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TODAY IS THE FIRST FRIDAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE
On April 28th, 2004, the sun was shining in an electric-blue sky and Anders was gone for a week to Italy, which meant I had to take the kids with me to choir that night.

On April 28th, 2005, the leaves were greening, the house was flooded with evening sunshine and an airplane had delivered a loved one safely home. Also, the children did not have headlice.

On April 28th, 2006, the sun has been shining all day in an electric-blue sky, and Anders has been gone for a week to Italy, which meant I had to take the kids with me to choir 2 nights ago. The leaves are totally busting a move and Anders will be home tonight. Also, the children, despite the apparently annual note sent home asking parents to check carefully, do not have headlice again this year. For which I am more than thankful.

***

The school which my kids attend is going through some major upheavals. The principal was recently dismissed from his job due to being arrested for a crime about which we have not been given any details and the school has a temporary and part-time substitute at the moment. He is also the 5th principal the school has had in 7 years. The school is 20 years old and so are the equipment, furnishings, and materials. Even though there was apparently quite a lot of money left in the budget last year, the school personnel was not informed of the fact and were told that resources and funds were not available; neither is the money going to be given back to the school this year since the policy is apparently "you didn't use it, therefore you don't need it." The school secretary, who worked only 4 days a week last year, has been pulled down to 1 day a week, which means that the teachers end up having to shoulder the burden of the administrative tasks around the school, including helping visitors. This means they have to leave the classroom for what can be lengthy periods of time, leaving the children unsupervised. The school nurse is at the school 1 day every OTHER week, down from 1 day a week last year, which was already down from every day. There are more students (166) than ever and more expected each year as our little village is growing rapidly.

The teachers have written a letter to the county authorities detailing their concerns very specifically about these issues and in response have received denials, avoidances and outright lies about the state of affairs. The parent's group is attempting to rally the rest of the parents to try to do something about it all, but one problem is that that the county politicians have no incentive to put a lot of effort into a small village on the outskirts of the county, especially in an election year when many of them will be moving or leaving their positions.

I plan on calling one of the mothers who is on the parent's committee tomorrow to ask her what I can do to help (with my fingers crossed that a big time commitment won't be necessary since time? is not one of the handy overflow items in my basket right now)...but I'm concerned that my Swedish, while "fluent," may not be up to the level required for getting involved with the educational and political system. I'm also concerned about the fact that I don't KNOW the systems. As an outsider, I have absolutely no idea how they work or how they SHOULD work, and am very wary of assumptions and mis-steps on my part. But what else can I do? I'm beginning to think we may not be doing our children any favors if we keep them in this school despite the other very tangible advantages we gain by living here.

I don't want to be a parent crusader either. I just want the system to work right and I want my children to have a good education. They are only in kindergarten and 2nd grade right now, and they are both obviously learning and thriving, but what about a couple of years from now if things continue the way they seem to be headed? I know that I have a lot of teacher (and former teacher) friends who read this journal. Any advice or input from you and the parents out there (and child-free people with good ideas) would be welcome.

***

Totally Cool 13-Minute Movie involving Rolling Balls: Pita-gora-swi-tti! (thanks to vember for the link!)
 anxious
mood: anxious
music: Ivy—I Get the Message


Comments
Not a good sign

5 principals in 7 years is not a good sign. And not investing available funds when possible is a mistake that will take time to recuperate from. I obviously have limited ability to evaluate the gravity of the situation, but in my experience it takes some time for a school to fully recover from such a state. 5 years is optimistic.

I've worked in such environments (the school where I worked part-time last year was in a similar situation). Teachers are (or become) exhausted and overextended. They burn out. Quit. Lessons suffer because there isn't enough time to prepare. Learning problems go unnoticed because there isn't enought time to systematically diagnose. Without a strong leader and vision, teachers might start to work in different directions. The consistancy and communication from year to year may suffer.

Personally, if possible, I would make a different choice for my children. There are times and places to crusade and make sacrifices for change. Your children's education is not one of them.

Re: Not a good sign

5 years to recover? Oy...and the worst part is, I don't see any real turnaround any time soon. We are definitely going to have to talk about this some more and see what we think is the best thing to do.

As a former teacher I wish I could help you out, but like you I am not familiar with the system. I felt like a complete alien when I tried to sub in the Swedish system. I really do hope they figure it all out and fix things. It is insane that teachers would ever leave a class unsupervised. Really, one of the reasons that we moved back to the States is that I coudln't see having children in a school system that I didn't understand since I wouldn't know how to fight for their rights.

what a mess at that school! ive been to a few schools of varying levels (adults, teenagers and children) and every single one has similar issues. Not enough resources, cut-backs and criminal activity..haha. i hope you can do something to help and that the situation improves. that sounds like a less than quality experience for any child :(

The thing is, it was quite a high-quality school until a few years ago. I don't see it turning around any time soon, though given the state of the politics in our kommun. Ugh.

(Anonymous)

Hi - I popped in from Sprigs - also Marie is one of my favs as well and it was a surprise to read her blog here too. I am bambozzled (in a good way!) and amazed at your site and all it the wonder it contains! Wow! Looking forward to visiting often.

Welcome! :) and thank you for the nice compliments!

(Anonymous)

re above comment - Sorry didn't mean to be anonymous - it just made me that - it's chiefbiscuit from blogger here - you can get to me from comments on sprigs :) (I don't know how to leave a link to my blog here ...)

It makes me so sad that the community seems to be going down the tubes and they are not worried about the childrens education. I can´t offer much advise, but I do have a friend that lives in Bjärred and has been through many similar battles that you are facing at the moment. I have a feeling that she knows a lot about how the systems work and she could offer you some great advise. If you would like to get in touch with her, let me know. jacqui_johansson [at] yahoo (dot) com

I hope that you win this battle for your kids.

Thanks, Jacqui. :) I'm going to see what our parent's group is trying first. Hopefully there are enough people to raise a fuss that something might actually change.

Seems like you're going about it the right way. If enough people complain needs will be met. The squeaky wheel and all that. Also if they get a decent principal in, she/he should be able to pull things together.

I think you're right, a decent principal would be key. The one they had before this guy was worthless, too. So I think we can only up from here.

Oh dear, this is a hard one to respond to. I taught in a school much like this--a charter school which is a school of choice though public, and therefore recieves public funding, though less per capita than a regular public school. Our director was a disaster--and I have to say that it DID affect everything, down to the students in the classrooms eventually. Over burdened teachers end up not being able to respond to children appropriately and during my time there I definitely saw a rise in bullying and 'gang' like behavior and the principal never did anything to help the teachers prevent this.

What can you do? Hmmm. First and foremost unfortunately I'd say look at your other educational options for your kids. The early elementary years are easiest for switching schools--by 4th grade it gets harder. By middle school it's awful. Remember that a good teacher is the MOST important thing--materials, etc are secondary. As for what you can do actively in your school--jump in, trust your sweedish and see if you can get the county to pay attention in any way. You might have a different voice BECAUSE you're not Swedish, which might help in the long run. Also, you can make a choice about being on the steering comittee for hiring a new principal--big time commitment, but maybe worth it.

Really, what it comes down to is a: are your kids REALLY learning? Are they on grade level, happy about their teachers and happy about their school/friends? and b: what other choices do you have. If the answers to a) are all positive, I wouldn't worry about b) or at least I wouldn't worry right now, when you have a zillion things on your plate.

Whew! Sorry for the reeeally long comment. I should have just emailed :)

I really appreciate the thought you put into your comment. :) The kids DO seem to be thriving, working at the correct level (for Swedish schools, which admittedly seems to be a little lower than what I remember about American ones) and happy with their school/friends. They both have good teachers this year. The thing is that the school is so small, that there isn't a choice in teachers if we SHOULD get a bad one, and they stay with a teacher for 3 years. Moving our kids out of the school would be a HUGE problem for us in a lot of ways (money is only a part of it) so we're really hoping that things will turn around here. Getting a decent principal will probably make a huge difference.

(Anonymous)
be proactive

I don't think you should worry at all that your Swedish is not at "a level required for getting involved with the educational and political system." Whatever you do will be appreciated by the other parents and will only inspire them to do more. Your kids are in the system, so you have a voice.

Neil
http://www.citizenofthemonth.com

Re: be proactive

Thanks for that encouragement. Often, it's too easy to keep your head down and trust that the system will just work how it's supposed to.

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