A Success Story in the making

In the midst of my dark mood, attitude and opinions surrounding the American Education system, more specifically, directed at the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, there is a bright spot.  My brilliant niece Aubrie.

Yesterday, my niece and I took some time to celebrate what we like to call Auntie/Aubrie day.  Kind of geeky, eh?  Not really.  Aubrie and I have virtually NO time to spend together because A.) I spend most of my time with her sisters because they’re little and need me more and B.) Aubrie is 13 and involved in 3 different sports, not to mention her rigid academic schedule.  It’s kind of sad that we actually have to schedule any time we can spend together a month beforehand. We pack a lot of talking into the few hours that we have together.  Right now is a good time to mention that Aubrie is not my biological niece although NOBODY would be able to tell by looking at us.  She couldn’t be MORE mine if she were biological and I’ve become her favorite aunt through the years.  She tells me that she feels like I treat her with respect and don’t condescend to her.  It helps that I’m a good cook and like to take her shopping!  lol  HER words.  She likes that I actually enjoy our time together.

This weekend, Aubrie is competing in the National History Day State Competition in Columbia MO at the University of Missouri Campus (Mizzou).  She’s made it this far by placing fourth place in the original competition where she beat out hundreds of other kids making their presentations on the historical figure of their choice.  Most of the kids her age gave speeches on past presidential leaders such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  *yawn* –  Natural and easy choices.  Not Aubrie.  She went out on a limb, like she always does and made her presentation based on a very strong and successful woman who rose to the top of the fashion industry.  Coco Channel became iconic using her own skills and hard work ethics.  She started poor and became wealthy, as we already know.

What impresses me so much about Aubrie’s presentation and choice of historical figures is that she chose a woman.  Someone Aubrie can look up to and use for inspiration.  We’re all strong women in our family and believe that our gender shouldn’t dictate how far we’re able to go in life, we’re in control of our own destinies.  We are also very well aware that we’ll have to work harder to get there.  Aubrie is well ahead of her game.  Before she was allowed to prepare her speech, she was required to create a website.  This may sound like a normal skill for a girl her age in other countries.  Sadly, here in America, this is NOT normal for a public high school student.  She’s only in 7th grade.  I’m proud to show you all what her website looks like.  It’s her first time creating a website and I think she did a fantastic job!  Obviously, the judges of this competition shared my semi biased opinion or she wouldn’t have beat out hundreds of other students.  Here’s the link to the website she created about the life of Coco Channel

My niece takes her studies VERY seriously.  She worries me sometimes because she’s so serious but I have NO worries about how successful she’ll be in life.  When she gives public presentation, especially when she’s competing, she pays attention where her appearance is concerned.  Aubrie wants to make a professional appearance.  I truly believe this helped her win the competition.  Most girls her age made their presentation to judges who were college professors (potential scholarships involved for MAJOR universities) wearing yoga pants or blue jeans and tee shirts.  They weren’t allowed to wear provocative clothing but a lot of these girls looked like they’d just jumped out of bed without brushing their hair.  Their clothes were wrinkled and they appeared sleepy.  Not MY niece.  She wore a suit appropriate for an interview with a major corporation.  She’s only 13 folks!  lol  Her hair was up in a neat bun and her make up was appropriately light.  She appeared to be a powerful and intelligent woman!  I was so proud.  The professors actually commented on her appearance and asked the other girls to pay attention to Aubrie’s presentation of HERSELF.  They used her for an example of what TO do instead of what NOT to do.

So yesterday, in preparation for her competition on Saturday, we spent our time at the nail salon of her choice.  The salon where Aubrie knew the stylists would do the professional job that Aubrie expects.  If they don’t do it right, she makes them do it over.  Wow.  I can honestly say, she makes ME feel like the child!  lol

Here she is talking to a teacher for one of our public schools also getting a pedicure.  Aubrie is explaining the competition to her and what she expected to win THIS time.  She expects to win a substantial scholarship, by the way.  I’m placing MY bet now that she’ll WIN that scholarship!

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(she cracks me up with how serious she is and how adult her mannerisms are)

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(thank the LORD Aubrie is satisfied with her “full set” and the quality of work this stylist does… lol)

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I must really rate in Aubries book because she allowed me to talk her into a more playful, age appropriate style.  A style that she will have fun with even after the competition and a style that I think will also work for her professionalism.  It’s not so crazy of a color that will stand out and make her appear to not be taking her job seriously.

Talking with my little “adult” niece about her plans for the future and the work that she’s doing to make her path clear, only served to make me more aware of how POOR our public school system is.  Aubrie has NEVER attended public school.  It’s Catholic/ Private all the way for her and it’s certainly ALREADY paid off.  Her private school is already preparing the children to write quality university level research papers.  They begin teaching the children to do research papers in fourth grade, by the age of 8 and 9.  Aubrie tells me that her instructors are constantly explaining to the class that they’re being groomed for COLLEGE (not high school).  When I was in Catholic school, they stressed how we were being groomed for high school.  It’s different now and I’m glad.  Guess when our PUBLIC schools focus on college level work?  Tenth grade.  My daughter gave me the “Mom is just crazy” look when I shared my opinion on how important it is to teach our children how to create a proper college level research paper.  In another related point, do you know that these public school kids don’t know how to address an envelope?  They tell me that it’s not important anymore in today’s age of technology.  It just seems so simple to me and common sense.  Don’t they still NEED to know how to address an envelope?  Or the proper way to write a letter, be it business or personal?  They SURE know how to “Tweet” and know ALL the “texting” language.

I’m feeling EXTREMELY guilty that I’m not financially able to provide the right kind of education for my daughter.  Aubrie’s younger, yet she’s so much more prepared for the real world.  She’s been lead to already know the direction she wants her life to go in.  My daughter hasn’t been taught to give it another thought.  THAT is my fault.  I can’t leave it all up to the school system especially since I’m fully aware it’s a FAILING school system and has been since 2001, when the “No Child Left Behind Act” was passed.  My back’s against the wall and I’m running out of time here!  I asked my daughter to consider switching schools.  I realize the choice is not hers but I ‘d feel a whole lot better if she’d share my views for her life!  She’s only 14 and in 9th grade.  She’s got 3 more years of high school so is it too late?  I don’t think so but my daughter actually said these words to me, “Mom, it’s too late for me”.  She’s not worried about her social life and losing her friends.  She just actually believes that she’s not capable of learning because she’s also very aware that she’s not being taught.

To give you an example of why my daughter believes she’s not being educated, I’ll tell you what happened the other day with her Science test.  She’s always (in previous years) been very good in Science.  Once she hit 9th grade, this changed.  Her teacher almost isn’t even present.  He does bother to lecture or do experiments.  He tells them to read their book and if they don’t understand something, he tells them to read it again, never bothering to explain.  He gets annoyed.  My daughter told him that she wasn’t ready to take the test because she only got 2 out of 10 questions right on the quiz.  She didn’t even know why she got those questions wrong and she explained this to her instructor.  He told her to sit down and he actually GAVE her the answers for the test.  I’m pretty sure we all remember what used to happen to US if we were caught stealing the teacher’s answers, or if we “copied” off our “neighbor”, right?  This teacher actually GAVE her the answers because he knew it didn’t matter if she knew the subject matter.  She was going to pass because NOBODY fails anymore!  The rest of the class can’t move ahead if even ONE person fails so he gave her the answers in an effort to make himself appear to be a successful teacher.  It looks bad on the teacher if one child doesn’t know the material and for THIS reason (NCLB act) ALL the children are forced to be on the same level.  For THAT matter, they’re even integrating Autistic and otherwise learning disabled children into a class of “normal”, learning abled children.  They’re ALL being taught the same way.  If there’s an Autistic child who’s making a lot of noise in class, he’s allowed to keep distracting the other kids and there’s NOTHING an instructor can do about it.  TRUST me, my sympathy doesn’t only lie with our children.  What is a teacher supposed to do to gain control of their class and keep their students focused?  It’s becoming more clear, every year that passes SINCE 2001, that there’s NO point in our instructors caring.  SO sad.  Occasionally, we’ll have a rogue teacher who actually takes pride in the fact that they’re forming our children’s future.  They know they may even get into trouble for not focusing ENOUGH time to preparing our kids for one federal test or another.  This rare “rogue” educator will actually spend TIME discussing and teaching a subject.  I need to stress how very rare this is though.

But this isn’t the point of this post.  You all know me by now, I get distracted and one thought leads to another, which leads to another and on and on we go!  lol  My point was to brag about my niece and to pay attention to what she and her educators are doing right.  My point is to pay specific attention to the difference between our public school system and the private school system.  The differences between the poor and the rich, although there is a DRASTIC difference between our rural area schools and the wealthy public schools in the better suburbs.  I’m SO proud of my sister-in-law for making education a priority for her children!  I’d always believed education was a priority for MY children as well.  However, now that I’m being honest, I can see my tendency toward taking the “lazy” route.  I’d been reading for years, about the effects of the NCLB act on our youth.  I didn’t want to believe it though and tried to make myself accept that it just takes time to iron out the rough edges of any new program.  MY children should have been made a priority, somehow.  I shouldn’t have gambled on their futures and I should have sacrificed more to give them the education that they deserve.  I made vacations and our quality of life our priority instead.

It’s NOT too late though.  I’m done accepting less than mediocre for my daughter.  I’ve got to either talk with the scholarship program St. Pius and make arrangements for her to attend, if she’ll even be able to test into their school.  OR, here’s my other option.  I can do what has been recommended to me BY several educators and allow my daughter to take the high school equivalency test (GED).  There’s not ONE bit of difference here, anymore, between a GED and an actual 4 year high school diploma.  Many parents have now started taking the advice to take their children out of high school and having them begin college courses so that they can earn college credits.  Our educators tell us (in private and off the record) that to send our children to high school is equivalent to sending them to be “babysat” for 8 hours a day.  There used to be at LEAST a social reason to attend high school.  In present days, it’s becoming only negative social development.  Why do I need a babysitter?  I don’t and she should have the same advantages as my niece has.  I’m ashamed and shocked when I think of how much she’s actually REGRESSED since grade school.  Her grades used to reflect a college level knowledge of almost every subject.  Now she tests at a grade school level.  The only reason she’s passing Science at all is because the teacher provides the answers for her.  Don’t think I haven’t tried speaking with the proper school officials.  They keep giving me the same answers and even IF I can get them to care, their hands are tied due to the No Child Left Behind Act.  They have to follow the rules if they’re to receive federal funding.

I want MY daughter to be a success story also.  Naturally she already is in MY book.  She was born with an amazing mind and is every BIT as intelligent as my niece is.  She just hasn’t been given the same advantages and THAT’S been my responsibility all along.  We need to make our children’s futures our priority.  After all, they’re going to be leading this world one day.  If our government doesn’t care and won’t do anything about it, then the responsibility lies solely on us, as parents.  I think it’s time, folks.  It’s probably over time.  We should have paid more attention to this as citizens of the once great USA.

I’m VERY interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions.  DO any of you have a story to share about how our schools have affected (good OR bad) your own children?  What would you do?  Or do you have any ideas about how we, as a nation can change this?  We NEED to care.  Even if you don’t have children now.  This country will be run, decisions will be made by these children who AREN’T being educated.  Who then will run our country?  Let me give you a hint.  It WON’T be the “people”.  I believe they may be doing it this way so that we’ll all become more ignorant.  We’ll care even less than we do now (if that’s possible) and eventually our officials won’t be “elected”.  We’ll have dictators because we won’t be ABLE to make educated decisions.  Is this what they want?  It sure makes you think, doesn’t it?

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