your saying we had the book fair and conferences this week also. I did get coned into some of the books though but I was picky!
Conferences for me? Well since Maddie and Izzak are homeschooling now that is 2 less! Yippee! So now I get Joshua and Kenzie. I work them out so that Joshua's is first so I can get frustrated but he has time for me to lose steam after kenzies conference where her teacher tells me how wonderful they think she is! It works for Joshua till I go over it with his dad later and then he gets in trouble. When the other 2 were in school I would work them so she was in the middle to break up the bad conferences.

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

M:
so funny. i love how you threw in all the stupid book titles, too :) kathleen

Daisy said...

Book Fair prices are often rather high, too. I prefer the book orders that I send home with the children monthly; and the teacher gets free books for the classroom from those, too.

Qtpies7 said...

I am refusing to go to conferences. I am not catering to the school's whims. If my child is getting A's and B's and is not a trouble maker, I am NOT going to drag my lazy butt up there to hear that everything is going great, any questions? No, keep doing your job and leave me alone! I have 7 kids, you think I have time for this???? I have kids who actually need help in school, let me concentrate on that, thanks!

I have issues. I won't even start on the books. Or the PTA. Or the referendums to get a new pool across town because 4mil for a new pool across town is cheaper than fixing the old pool for 1mil. yes, they actually put it that way.

Katherine said...

Our book fair is during the same week as "eat lunch with parents" (I think they say its National Education Week?). I look with the kids, but if they want to buy, its with their money. Several years ago, my older son spent $70 of HIS money on books (almost all "real" books).

For me, I get a list of books they want and then go to the Scholastic Warehouse sale in early Dec. (DH is a teacher, but you can also go as a book fair volunteer or homeschooler). My kids usually get a big pile of books as a Christmas present, for about 1/3 list price.

Both my kids schools did walk-a-thons recently and I much prefer that. I can donate money (totally tax deductible) and not have to buy over-priced junk. And they get exercise to boot!

Barb said...

Ha! That is exactly what it's like - meeing wtih your parole officer. (Not that I've ever done THAT)
At out school we sell school spirit clothing on panhandle, I mean parent teacher interview, nights.

chelle said...

You know I have questioned the whole, character books at the book fairs and my husband so eloquently reminded that some kids ... DO NOT READ! GASP! The Horror! But true ... so if the school/seller can entice a non-reader to read Kudos right?

Just another side to the argument ...