Archive for the ‘Random Education’ Category

Moving Along

I’ve migrated my blog from here to a new site called Educational Experimentalist. It seems better suited to how I view my teaching role and it gives me more control over what I can do with the site. I hope you’ll come visit me over there πŸ™‚


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A great example of “teachers are held accountable much more for the ancillary, non-educational portions of their job than for anything that happens in the teaching/learning process” (~Henry Price)


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MT: has read all the great comments on my previous status and decided that I’m not going to make C do homework anymore. If she’s graded for turning in homework, then I’ll do it for her. I’m sure her teacher is going to love me when I tell him! I’ve felt homework for primary grades was pointless but thanks to DK, I feel validated!

JR: Margo, I didn’t want to say anything – but I’m so happy you’ve come to that decision. I don’t think homework for the primary grades is fair or helpful, especially when it causes so much family conflict.

RR: If your decision is that she does not need to do the homework, and that she is not going to be turning it in, then I don’t think you should just be doing it for her and turning it in. honestly is always the best policy, whether she is going to be doing the homework or not, the teacher should know that is your stand on it.

JB: We pulled A out of her school in October because she had 2-1/2 hours of homework every single night, including Fridays for over the weekend. She hated school, hated reading (and no time for it anyway), hated writing, and every evening was miserable and tense for her and for me. Since switching to a different school with maybe half an hour of homework at the very most, and not every night, she’s enthused about school again. She picks up a book and sits down to read all on her own. She’s taken to writing reports about animals just to do it. She’s a different kid. I read everything DK said about this topic with great interest and it really resonated with me.

MT: JB, if her teacher reports that she is graded for turning it in then I will be honest and tell him that she will be returning completed homework to him each week but that I will be the one doing the homework.

DHS: wrt to RR’s comment: besides, who cares about primary grades. They are meaningless in the grand scheme.

MT: J- C only has one page (double sided) of homework per day (Mon – Thurs) so it’s really not a lot but it can take her over an hour to get it done b/c she just can’t focus on it. She did report to me today & yesterday that she completed her classroom work so I think that as long as she’s learning to be productive in class, I shouldn’t force her to be productive at home. I haven’t heard from her teacher re: my request for a meet with him on Monday (prior to and separate from the SAT meeting which is also with the Principal).

HRF: Hooray for you! (and for me on Mondays and Wednesday *paranoia*). Seriously, I think that this is the best idea for C and for you.

RR: I’ll be interested to see how the teacher reacts to that, MT. Will you post about it? If homework is reinforcing what they are doing in class, I’m wondering if they are going

DK: doesn’t the teacher follow you here on FB? just let her read the comments lol

MT: LOL DK – almost everyone BUT C’s teacher is a FB friend. I’m friends with Liam’s teacher and one of her paras; the Vice Principal (who is also my Sunday School teacher) and a member of the School Board but C’s teacher is not on FB. I guess taking a zero for homework isn’t going to affect her overall “grades”. The homework does reinforce what is taught in class – at the beginning of the year she was doing the entire week’s worth in one sitting b/c it was reivew from K and she knew it all. I was asked not to let her do that b/c later on, the homework in later days would cover stuff they hadn’t done in class yet (i.e. if she tried to do Wednesday’s page on Monday, she wouldn’t have learned that math concept or those spelling words in class yet that week).

MF: When O was in gr 3 he had a teacher who required homework that took him 3 or more hours a day. I sent her a letter stating that our school district policy was that kids his

DK: That is an excellent response MF! More people need to do that!

MW: I’m glad that you are standing up for her to her teacher! I am OK with the amount of homework V gets per week BUT she gets a paper on Monday and its due on Friday. She enjoys doing it but I know I’d feel the same if she had homework every day and if I had to fight with her everyday to get it done. I don’t see the point in having homework in 1st grade either.

DK, you made some great points!!

LF: My kids are gown,went to public schools just fine, grads with honors , in college now. Homework…. what I saw as the point of homework, was.. we had time to talk about the day , the assignment ,even if it was stupid or crazy. I asked them what they thought,asked how can I help . We talked AND we (hubby & me) helped with answers too.If I did 1 math problem, they had to do 2. No harm came, no need to tell the teacher, we had family time that’s all. Don’t forget to have good brain snacks too!

LF: GROWN kids here, not Gown kids, LOL got to get glasses fixed!

ES: I really like MF’s idea. Set the timer for 15 minutes and let her do what she can. With that pressure taken away, maybe she’ll be more productive.

GJ: I agree with MF’s approach. For C’s age, 10 min is plenty. You could give incentives for the amount of work completed in that time. If she doesn’t get much done with incentives, you’ll know the ability to focus is not there. If she starts finishing the work, you’ll know the desire wasn’t there before. πŸ™‚

GJ: Also wanted to agree with B and others – don’t do the work for her. At some point in time you may want her to start doing some/all of her homework, and if you’ve been doing it for her, it will be a hard habit to break. Plus, you have 3 other children – unless you want to do h/w for all 4, I wouldn’t go there.

MT: I’ve practically bribed her — she just can’t focus. It’s just such a battle. She was 2 hours and she finally got it done and it was easy for her (easier than usual b/c she actually paid more attention in class today). It’s possible that if she can do better paying attention in class (a big issue – she’s below grade level due in large part to inattentiveness in class and poor use of class time for assignments) homework might go smoother too b/c she really will know it. But if she pays attention in class and therefore knows it, why do it again at home?! She’s a smart kid – once she “gets it”, she’s got it.

RR: MT, I can totally relate to knowing your kid is smart, but they aren’t paying attention enough and homework is difficult to sit still for. N was like that. Maturity is a huge factor here. At that age he was a lot like your daughter and now he is very good about homework, so work with the teachers, be honest, and see if she can get some extra time/more help with assistance on doing the work while she’s *in class* since she isn’t focusing as much at home. Hopefully you will have less of a battle if they can work with you on this. All kids are different. Now I have Aaron who stresses about homework and will sit and work for 1-2 hours a day on K homework because he is nervous about putting words in alphabetical order! Such a change from his brother, because he will sit still for it, but it’s STILL a stressor.

DK: maybe if she didn’t feel like she was doing school ALL the time, she could focus better on school when she was there. maybe it’s just not interesting to her. maybe it’s not clicking into her preferred learning style. maybe she needs her learning chunked into smaller pieces with play breaks in between. maybe she just needs to be able to stand up in the back of the room and wiggle instead of having to sit at a desk. there are so many possible reasons and so many possible solutions…

RW: I think Debby is on to something πŸ™‚ Good post DK!

FD: N has homework too and it’s not a HUGE amount but I don’t like seeing a lot of it. In grade 2 I felt Sandrine had a grossly unfair amount of math homework EVERY night. There were 8×8 grills of numbers. There would be a series of 8 numbers across the top and a series of 8 numbers down the side and she had to fill in the grill depending on if … See Moreit was adding or subtracting the numbers. But it was like…164-27 and 373+111. I felt that 64 numbers, which took literally “forever” was far too many. Once you’ve understood the concept there is no reason to do more than a few (5-10) for practice…these are NOT numbers you have to memorize like times tables. It would have made more sense to have them doing things like 550-225 because at least numbers like that relate more to money or something you are more liable to be doing in everyday life on a regular basis.

ERJ: DK knows her stuff. I’m feeling fantastically liberated having brought L home, even though he is still in “public” school through K12 (www.k12.com). Go MT!

RPW: I’ve heard great things about K12. We homeschool and use a computer based program but in the past have considered K12 at least twice. It was a hard decision to not go with it as it sounds like a fantastic program. Who knows we have a lot of years left of schooling in our family so we might just be using it one day πŸ™‚

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MT: I really appreciate your thoughtful insight on my page. I have been tempted for some time to tell C’s teacher that she will NOT be doing homework. I think I will finally stick to my guns and speak up. I think homework is ridiculous. I’m tempted to do it for L as well but as a 4th grader, I think some homework is expected but on days when he just can’t handle it, I don’t make him do it, tell his teacher he was agitated and she doesn’t give a consequence for incomplete work.

DK: when it becomes a point of agitation, no learning is happening. that’s when it’s time to call it quits. there is something to be learned from working hard and pushing through tasks that you don’t want to do… but when they are this young, that is not the lesson they are getting. focus on making learning fun, and everything else falls into place.

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MT: *sigh* If C’s classroom work ethic is anything like her homework ethic, no wonder she’s not meeting grade level standards due to incomplete work/unattentiveness in class. She did her 1st homework page in 5 min at 3:30. From 3:35 – 5:15 it’s been hop up, me “Show me your completeted homework”, C “I’m not done”, …back to her seat; hop up, “Show me….” . She’s still not done and supper is in 14 minutes.

HT: I never would have thought she and E would be so similar. E doesn’t say her work is done. But she tries to talk me out of it, put it off, loses her pencil 80 time, has several meltdowns, about related and completely unrelated topics and so on. Work that she could do in less than half an hour can take hours. Teacher sends me notes home saying E gets off task and needs extra time for her work. She misses snack every day. I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.

MT: I’ve asked for a SAT (Student Assistant Meeting) at the school and I’m going to have her assessed in case she’s got ADD or something like that. Kindergarten was all review for her since she learned it all the year before in Montessori. Now 1st grade work is truly new to her so I don’t think she realized that unlike K, she was going to actually be challenged this year!

DK: this is why homework, especially in primary grades, is evil. it sets up an adversarial relationship between parent and child, putting the parent in the role of “enforcer”. they’ve already been in school all day, away from their parent, and then they are asked to do even more. there is no real learning taking place with busy work worksheets, except that learning isn’t fun, that school is hard, and that parents are mean. the number of homework minutes is an arbitrary setting put forth by bureaucrats that are about as far from the student as it is possible to be while flying in the face of everything we now know about how children learn.

to quote a friend, who is probably the most brilliant educator I know, “People are thinking about the benefits of standardization, assessment and locking things down, just like they do in K-12 education. The effect will be the same. Innovation and high quality learning experiences will be exchanged for standardized, “safe” learning that informs rather than inspires, and trains rather than challenges. We’d say that education is the “lighting of a fire” rather than the “filling of a bucket”, but hey — fire is dangerous and difficult to control. Filling buckets is safe, easy, and doesn’t require as much skill or work. Oh, and it’s so easy to measure and account for.”

He was referring to college education, but he is right on target. When are we going to say enough is enough?


DK: and… instead of saying the system is broken or that something is wrong with it, we test our kids, label our kids, and medicate our kids, when all they are really wanting to do is BE kids!

I’m sorry… but I see this all too often. In 1st grade, the only outcomes should be that she is excited about learning, curious about how things work, and wondering about the world around her. If she can come out of formal education without having that killed, she will be successful at whatever she decides to do.

I posted this link this morning. You might be interested. Β http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/opinion/02engel.html

DM: DK, my husband and I really agree with your comment and especially the part about people never look @ the system and just start testin and saying our kids have add..i wonder if my school admin/mother had taken time in elem. to help me instead of just sayin I have add and stuff if I would have a better exp in school!

RK: the montesssori method is THE best ever. it just cannot be done, unfortunately, in a public school environment. kids learn at their own pace and that should be fine– either that or coming up with new and innovative ways to teach other than standardized. teaching can be generalized, but at most times needs to be individualized. ok, i’m done for now, ahem

RR: Wow, your friend DK is RIGHT ON. N and A are in an IB school (it’s across the street, the public school in our district) and the homework is borderline ridiculous.

DK: RR, this is where I disagree. Montessori, or methods similar CAN be done… but they can’t be measured, not easily anyhow. we are filling pails when we should be lighting fires… and our society is feeling the effects. i am a professional educator, involved at all levels from K through graduate school… so i know what is out there. we do NOT have to do it this way… but parents either don’t get involved, or they don’t think they have a choice, or they aren’t willing to take a stand because the “professionals” and “experts” must know better than they do what is best for their children. Time to take a stand πŸ™‚

RR: So DK, when you say parents either aren’t getting involved or aren’t taking a stand, what exactly can we do? Aside from my voting power, and my power within the classroom that my child is involved in (which most years has meant *nothing*) what can I do?

MS: it’s only first grade…

ES: Does her homework actually count for anything? E’s does not – not at all – so my enthusiasm has waned and we don’t devote as much time and care to it as we did last year when it actually mattered.

DK: you can do what i do… i let the teachers know that I think homework is dumb from the get go. You can opt out of standardized testing (yes, you do have that right). You can educate yourself about how learning happens and about educational theory so that you can talk intelligently to your children’s teachers and offer alternatives. you can attend school board meetings, write letters to legislators, talk to other parents. you can connect up with progressive educators via FB and Twitter and help hook up your school principal with them so they can see that there are other ways to do things. you can look at alternative ways to educate your kids, be it charter school, homeschool, or private school. you can refuse to settle for substandard busy work just because there is a required number of minutes. you can make family activities a priority even when the school complains that they are missing critical “seat time”. The reality is that they are missing out on $$ every day your kid is gone and that’s what really matters these days.

Keep in mind, that for the most part, the teachers are dedicated professionals who are locked into a system that they don’t have any say in and they stay because they love the children and they love teaching. I love both schools my kids are in. The teachers are wonderful, the principals are fantastic. But they are locked in. An example happened last fall when my son got a letter from the district proclaiming him on the verge of being truant. The principal even called to apologize ahead of time because she knew it was stupid but her hands were tied. Mind you, he is student body president, got a perfect score on the state math test, has earned over 200 points to date on accelerated reading, at the age of 10 knows about kelvin temperatures… etc… and missed school 3 times (twice for family events and once to go to the laser lab with his stepdad where he learned how a scanning electron microscope works, not from a book, but from visiting a real one and trying it out).

When stuff like that happens, you just shake your head, make whatever excuses you need to to be “official”, and do what is best for your kids anyhow. YOU are the parent and YOU are the expert on your kid. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

DD: Wow, US school systems are so much the same and so different from Canadian ones. The “locked in” feeling applies to a great many schools which is why there are alternatives, especially for those students who don’t fit into the mould. When I speak with parents about inattention I let them know what I do in the classroom that works and what doesn’t and try to find out what works at home.

It’s the same with my daughter who is so slow to physically move from one thing to another that it drives me nuts. Each day when we get to school, I drop her at her locker, go put my lunch into the staff room fridge and the chat in the office. By the time I’ve gone back through the hallway, she might have put her backpack in her bag, but more likely she’s just got her jacket barely off and spoken with each child on their way through and will be last in the class even if she’s been the first in the school. Life doesn’t always work out for our children the way we would hope they would and the way we try to direct it.

Good luck with “homework”, MT.

RK: DK, thank you. i totally agree. i see too many parents leaving it up to the educators to “bring up” their children and then getting upset wheen that child fails. it is definite teamwork and there are options that parents are ignorant to (my opinion) that they should be paying attention to!

MT: I think I might just tell C’s teacher – assuming she’s not graded on her homework – that she’s not doing it anymore b/c it’s not worth the trouble. If she is graded on it, then I will do her homework so she can get points for turning it in. It probably just says points for it being turned in, not that it has to be done by the student. DK, you give us much food for thought. Thanks for taking the time to speak so well on this subject. I wish I had the time to attend meetings but I just don’t but I can write a darned good letter!

DK: it’s one of those “soapbox” issues that i get just a little passionate about (i’m sure you couldn’t tell!). i see what happens to a college student who has come through 12 years of public education wanting to know what they need to know to pass the test… but not knowing how to be a critical thinker or creative problem solver. they are so worried about the “grade” they can’t let themselves enjoy the learning. they focus on the end goal, the degree, and lose sight of the fact that the real journey, and the real learning, happens along the way. it’s the process that really matters, not the end result. We live in a town that has the highest number of PhDs per capita in the country (or so I’ve been told) but we can’t find enough qualified scientists and engineers to fill open positions, because we are training the curiosity and sense of adventure right out of our kids.

My constant question these days is “do I try to effect change from within the system, or do I go in the direction I know is right and take my kids with me?” I’ll let you know when I figure that one out πŸ˜‰

HRF: I have two truant kids, thanks to a camping trip and a family trip to Disneyland. We too got the letter in the mail and an apologetic call from the principal. We were –><– close to pulling them out and home schooling, but are now exploring loopholes in the system. Because we will do it again. I’m hoping to take another day trip to Disney later in the month and we’re hoping to make it to Yosemite this year. We want to see as much of California as we can before we move away. And Disneyland is fun, and wonderful together time. :oP

I am so done with homework. Again today, C, who is also in first grade, had to figure out that a poor line drawing of a house with a bunch of diagonal lines around it meant sleet, a guy in a bed with an arrow pointing under him was sheet, a jacket with tick marks was tweed, a girl crying was weep, a round dial with number counting by tens was speed, etc. How is this for their benefit, when I obviously have to feed him the answers? And every Thursday, Rayne gets a word search, which is always 30 minutes of frustration and little learning.

DK: make sure to tell Mrs. C the Homework Rebellion was all my idea. I’m sure she’ll roll her eyes and say “oh my” lol!

HRF: Oh, and I missed the guy climbing the mountain (steep) and a guy on a bench with birds and dots around him (feed). Whee!

HRF: MT, homework will be graded on the report card (O-S-N), but I don’t really know how getting an N will impact her in the long run. I mean, it’s not like they’ll keep her back, you know? I suppose there might be a notation in the dreaded file, but I don’t think that not turning in first grade homework will keep her out of a good university. ;o)

DD: Holy crap you guys have crazy homework to do. Ours are spelling tests of high frequency words where there is no guessing what the words are “supposed” to be. I don’t even give my students homework at all. I expect them to finish the work I assign in class and if they don’t, they can either work with me on it at lunch time, after school or with their parents at home. Only a very few have to do this and they have distinct learning difficulties (one is designated).

I wish you all luck in your negotiating of your school districts and school requirements, but I’m of the idea that homework should be reading and spelling and numeracy practice in the lower grades and nothing else and that in itself should consist of very few math questions, two little books to read together and one list of 10 spelling words per week. And for me, that starts in grade 2.

My daughter is in kindergarten and I told her teacher that I am not able to focus on her school work at home as I have far to much to do with determining where and how we are going to live for the next three months. He let me know that he will take care of her education at school as long as I take care of HER at home. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing as parents? about an hour ago

DD: Would someone please explain this truancy thing to me.

DK: excellent point HRF! it’s not like they look at 1st grade transcripts at Harvard! I’m currently reading a book called College Without High School that discusses the idea of skipping high school altogether and designing learning experiences that are much more relevant and meaningful (http://www.collegewithouthighschool.com/).

A few months ago, I wrote a note on this subject (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=159320913109) that links to several good resources to make you think. There is an article about the conundrum of blaming the teachers for the problem and then forcing them to be the solution, as well as discussion an Education Week article that talks about what happens when our kids grow up overly-scripted. I have a PDF of that one since it’s not available online. If you read the note and are interested, just send me an email and I’ll share.

As you can see… I think about this subject a lot πŸ˜€

HRF: Three unexcused absences in a school year = truant. The only excused absences are for illness, a medical appointment, a death in the family or a religious observance.

HRF: Also, there is something to do with three days of being 30 minutes late or more late in a year, but I don’t know if three lates = 1 day, or three lates = truant.

DK: yeah… 3. I asked the principal is she really thought my kid was going to learn more sitting in a classroom than hanging out with a PhD physicist playing with multimillion $$ microscopes… and she knew I was right. my kids are going to have LOTS of out of town medical appointments this year πŸ˜‰

DD, you said “He let me know that he will take care of her education at school as long as I take care of HER at home. Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing as parents?”


DD: Thanks for the info. We definitely do not have truancy like that in BC. If we wish to take our children out of school for trips, we simply have to inform the school and then check and see parts of the curriculum they will be working on and then we head out. If a child is ill for a long time, they might need to have extra time in the summer to complete the work or have tutoring to help them catch up, but we don’t generally penalize them or their family for it. Wow. about an hour ago

DD: This is quite the hot topic eh?

DK: The school loses money for every day a kid isn’t sitting in the classroom. It has nothing to do with learning, what’s best for the kid, or family… it has to do simply with budgeting issues. The priority is messed up.

HRF: I said late too many times. Blargh! Please edit mentally. :oP

DK: lol… i do have a tendency to stir things up a little… you should have seen how many responses my post on which way to hang the roll of toilet paper ended up with!

DD: Thankfully as far as funding goes, we are given so much money per student at the beginning of the school year (Oct 1) and then we budget accordingly. We aren’t penalized financially as a district for missed days at school. We do have enough difficulties with the province cutting funding and then saying “but we’ve increased our spending on education and it’s the biggest budget yet” They neglect to tell you that they are spending money creating standardized tests that no teacher in her right mind enjoys giving and that they are also spending money on closing schools and amalgamating districts. Ah the joys of politics.

DK: my opinion on standardized testing is that it will only work when we have standard teachers and standard kids. cramming a standardized curriculum on individual children put together in an arbitrary groups (by age, not by ability) doesn’t really work. the middle will do fine, the lowest will fall behind, and the advanced will be bored to tears. the test scores are only an easily skewed set of statistics that might describe a population as a whole, but never a child as an individual.

DD: Standardized tests in math may work but only as a snap shot of the moment and should never be used to determine which schools are “better” than others. They are especially unfair when you test a child from the Nas Valley in a Reserve school with the same English essay question you give to a student in the dowtown lower east side of Vancouver (skid row area) to a student in West Vancouver (richest place in BC). The questions are irrelevant to the lives the students are leading unless it is simply to answer the question in a way which gets the student into the right university which won’t come for years in many cases, if ever. Sorry, the rant continues.

DK: lol… yes… just one more reason standardized tests are dumb…

MS: rant away DD – i completely agree! and I don’t even know you…but here in NYC, the mayor blathers on and on about test scores…it bores me to tears! and yet our kids are subjected to it…Β lets teach to the middle…lets lower the bar…then kids “pass” the test…whatever that means…and our elected officials wipe their hands…

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