Putting my money where my mouth is

@MrBrettClark 6 Comments

Am I the only one who struggles with saying I want one thing but then not putting my money where my mouth is?

Got home from work yesterday and sat down on my couch. My wife brought me a couple of pieces of paper and told me this was my oldest son's homework. One of the assignments was a book report and the other was a scrapbook page. The book report was all laid out on what he had to write. Each paragraph had specific expectations and instructions. The scrapbook page was a "tradition" for this class and every student gets to have a page in the scrapbook.

Here's the thing: I'm not a believer in homework. You can read about some of my thoughts here. However, I'm not interested in ticking my son's teacher off. He loves to read but I'm not interested in forcing him to write about it when a five minute conversation about a book will give his teacher the same information. If it's about writing, then why can't he write about something he wants to write about, like becoming president. Just ask him (@3Clark_Boys) and he will tell you where he stands on the issues and why he should become the first kid elected president. If the scrapbook is something that every student gets to have a page in and it's a class tradition, then why make it homework? Why attach a grade to it? My new job keeps me busier than ever and I'm not sure I want to lose any more time with my son while he works on assignments that are not going to benefit him in the long run.

Let me be honest with you. These are easy questions to ask here in my space. This is actually a very safe place for me to express myself. I would say that the majority of you reading this have similar feelings on homework, test, and grades. However, I struggle with picking up the phone, calling my son's teacher, and explaining my stance on this issues?

Does that make me a hypocrite? If I won't stand up for my own family, should I stop taking such a strong stance against homework, test, and grades? Why is it easier to give advice to other teachers and parents but then struggle with the same advice for my own life?

The comment section awaits your response.

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  1. I'm not particularly opposed to homework WHEN the learning is relevant and not "filler" assignments. There are times when I've struggled how to respond to my daughters' teachers who dole out busy work in order to fill a gradebook (and yes, as a parent it does feel that way).

    You shared two different assignments and so two thoughts on how to approach talking with the teacher (or simply coming to terms with the assignments):

    1. The book report-Why it it so rigid? I agree an oral report can suffice but so could a variety of other methods. If it is to reinforce writing skills specifically? If so, then that should be explained. AND if a student has mastered those skills, then is the teacher open to encouraging the student to respond in other formats?

    2. The class tradition project (I agree with your suggestion that it not for a grade-I'd open a dialogue about the potential for supporting intrinsic rewards by not grading the assignment). In defense of the take home bit-our students come from all types of backgrounds and there is value to sending home "projects" that will engage families in a child's learning process/experience. Kuddos to families that value learning, have regular dialogue and share exploration of new ideas, but sadly too many don't.

    1. Michelle,

      Thank you for your comment. I always appreciate your views on things. Navigating the waters of parenting and teaching, which are both obviously huge parts of my life, is always a difficult task. Just reading your comments reminds that communication is such an important piece to all of this. As is the reminder to always consider every student and family in the classroom.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. My boys' teachers know my feelings on homework. I'm pretty open about it. I want the learning to be meaningful. Where it's done doesn't matter to me as much as whether it's meaningful. Personally, I hate assigning homework and I hate my children having it. I consider it an bit of an invasion on family/free time. However, I have chosen to partner with the schools in my kids' educations. I have chosen to collaborate with others rather than taking it on myself to homeschool. Collaborators must work together, engage in dialogue, and compromise. Are you doing these things?

    Ask for a meeting. Start a respectful conversation. Advocate and listen. Continue the dialogue. Support both the teacher and your child.

    We are in the middle of a similar "traditional" project. Honestly, it makes me a little crazy, but my son has really enjoyed our working on it together. I'm not bucking it because while the teacher and I have different views on the project, we both want what's best for him. I'm honoring this partner's perspective--even though it's different from mine.

    1. Phil,

      Thanks for the comment. You really put things into a great perspective for me to consider. My boys know my feelings on homework but I have not had time to talk to my sons' teachers about this. I didn't have to worry about it at their previous school because that school's philosophy mirrored mine.

      Now I can view this as a great lesson to teach my sons and myself about collaboration and how "collaborators must work together, engage in dialogue, and compromise."

      Thank you for taking time to leave the comment! #wearetheus

  3. Great conversation happening here in the post and the comments. I love the idea of collaboration between home and school. All parties need to be open, which can be difficult, as you point out. Learning together means letting go of some ideas as we really investigate others' points of view. I hope both you and the teacher can do that.

  4. I just wrote about letting kids fail and promoting self-sufficiency, and on Saturday, my 9yo pointed out that he still could not tie his shoes. I may have even used that specific example in my writing. I can't blame that oversight on the advent of velcro forever. One hour later, he could tie his shoes.

    I happen to be a fan of SOME homework, but unless people like you stand up and challenge the assumption of homework, who will? So I say yes. Money where your mouth is.

    P.S. Don't tell your son's teacher I said any of this. I will deny all knowledge of this comment.