April 25, 2012

You want a cracker, you wear yellow. It’s elementary.

I don’t intend this blog to be a forum for impulsive ranting on my part, but if writing this post will keep me from writing a note to Eva’s teacher (whom I like and admire, by the way, despite my current irritation), then I’m going to write it. A note probably wouldn’t change anything, so perhaps I should simply make complaint unto the universe. Did you know you were the universe?

So, it’s not that big a deal. I know that, but I must not really know that because I’m more irritated than I normally am by things that aren’t big deals. Yesterday, Eva was denied an animal cracker at school because she wasn’t wearing a yellow shirt. No. I suppose I should say that Eva’s teacher denied her an animal cracker because her shirt was not predominately yellow.

Let me back up. This week is TCAP week, which means that students in grades 3-5 at Eva’s school are taking standardized tests so that the state of Tennessee can learn how well (or not) its schools are working. I could write a whole post examining my thoughts on how misguided our educational system is for relying on standardized testing to demonstrate effectiveness, but that’s not this post, so I’ll stop typing on that matter right now. This post is examining what happened in Eva’s classroom yesterday.

Eva is in kindergarten. She is not one of the students testing this week. But over the weekend, I found a note in her folder asking all students in the school to wear a specific color each day of the following week to show support for the students who would be testing. Tuesday was the day for “Yellow, Yellow — Stay Calm and Mellow.”

Eva doesn’t currently have any solid yellow shirts in her wardrobe, so on Monday evening, she and I chose a shirt and a pair of pants that featured bright yellow among many other colors. She rocked the outfit, in our opinion, and we figured a bit of yellow would do. Well, it didn’t do. Eva’s teacher gave each student who wore a yellow outfit an animal cracker. Eva didn’t get one. Her teacher also gave each student who arrived on time that day an animal cracker. Eva got one of those, so I guess she’s at least a halfway decent student. (I sense another post eeking forth on my thoughts about punishing kindergarteners because their parents make them late, but anyway…)

I know, I know. It’s not like Eva was made to stand in the corner during a vital and life-changing science lesson. She doesn’t really need two animal crackers. One is enough. None is enough. But this wasn’t just an animal cracker, was it? This was a reward, and my daughter was being left out, punished, for not wearing enough of a certain color. So, essentially, the message was that the only deserving kids in the classroom at that moment were those whose parents had purchased some very yellow duds for them, as luck would have it, before the note about TCAP Colors came home or whose parents had rushed out to shop over the weekend. No matter that families might have had plans for their weekend—other than shopping—or that they might not have enough money in general to ensure that all of their children own a piece of clothing to represent every color in a box of crayons. No matter that parents might not have found quality clothing for sale in each particular color of the rainbow, or that their children might not choose to wear a certain color on a regular enough basis to justify purchasing it.

I don’t have a problem with the school encouraging kids to wear certain colors on certain days to show school spirit. (Although, I don’t see how this practice will help students on their TCAPs.) I do, however, have a problem with Eva’s teacher choosing to make her feel less deserving than her classmates because of the color of her clothing—whether the egregious wardrobe error results from her own choice or her parents’ shopping failures. I have a problem with it happening even once, on a rare TCAP Tuesday morning.

And my big question is what does this sort of thing have to do with learning? It seems, rather, to do with the administration of the school placing so much emphasis on this TCAP Color scheme that teachers feel they must make it a big deal in the classroom. (And trust me. It was a big deal. Animal crackers are epic to five year olds.)

But wouldn’t we rather the administration help teachers strive for what’s really important, for what’s elementary—to help our children see all the awesome stuff our world has waiting for them if they but only learn how to reach, no matter if the sleeves through which they reach are yellow or gray or purple or even brown & turquoise plaid?

So, clearly I’m not sporting Yellow, Yellow, Calm and Mellow this morning, but at least I’ve let the load off. Now, I have to go make sure Eva’s red shirt is clean, because tomorrow is Red, Red — Use Your Head, and I bet Eva wants a cracker.

2 comments

OMG! I DREAD the day that James goes to school, if this kind of garbage is what I will have to deal with! I am with you 100% on the shirt issue. (I am also probably with you 100% on the standardized testing issue, too.)

by Jenn on April 25, 2012 at 10:07 am. #

Well, just like most things in life, there are bad things about most schools and good things. Sometimes it’s tempting to dwell on what’s bugging you, but that’s probably just as bad as seeing the world through “rose-colored glasses.”

You should just homeschool James out on the beach all day. Then he won’t have to wear shirts at all. :)

by wendy on April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm. #