Friday, October 22, 2010

(43-87) The Art Thief

This week,we had parent / teacher conferences; and I couldn't be more proud of my kids.  Both Nicky and Lyndzi earned 4.0's and they have demonstrated good work habits and have been putting forth great effort.  Kelsie had a wonderful report card as well; but since it's first grade; she doesn't receive letter grades.

Now you may find this as surprising as I did, but Lyndzi's lowest grade was in art; yup, I said art.  She received an 87, from the teacher that my devoted friend, Dawn is now referring to as the Art Nazi.

On the first day of school; Kelsie informed me that "The new art teacher is a yeller."  A yeller; really?  In first grade, on the first day of school; you need to YELL at a class of first graders?  Kelsie also told me that she was a bad dresser; which I found hysterical.  She said that she wore white pants.  White pants; really?  To an elementary school art class?  A few more days passed and all 3 of my kids had the opportunity to experience the new art teacher and all 3 reported that she was awful.  All 3 said that she yelled; and I was NOT happy to hear this.  WHY would a teacher need to yell in art of all places?  The previous art teacher; who the kids all adored, never yelled.  The kids always looked forward to going to art; but not anymore.

I'd say that I kept tabs on the art teacher; but really I didn't have to, because the kids would come home and tell me how they had to be silent in art; and weren't even aloud to chat quietly.  I was building a case against the Art Nazi in my mind; until Nicky came home one day with a list of 30 definitions that he had to memorize.  He was stressing over the amount of work and how complicated the definitons were.  I don't remember exactly what the words were; but suffice it to say that they weren't all art related words number one; and number two, some of the definitions contained words that the kids wouldn't possibly have known.  After I watched my son torture himself all weekend; I decided to go see the principal.  I waited for a half an hour that Monday morning; but the principal was unavailable.  I left the definition list with the secretary and asked for the principal to call me; but by the time that I picked my kids up, that afternoon; she had not.
I asked the secretary to see if she was available; and teh principal agreed to see me.  After digging through a pile of papers, she found the definition list that I had left earlier.  I explained that I was very concerned that the art teacher would be giving such a test; and the principal admitted that she found it peculiar and said that she'd speak with her to find out if it was a mandated part of the curriculum.  I also told her about the incessant yelling; and the children's complaints about art.  I suggested that she take a random, survey of a sampling of students; as I was sure that she would find a consensus of dissatisfaction.  The principal asked for a few days to look into the matter before she got back to me; and I agreed.
The entire week passed by and I hadn't heard from the principal, so I stopped back in.  Again she was unavailable; so I left a message and she called me later that evening.  The principal informed me that the definitions were not part of the mandated curriculum and she assured me that she discussed alternative teaching methods with the "art teacher."  She said that she thought that the "art teacher," understood that some changes needed to be made; until I advised her that just the day after we'd spoken, Lyndzi had told me that the "art teacher" was trying  to get her class to quiet down; so she banged a clip board on a desk and then said "yes; I think that's a great idea."  The principal was very surprised to hear this, but said that she'd speak with the "art teacher" again.
Shortly thereafter, Kelsie came home and told me that she'd had art that day and the "teacher" had told her class that if they got both of their hands dirty, they would get a mark on their paper and it would be reflected on their report cards.  I asked Kelsie to tell this to her teacher, because I felt that others needed to start getting involved.  kelsie's teacher discussed it in her grade level meeting; and was asked by the principal  to speak directly to the "art teacher."

Fast forward to Tuesday, when I found out that this crazy woman, masquerading as an art teacher had given Lyndzi an 87.  Lyndzi shared that the art teacher had told her class that they weren't doing very well; because she had given a test, and the majority of the kids had low scores.  I told Lyndzi's teacher that I didn't understand how Lyndzi could have been given an 87; and her teacher didn't understand either.  The previous art teachers always gave everyone a hundred; but this woman is nothing like any teacher we've ever had before.

I immediately went to see the "art teacher" after leaving Lyndzi's classroom; and I was fit to be tied.  I was replaying the list of complaints that I'd heard about this woman; and the time had come for me to address her face to face.  I knocked on her door, and when I went in, I introduced myself in a way that I have NEVER done before.  I said "My name is Mrs. Ramos and I have 3 children that attend this school.  I just received my daughter's report card, and I'd like to speak with you about her grade."  Seriously, Mrs. Ramos?.  In the sixteen years that I've been married; I have NEVER said this before; but I felt as if this woman didn't deserve to address me by my first name.  The "art teacher" who was dressed in white linen pants, told me that she couldn't speak with me now because she had to go teach a piano lesson.  I asked when we could meet; and she said "Well, we have parent / teacher conferences this Thursday and Friday."  I said "I'm aware of that.  When may I meet with you?"  She said "anytime;"  so I told her that I would meet her at 10am on Friday; and I asked her to have Lyndzi's work and grades available to review.  I gave her my full name as well as Lyndzi's and told her Lyndzi's grade to which she responded "87 is a good grade."  And I hostilely replied "Not for my daughter."
I was nervous about going to see this woman today, because I really felt like I might lose my cool.  As a parent it is our job to advocate for our children; and my children are being deprived of something that is very important to them, because this woman is on some kind of insane power trip.  I was pleasant enough when I went into our meeting.  The "teacher" informed me that Lyndzi had gotten a 95 on her first project but then an 80 and an 85 on the next two.  I asked what kind of projects the 80 & 85 were; and she said "weaving."  I asked how she grades weaving; and she advised me that it was based on how neat your weaves were, how straight and how tight.  Oh dear God!  I asked if there was a curriculum for this or guidelines and she said "no, but weaving was an acceptable project per the district."  I asked what the highest weaving grade had been and she claimed that some students had gotten a hundred.  I told her that no other art teacher had ever graded the children and questioned that since she was going to be so stringent, why hadn't she sent a letter home, outlining her class policies and expectations; to which she said "I can do that." 
I questioned the need for her to grade the children and again advised that the children adored the last art teacher, and were never graded in such a manner.  She then told me that the art room had been a disgusting mess, when the last art teacher was here; and I explained that the children don't care about that.  She then called my attention to her immaculate room (and it was;) and I reiterated; "The children don't care about that."  I went on to say, "if you yell at the children, and bang clipboards on desks, you are trying to get them to be fearful and you are stifling their creativity."  She  said "Oh, you must have a child who was in that class."  referring to the clipboard banging incident.  Well, duh lady; it was Lyndzi's class.  I have to wonder how many incidents there were if she has no idea which class she had her tantrum in front of.  I asked why she felt it necessary to yell at the children and she said that she only raised her voice a few times; which I disputed.  She then told me that in her 10 years of teaching she had never met a group of more undisciplined children.  I disputed this by telling her that I've had children in this school for many years; and have never heard another teacher make this allegation.  I also  said "If you've been teaching for ten years; I would think that you would have other means of dealing with the children; and if you are unequipped to do so; then perhaps you need to speak with the principal or her assistant so that they can work with you on this."   I addressed her telling Kelsie's class that they couldn't get both hands dirty; and she explained that the assignment only called for using one hand; so there was no need to get dirty.  I said "They're first graders; they get dirty; that's what they do.  They get dirty at lunch, they get dirty at recess; and we certainly expect that they're going to get dirty at art."  But this was too much for her to handle.  She said if they got both hands dirty, they'd get their clothes dirty and that they needed to learn to follow directions anyway.
I could see that this meeting was going nowhere.  I NEVER expected this woman to change Lyndzi's grade; but I stressed that my daughter has talent and I didn't want her to be discouraged.  She did agree that Lyndzi is talented; but that she needed to follow the curriculum; which is going to include a lot more weaving.

I concluded by telling the "teacher" that I was not happy with her yelling at the children, and I know a lot of other parents who feel the same way; and I cautioned her that we were going to be keeping a very watchful eye.  To which she had no reply. I thanked her for her time; and I left. 

My friend Kailene came over briefly this afternoon and I told her about my meeting.  Her daughter who's in sixth grade with Nicky but in a different class was here as well. Kailene asked her daughter if she'd been weaving in art and her very respectful, polite, daughter said " I hate art; and I hate the art teacher."  She then explained that the last time that she had art her class head to write a 2 paragraph essay about misbehaving because they had been chatting quietly before she started her lesson.  Talk about misuse of power.  I asked if the essay was graded, and her daughter said that she was supposed to be grading them over the weekend.  (Just tucking this in my pocket.)

It is very disheartening that this woman is allowed anywhere near children, when she has no understanding of them whatsoever. I went to see this woman to advocate for all the children of our school. Do I expect this woman to change?  No way. But I will do exactly as I promised her, and keep a very watchful eye; and if that means that I am in the prinicpals office every day after my kids have art; so be it.  I hate bullies; but adults who bully children; I have no tolerance for; as she will learn.
I fully believe that the majority of people who teach; love children and enjoy being around them; but this woman is clearly an exception.  I can only hope that the Art Nazi takes some of my concerns to heart and realizes that she is doing more harm than good; but I don't give myself that much credit.   This woman is taking the joy out of art; and robbing our children of an experience that they value; and I don't think that school is a place for thieves.
Till next time..


Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh that just bites...obviously the principal doesn't care so if I were you I would be going to the superintendent of the district...seriously. you should.

Joni Parker said...

Wow...that's not good to hear. Sounds like you're taking action...very brave! I'm not so sure I'd be as brave and/or have the ability to handle this as you have. Very admirable!! Let us know what happens...