In an attempt to also educate my 1st and 2nd graders’ previous teachers, in whose classes I had volunteered in past years, and with whom (I thought) I had developed good relationships, I forwarded my husband’s letter to them in confidence, hoping they could use the information to inform their teaching.
After my husband had written the letter, I continued to volunteer in my two daughters’ classrooms as before. On Wednesday, April 3rd , at the conclusion of my volunteering session in my 2nd grader's class at Wayne Elementary, while the children were in the hall and returning to their classroom from the library, I asked the second grade teacher, “Did you receive my husband’s e-mail?” She responded angrily, “Yes I did. I’m still processing it. I don’t know how to respond.” I said, “If you’d like to meet to discuss it, we are willing to do that.” She responded, shaking with anger, “No, I really wouldn’t.”
The teacher eventually did write an e-mail response to my husband’s letter on “An Arctic Tale”, which stated:
“I have read your email. Exposing students to a variety of resources and understanding vocabulary is part of the Common Core Standards which our curriculum is based upon. Having said that, I don't feel it is necessary to pursue this topic any further.”
…to which my husband responded:
“This raises two questions:
1. What does understanding vocabulary have to do with the showing of “An Arctic Tale"?
2. Is there no standard for the truthfulness of the resources presented?
Openness and understanding is most necessary, Bill Ward”
The teacher ultimately responded,
“Mr. and Mrs. Ward,
If you have any further concerns or questions, please contact our principal, M. Principal.
So we set up an appointment with the principal.
In the meantime, life went on, and both my daughters brought home “Social and Emotional Learning” homework from the “Second Step Program” (an IL state-mandated educational program dedicated to teaching “empathy and emotion management”). The homework required students to state ways they managed their emotions and/or showed respect and coached parents on how to teach these skills to children. The homework was required to be signed by parents. We objected to being told how to raise our children, and so decided to ignore the homework and not turn it in.
On April 17th, my second-grader came up to me during my volunteering time and said, “Mommy, I have to turn in that sheet [on social and emotional learning] tomorrow or I will be in trouble.” Since the teacher had pressed my daughter, I said to her, at the end of my volunteering time (again in the hallway and not directly in front of students – this becomes important later) “M. Teacher, it’s not my daughter's doing that the homework on the emotional stuff was not turned in. I’m not super comfortable with…” and here M. Teacher angrily cut me off and said, “Fine, whatever” and turned away from me so that no further discussion was possible. I wrote a follow up letter to the principal describing the second grade teacher's unacceptable behavior in anticipation of our meeting with the principal.
Upon further research into the “Second Step” program, I learned that it is produced by an organization called “The Committee for Children”, “a nonprofit working globally to promote children’s social and academic success.” Browsing their website I discovered an entire page dedicated to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues. Since I had had a good relationship with my 1st grader’s teacher up until this point, I decided to bring this to her attention. During my volunteering time in her class, during a break in the action, and being careful not to disrupt things, and making sure none of the children could see the web page on my iPad, I showed the teacher the page. Her eyes grew large and she said, “We don’t discuss that here”, to which I responded that I was sure she didn’t but that I was concerned that school money was being spent with this organization for the Second Step curriculum. I later found out she told the principal that I had expressed concern about it.
Then came “Earth Day”. On April 22, my 1st grader brought home a poem called, “Earth Day” by Jane Yolen, which reads:
“I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.
And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here
That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.”
I wrote the following response:
My daughter brought home this poem yesterday and told us that the class read it aloud together:
While the poem expresses a sentiment that may seem like it merely expresses admiration for the earth, stating that “I am the Earth…And the Earth is me” (notice the capitalization of the word “Earth”) is actually Earth worship. Indeed, the religion that believes God is in everything and everyone, and that we are all part of each other and the earth is called pantheism. Or, to quote from Wikipedia, “Pantheism is the view that everything is part of an all-encompassing immanent abstract God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent.” This is in direct opposition to the teachings of mainstream Christianity (and Judaism); indeed, it would be considered idolatry. (I am sure that was not your intention). I certainly would not want my daughter mouthing these words in worship of the Earth.
Please consider this when choosing future curriculum.”
Instead of answering me, M. Teacher forwarded my letter to the principal.
And that brings me to April 24, 2013. I had shown up at my normal volunteering time for my second grader's class but was told that M. Teacher had to leave suddenly and my services would not be needed. I later found out that the principal happened to be visiting my 2nd grader’s classroom and my daughter asked where I was. M. Principal lied to my daughter and told her that I had a meeting with M. Principal at 11 AM and so couldn’t volunteer in M. Teacher's class today.
Then we had our meeting with the principal. M. Principal first stated that the school secretary would be taking notes during our meeting.
We then discussed the film “The Arctic Tale”, and M. Principal defended the second grade teacher's assertion that the film was a part of Common Core and further emphasized that M. Teacher's intention was merely to show a film about Arctic Regions, since the class had just finished studying that topic. Any objective observer would have to admit that the film has an agenda, asserted my husband and I. We stated that anything could be read by the students with the purported purpose of “understanding vocabulary” (“Are we going to read “Mein Kampf” or The Koran?” we asked). This part of the discussion was lengthy, with us asserting that the film had an agenda and the principal stating that the agenda was not the second grade teacher's motivation.
We then discussed the Second Step program and its connection to the radical gay agenda. M. Principal said that piece was not covered in elementary school but probably would be in higher grades.
We discussed the poem “Earth Day” and my e-mail to the 1st grade teacher, and how M. Principal disagreed that it constituted Earth worship, but they would re-consider the message in the future.
Then came the really bad news. Because I had forwarded my husband’s letter to the second grade teacher to two other teachers (at least one of them had alerted the principal to this fact), I had created “negativity”. Because I had discussed these issues with teachers during my volunteering time, I was “disruptive”. (Although recall, the second grade teacher refused to meet with us so I had no other opportunity to discuss anything with her). Given that I was “negative” and “disruptive”, I would not be allowed to volunteer in my children’s classrooms any longer. I asked for a copy of the notes taken by the secretary, and M. Principal responded, “No, those are my personal notes.” I told her a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request would be issued.
We have not hidden from our children the agenda that is being presented by the teachers in the cases above and why it is wrong. Nor have we hidden our struggle with their teachers from them. I came home early from work to write this article and greeted my children as they came home from school. I told them I could no longer volunteer in their classrooms and the reasons why. My children started to cry and so did I. Why it is not possible to have an open dialogue with their teachers regarding their education on things that matter is perplexing and it saddens me greatly.