The Importance of Good Public Communication

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This post is a co-authored piece by me and my 7-year-old daughters.

Good Public Communication

Mommy: Where we live in Texas, we're not accustomed to cold weather. 100 degree days in the summer, we can handle. We know how to stay cool and safe. 32 degree days with precipitation? That's not within our realm of competence. We don't know how to drive on the ice. Our cities don't possess the equipment to render roads safe. Call us wimpy. My children's safety comes first.

J: This morning, we were getting rushed to be ready for school on time. Well, it happened that when we were almost at the front of the drop-off line, the news told us that all of RRISD was closed for a 2-hour delay. They were supposed to tell us that at 6:00 in the morning.

M: And it was 7:34. Super late, actually.

Mommy: Hearing about the delay on the news, I stopped and asked the teacher supervising the kids entering school if she knew what was going on. She said that her mom had called to tell her about the delayed opening. I asked whether I should just take the kids home with me and she said she would.

M: The car skidded when we were about to turn out of the loop. We were super-upset and mad at our school.

J: The skid was real creepy

M: Creepy. Right.

Mommy: The whole point of school delays is to keep kids safe by minimizing traffic during dangerous road conditions.

M: Well, that didn't happen today.

Mommy: I'm so disappointed in the school district. School starts at 7:45. The school district has a policy of announcing delays by 6:00 am. The RRISD website was down this morning, so I checked the local news. Austin ISD announced their delay at a reasonable time. I received a text about the delay at 7:44 from our school district. The email with the same announcement arrived at 7:49. I'm unimpressed.

As one friend put it, “I'm grossed out by how the schools are behaving. Are they just being stubborn? At what cost?”

As I'm typing this post, I receive an email from work. At 8:16 am. After about 1/4 of my team decided for ourselves that driving in wasn't worth the risk

Due to worsening road and weather conditions, The University of Texas at Austin will be closed until noon today.Students, faculty and staff who are already on campus or on their way to campus will still be able to enter their offices or classrooms even before the university is officially open for operations. They should make a personal decision on what is best for their safety.Decisions about delays and closure are made based on the best available information officials have at the tine. At 3:00 AM, the forecast and predictions indicated a safe opening. Weather conditions have changed, and we are now delaying campus opening to promote the safety of staff, faculty and students.

Okay, Central Texas. I'm not impressed.

M: *giggle* I like! It's funny!

Update 9:22 am: Just got a call from RRISD declaring all schools closed for the day. Even more disappointed than before. At least they apologized: “We sincerely apologize for the late decision… Please know that it was not our intent to put students, parents or staff in harm's way.” Too little, too late?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J, who are budding writers. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

 

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"I Had No Idea She Had a Sister"

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J is standing in front of wall of art, showing off her paint and collage chameleon.Our local performing arts center recently hosted an exhibition of elementary art from around the school district. One of my twin 6-year-old’s works was selected for display.

I confess that I’d completely forgotten about the open house. When I picked the girls up from after-school care Wednesday, I planned to take them shopping for shoes. They reminded me of our priorities, in a hurry. We made it to the exhibit by the skin of our teeth, a minute before the teachers began to dismantle the displays. While the artwork has been up for several weeks, the open house/teacher meet-and-greet was 2 hours only.

M had been the one to remind me of her sister’s exhibition. “We can’t go shoe shopping,” she told me, “because sisters are much more importanter than selves. We have to see J’s chameleon.”

J spotted her piece within seconds of our arrival. While we were oohing and aahing, her art teacher arrived. Once the handshakes and hugs were over with, the art teacher said to J, “I didn’t know you had a sister!”

“They’re actually in the same grade,” I told her. “Twins.” I immediately felt an urge to slap my forehead. Why did I need to volunteer that? What difference does it make? This was J’s moment to shine.

On cue, M’s art teacher arrived, saw M, hugged her and introduced herself to me. “I just love having M in my class,” she gushed. “She’s such a hard worker, and so articulate!”

J’s teacher looked M’s, and said, “Did you know she had a sister? I had no idea J had a sister!”

“No, I didn’t know. M’s a wonderful student!”

This moment was why I chose to have my girls in separate classrooms. They’re independent enough that I didn’t think it would hurt to be apart, and I wanted them to learn that they excel and are valuable as individuals as well being on display to the world as a pair.

M was a little perturbed on the drive home. “I don’t think I’m a very good artist,” she said. “I wasn’t picked.”

I quickly corrected her. “No, sweetie, that’s not it at all. I think the teachers had to limit themselves to one piece per grade, and yours just wasn’t the one your teacher picked for first grade. You’re an excellent artist.”

M perked right up. “J got picked. I just love her chameleon.”

J was miffed. “You’re just being jealous.”

I started to say, “No,” but M interrupted me. “I’m not jealous! I’m proud of my special Sissy.”

And I’m proud of my special girls.

Sadia’s 6-year-old daughters attend a dual language first grade program in a public school near Austin, TX. She feels very fortunate to be in a school district that can still afford to include music, art and physical education, as well as the Spanish and English immersion experiences. Sadia is a single mom and works in higher education information technology.

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The Soda Culture

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The first graders at my daughters’ school took a field trip to see Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I’m all for field trips. If this one got kids excited about Dr. Seuss and reading, so much the better.

There was one thing about the field trip announcement that bothered me, though. The movie snack pack would include popcorn, soda and a treat.

This note describes a school field trip to see The Lorax.

Am I alone in the universe in thinking that giving 5- to 7-year-old children soda to drink crosses a line? The popcorn, and even the candy, don’t bother me much. We eat both these things at home, in moderation. Adding soda to that, though, seemed like too much. All the more astonishing to me was that my girls weren’t even offered water, even though I’d jotted a note on both their permission slips requesting water for them. At lunch, too, they told me that they were only offered sodas.

J and M’s first exposure to sugary sodas was soon after we moved to El Paso. They were given it at daycare. They then stopped going to daycare, and fast. Once they’d had a taste, I didn’t think that forbidding sugary drinks would accomplish the goal of good decision-making. Instead, we struck a deal. When I drank soda, they could drink soda. This has been keeping us all honest. We limit ourselves to a sweet drink, other than juice or milk, once a month, just as we limit chocolate and other candy to once or twice a week.

Obviously, kids drinking soda is part of the culture here, but is it any surprise that we have an obesity problem? How can I encourage the kids to choose healthy options when their peers often don’t?

How do you go about bucking trends or local culture when you want your kids to choose differently?

Sadia, her husband, and their twin 5-year-old daughters, M and J, are still learning about the culture of the Borderlands, following a move to El Paso from Central Texas in August 2011.

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Home Economics

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Our daughters’ elementary school has organized a raffle to raise money for travel to Austin. I’ve never felt strongly about raffles one way or the other, but when my daughter J told me, “My teacher said I MUST bring a dollar tomorrow to get a new bicycle,” my reaction was strong and immediate. “No way. Besides, you already have a perfectly good bicycle.”

By the time I got around to discussing this matter with my husband, I’d figured out what bothered me so much about the raffle. Moving to a house with 300 fewer square feet than our old one helped me realize how much more stuff we have than we actually need or even use regularly. The kids have too many books and toys in their room to keep tidy, and the last they need is more stuff. We don’t want the raffle prize.

Even more important, though, is that the idea of a raffle, betting a small amount in the hopes of winning big, is in direct opposition to the ethic of hard work. We don’t want to teach our children that success comes by way of shortcuts, but rather that rewards are earned. If they want to participate in the raffle to support their school, I’m all for that, but not if they’re just in it for the prize.

We’ve taught our children that giving to others is important. On their 5th birthday, we requested canned foods for donation to the local pantry in lieu of gifts. When a neighbour asked J what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “A toy would be fine, but it’s nicer to bring food for hungry people.” If we’re going to support the school, I’d rather donate money outright than buy a raffle ticket, and will ask the principal about how to go about doing that instead.

It isn’t the school’s job, of course, to teach our children values. Teaching kids what is important falls entirely on the parents. However, the sale of raffle tickets and junk food to the children at school makes it that much more important that we explain to them how we choose to financially support the institutions we care about. I can’t help feeling that these fund-raising approaches fly in the face of the educational mission of the school. No one teaches home economics in school any more, but I would imagine that a key lesson would be to invest wisely, and that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

How did you/do you intend to introduce the concepts of money and responsible finances to your children?

Sadia’s identical twin daughters attend public school in El Paso, where her husband is a soldier. When not over-thinking every tiny aspect of the girls’ lives, she works full time as a computer geek.

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