Moms and Dads on a Mission–Denver, North Carolina

Today’s guest blogger, Deidra Hewitt, lives in Denver, North Carolina, where she has two children in a public elementary school. A stay-at-home mom with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and who took eight Masters classes in Early Childhood Education, she “would prefer that my children’s school stick to educating them. I do not feel that my children’s school has to educate me in the art of parenting, or that I should be doing half of my children’s teaching, at home!”

I once wrote about those pesky contracts that teachers expect parents to sign, but I never really noticed how many signatures teachers request, perhaps because elementary school is now a distant memory for me. Deidra gave me something new to think about.

My Children’s Teachers Require My Signature
More than 400 Times a Year
by Deidra Hewitt, Denver, North Carolina

I’d like to know when signatures on pieces of paper became equated to proof of good parenting. My children attend a public elementary school. I am required to provide between 400 and 500 signatures, per child, per year. For all of the chatter about parents being “partners” in their children’s education, and how many times we’re “invited” to “support” our kids in various ways, this is clearly not the case, when the school is requiring, not requesting, my signature.

I was informed this year, that the policy for my 5th grader included punishment for him, if I forgot or refused to sign things like planners, reading logs, and Friday folders. Apparently it doesn’t matter whether I agree with the policies, find them effective for my family, or see specific requests as redundant. Regardless of how involved I am in my child’s school and life, a signature is regarded as proof positive that I’m doing my job. If I don’t want to sign something, then my child will suffer the consequences.

I am treated like an errant student who must prove to the big, all-wise, all-knowing school that I’m aware of my children’s homework, make sure that they read, and look at their completed work. Not to mention the contract that I’m supposed to sign, at the beginning of the year, promising that I’ll do my job to provide a good home environment, and adequate rest for the children!

Of course the school kindly has the teacher sign that he/she will do the job that they’re being paid for, with my tax money. Isn’t that something that I ought to be able to take for granted?

I have worked with the principal to agree not to punish my child, if a signature is missing this year. My son will not face consequences (pulled slips, silent lunch, non-participation in Fun Friday) by not having a parent signature, but I still feel dejected and disappointed with the fact that the policy remains in place, at all. I have no voice in my school, and certainly do NOT feel like a partner with them.

86 Comments on “Moms and Dads on a Mission–Denver, North Carolina”

  1. Gretchen says:

    I would totally spend the money to get one of those self-inking stamps with my signature, and send it in with the kid to just stamp it as it comes. Might prove the real value of all those sigs.

    September 22nd, 2009 at 9:18 am
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  2. miriam says:

    I’ve been worrying about school ever since I THOUGHT about getting pregnant. I’m crossing my fingers that I can find a place that isn’t too rule-bound when the time comes. Homework for kindergartners, obsessive handwashing, reading logs, homework folders…. ARGH!

    September 22nd, 2009 at 10:04 am
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  3. Dawn says:

    Why make a big deal of signing stuff? I’m totally on board with the homework concerns….but I don’t get why you would care or not care about being asked to sign something.

    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:24 pm
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  4. PsychMom says:

    Signing 10 times during the school year for various things seems reasonable. 400 does not.

    If the parent is supposed to sign things as an indication of “correct” parental behaviour/responsibility as decided by the school or board, then I would have serious disagreement with this as well.

    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:45 pm
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  5. DeidraHewitt says:

    Gretchen…My husband and I actually discussed a signature stamp. We ended up deciding to take a stand, instead. We couldn’t reinforce a policy, which we believe is inherently wrong. Dawn…I’m not being ASKED to sign things. I am being FORCED to sign things. The policy is that, even if a parent simply FORGETS to sign something, the children are punished! Miriam…Good luck! PsychMom (I feel more like a Psycho mom these days!)…Thanks for your support. 🙂

    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:08 pm
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  6. DeidraHewitt says:

    I forgot to mention the weekly reading assignment, for my 5th grader. It’s a passage, which he reads aloud to me, followed by comprehension questions, which I am supposed to assist him with. Then, there is a signature line for my son and myself, following the phrase, “We completed this assignment together.” If I do not sign this paper, it is considered an incomplete assignment. Not only is my son receiving homework from this school, they are actually assigning homework to ME!

    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:15 pm
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  7. PsychMom says:

    This goes beyond the pale Deidra. I would not sign it and I would be calling the teacher/principal soon to arrange another appointment. That is clearly unethical. First what are we teaching children! The children are placed in a bind in which they have no escape. This creates depression in the long run…punishment from which there is no escape is a recipe for depression.

    Second why on earth would it be the parent’s responsibility to do homework? I take it you graduated from elementary school?

    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:29 pm
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  8. DeidraHewitt says:

    PsychMom…I couldn’t agree more. I have not been signing these, but have listened to my son read the passages. The poor child has done every part of the assignments, over which he has control, but both his teacher and principal consider them incomplete, without my signature. When the teacher offers rewards to the children who have completed this assignment, my son is passed over. It breaks my heart for him, but we have discussed it, and he understands that people have to stand up for what they believe in. I have told him that I will buy the butterscotch candies that are given out, and give him one, myself…ridiculous!! It simply astounds me that a school can get away with blackmailing a parent, with consequences to a child. I am considering a letter to the Board/Superintendent.

    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:52 pm
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  9. PsychMom says:

    In this day and age, that such blatant cruelty can go on is astounding to me. Grade 5…so he’s 10? Do they still strap kids at that school? Force left handers to write with their right hand?

    I’m not a big supporter of Non-competition in all aspects of childhood. I think kids need to learn how to lose and win games graciously. But at least in a game, it’s usually a level playing field. Everyone has an equal or at least some chance at a prize.

    But this handing out of candies to the kids who have obedient, non-thinking, non-questioning parents (the most rational descriptors I could come up with) is really too much.

    All you child has is you…you have to stand up for him and for you and his father. This is insulting.

    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:14 pm
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  10. PsychMom says:

    Sorry, All your child has is you..

    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:15 pm
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  11. FedUpMom says:

    Deidra — that is beyond outrageous. A child misses a reward because his parents didn’t sign something?

    One of the many things that baffles me about schools these days is how they run exactly counter to accepted standards of middle-class parenting. Don’t we have a consensus these days that children shouldn’t be punished for events they can’t control?

    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:30 pm
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  12. TheGuestTeacher says:

    Deidra, thank you for sharing your signature blues. This post should at least serve as a wake up call to better identifying the purpose behind some of the things we do out of tradition vs. meaningful reason subconscious routine not really recognizing any purpose behind what could be possibly a good cause. I’m up for change. @laroncarter

    September 22nd, 2009 at 7:16 pm
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  13. DeidraHewitt says:

    Wow…thank you, Guest Teacher! I’ve often wondered why the teachers support signing contracts themselves, and spending so much time verifying signatures. You represent one teacher on board for change, which is certainly better than none. I have spent 5 years on the PTO board, chaperoned field trips, monitored the reading lab, helped out with parties, and baked for teacher appreciation days. To me, these things represent true parent participation. It simply baffles me that blind signatures equate to participation, or communication. Thanks for your comment.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 5:23 am
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  14. HomeworkBlues says:

    Rewards for signing? What is going on? This rules-based rigid environment bent on compliance and submission they call an education has no place in 21st century America. This is beyond backwards.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 8:18 am
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  15. Sue says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. The “contracts” and “agreements” are coming home in droves from our elementary school: sign this code of conduct, sign this homework agreement form, sign that you watched your child do the homework, sign that the homework was done, sign that you participated. All the while I am thinking WHOSE HOMEWORK IS IT ANYWAY?? I have this terrible feeling that all we are doing is producing children who equate academic success with intense parental involvement, without which they are clueless. The night comes when you have a migraine or another child is ill or something more urgent requires your time, and you turn to your child and say, “Please do your homework now.” And they can’t start. They don’t know what to do. And within seconds comes the plaintive cry, “I need helllllp!”

    Homework should be relevant to the work that is going on in the classroom. It should be between the student and teacher with minimal parental supervision. AND it should be age-appropriate with the goal of giving the child a sense of accomplishment! If they can’t get past opening the folder, if they constantly need hellllllllp, something is wrong.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 10:25 am
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  16. Potrero Hill Mom says:

    I hear your frustration and I feel for you. This exercise with the signatures is not geared towards you or your family. Just by writing this piece (or even reading it for that matter), you demonstrate your own intelligence and commitment to your child’s education. This signature ritual is geared to the family who is not involved in their child’s education. There are no rewards, but rather punishment (of withholding a fun activity) for non-compliance. This may seem a bit backwards, but it is the only way to engage some parents, by getting the child to force the signature and acknowledge that there are things coming home from school.

    This practice is annoying for sure. But perhaps you could just get that stamp and think about all of the parents that this practice might be forcing to interact with their kids and their education.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:01 am
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  17. FedUpMom says:

    Potrero Hill Mom — this is exactly the same conversation we had about reading logs.

    The parents who are already engaged are not helped in any way by requiring signatures. And really, what good comes of “forcing” (interesting verb, btw) involvement from the unengaged parents?

    There’s a larger issue here — so much of school in general seems explicitly designed for the low-average child of uninvolved parents. How does the bright child of involved parents benefit from this? School should benefit every student.

    How about the bright child of uninvolved parents? She’ll figure out how to fake her mother’s signature.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:12 am
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  18. Jackie Wall-Mielcarski says:

    I have to comment– I so agree with you. I liked the idea for the self-inking stamp in comment #1…..

    Get this– my gal-friend and I were talking about the fact that her daughters’ 8th grade teacher is basing a grade on the parental participation on a few homework assignments and a project.– What?

    Na-uh! “Time to go up the chain”, I heavily suggested to her (as my twins are in 4t grade- and I want this grading policy stopped before they get to 8th).

    I already received my grades when I was in school – thank you.- and I have all I can to keep up with all those signatures.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:15 am
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  19. DeidraHewitt says:

    Well stated, Sue. It’s comforting to me, that there are people out there, who can see my point. I also agree that I want my children to be independent learners. Ordinarily, I feel very much alone. I truly wish that more people would speak up. Maybe there are people who actually enjoy signing 500 items for school. At the very least, I believe that parents should be given the choice, whether to participate, in these policies. I certainly find it inherently wrong, that children should be held responsible for anything, but their own work.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 1:23 pm
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  20. HomeworkBlues says:

    “I was informed this year, that the policy for my 5th grader included punishment for him, if I forgot or refused to sign things like planners, reading logs, and Friday folders.”

    My daughter, in a gifted talented center, brought home a “contract” for me to sign third day of second grade. We had just moved to a new house, I was overwhelmed, so I put the paper aside for photocopying. I was having trouble setting up my copier in the new place, so perfectionist me who seems to think she needs a copy of this, tells daughter she’ll give it back in a few days. Daughter asks again the next day, I tell her, wait, not ready yet.

    Signed it three days later, too late. Yes, it begs the question, why did you sign it at all, but that’s another discussion. She got an F, went right on her grade sheet, factored into her report card grade. Never mind that this entire grades obsession rankles me. But an F because Mom forgot to hand the sheet back to daughter? Not an F for poor performance or weakness in a subject but an F because I didn’t sign some bloody contract! This is as hiliarious as it is outrageous.

    Why must I sign the darn thing? So the teacher knows I read it? I read it! Does this teacher have nothing better to do than spend time asking for signatures, reminding the students to remind their parents, collecting them, and then administering punishment to those who didn’t come through? NO WONDER such precious little gets done during the school day.

    I have a very simple request. I want the teachers to teach. I want the schools to teach. We’ve had many discussions here of good practices, bad practices. But when we strip away all the extras and the very real reform we need, when we pare it down to the very brass tacks, at the very least, just teach! It’s the most basic request I have and the rest comes later. Just teach! Don’t waste my kid’s time. Don’t waste your time.

    Stop using up all of your precious classroom time collecting forms. Schools have the audacity to squander vast blocks of time and then punish the kids when it doesn’t then get done at home.

    In 7th grade, her middle school did not have block scheduling. Which means the teacher had 45 minutes. It’s bad enough that so much time is gobbled up by homework administration; assigning, collecting, reviewing, disciplining, punishing, rewarding. Now we have to stop and collect contracts all day too.

    That’s the real secret, you know. Homework isn’t about teaching responsibility or showing the parents what the kid did in school all day. Especially since a lot of my child’s homework didn’t connect to the school day anyway, it was independent work. Homework is school at home because school is busy doing other things.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 2:31 pm
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  21. HomeworkBlues says:

    Third day of SEVENTH grade, meant to write. Oy!

    September 23rd, 2009 at 2:32 pm
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  22. DeidraHewitt says:

    Wow, HomeworkBlues! I don’t know WHAT I’ll do, if this signing stuff starts affecting my kid’s grades! Homeschooling is looking better, every day. With the amount of time we spend on homework, we’re practically homeschooling, as it is! I simply cannot understand how these practices can even be LEGAL. Don’t we have the right in the US to sign, or not sign, anything that we’re not legally bound to? Isn’t it an infringement on children’s rights, to have their permanent school records affected, by situations beyond their control? There is so much current noise, about government intruding on our lives, with the healthcare debate. What about the public school system, intruding on our rights, in our homes, on our time??

    September 23rd, 2009 at 2:43 pm
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  23. HomeworkBlues says:

    Deidra, yes, there comes a point at which you start asking, why am I doing this? And that is EXACTLY the conclusion I reached. Time to homeschool! I regret that although the questions and doubts began percolating years before, I didn’t take the homeschool plunge until 8th grade. People I know who homeschool (and I know plenty) will tell you they never regret removing their children from the school system, especially government run ones, they only regret not having done it sooner.

    The epiphany comes in waves. It starts with homework. You realize you are essentially homeschooling. You reach eagerly for that Friday Folder, bulging with papers, only to discover dejectedly that almost the entire folder consists of work your child did at home. With either your help or your supervision. You ask yourself, I’m sending her to school to get a grade? Because the papers contain precious few teacher comments.

    Grades drive everything. What we saw was B LATE which meant A turned in a day late (ADD, no accommodations), and occasionally, CLEVER. Wow, we couldn’t do without that, could we?

    You ask yourself, she’s in school for seven hours and does homework for five when she comes home. Wait. Homeschoolers tell me I can do the whole thing in five hours. In other words, what we are already doing but not at the end of the day when the child is tired and uncooperative. When it comes to kids, learning at their most optimal time (this would be daytime, school time) is the secret to success. No brainer, huh?

    Right now you have six or seven hours of school followed by several more at home. But unlike homeschooling, you don’t call the shots at home. In homeschooling, you don’t waste time signing forms (just why do they need all those signatures anyway? We are told they are to catch the uninvolved parents which means everyone is punished, involved or not) and figuring out how to have a voice in a voiceless “partnership.” You use your time, energy and resources to educate! It’s that simple. What are you waiting for?
    You will discover it is easier to homeschool than tussle with the school. As long as school insists on being draconian, rigid, dark and gloomy, scores obsessed, it will lose its most involved caring parents. If I were school, I’d try to stem this trickle before it swells into a flood. Right now school pretends not to care, one less child to educate. Since they still get your tax dollars, they may not care. As FedUpMom,would say, they care plenty because many of the kids who are pulled are the extreme high scorers. My child certainly was!

    I read an article in Time Magazine seven years ago that posited that homeschooling is a threat to the public school system and school ignores the growing discontent at its peril. That was seven years ago. From my vantage point, testing mania has grown more feverish, not less, school has become more oppressive, not less, more bureacratic, not less. In a time of severe budget cuts, school systems sport bloated bureaucracies and excess central staff. All the while, cutting vital services where children need it most. .And it really behaves so at its own peril. But at what point will taxpayers demand true accountability (we aren’t talking test scores) and transparency? And a real partnership?

    September 23rd, 2009 at 3:21 pm
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  24. DeidraHewitt says:

    Yes, HomeworkBlues, my kids are high achievers, too. My 5th grader is in the AIG program. It will certainly be the school’s loss, if they lose us, especially while good standardized test scores equate to funding. Believe me, right now, nothing is off of the table. My life may have taken a turn, before I could finish my Master’s in Education for a reason. Maybe I’m meant to teach my own children…we’ll see.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 3:53 pm
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  25. HomeworkBlues says:

    Deidra, try it! I am not anti-teacher. I have friends who are teachers, good ones, dedicated ones, smart ones. I just want to rid the system of the bad ones. Short of that, if I could time travel, I wouldn’t bother, I would just leave.

    What tends to raise my shackles is when a few teachers here accuse prominent commenters like me on this blog of being uninvolved, lazy, anti-education, and warning us our kids will wind up in jail if they don’t do their reading logs.

    That’s the irony. My child has always been in selective programs and we raise her in a very intellectual home. But there are two environments I cannot stomach any longer. The rigid compliant-obsessed classroom and the hyper-competitive high achieving culture we find ourselves in.

    I know of a way to educate, excite and stimulate my child in a way that doesn’t burn a hole through my wallet, burn her out, or drain her of her creativity, love of learning, imagination and wonder. I’m not looking for an easy class that is more day care than learning and I also don’t like her killer school. I chuckle wryly at our solomonic choices, bored to death or worked to death. Both choices are bankrupt.

    Homeschoolling allows you to challenge your child to their fullest without burning them out. For example, my child’s academic passions are reading, math, art and writing, to name a few. So we ran with that. She was thirteen, loved to read, had been reading high quality literature all her life, I was distressed school had only done four novels the previous year, so we read a lot that homeschool year. No reading logs needed!

    If your child loves to read but the hacking up the novel approach became onerous, eliminate it. Throw out pointless assignments. If your son loves to read, for example, keep reading. Discuss the book and move on to another. This business that they might read but don’t comprehend, hence the tedious questions, doesn’t carry weight with me. No child is going to be engrossed in a book for four hours without coming up for air if the book didn’t captivate her. If she wasn’t comprehending it, she’d either give up or come to you with questions. You don’t have to make her stop reading and answer questions during the entire book experience.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 4:59 pm
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  26. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUpMom writes: “One of the many things that baffles me about schools these days is how they run exactly counter to accepted standards of middle-class parenting.”

    Isn’t all this behaviorist punishment/reward cycle a little dated? There’s been SO much research on the negative effects of this type of conditioning that it boggles my mind that teachers still resort to it. The data isn’t exactly new, I started reading Alfie Kohn fourteen years ago. Kohn too progressive for you? There are countless others, David Elkind and Carol Dweck among them. C’mon, guys, get with the program. Come on in. The 20th Century awaits you!

    September 23rd, 2009 at 7:18 pm
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  27. DeidraHewitt says:

    I dug back out the “survival guide”, that I received, for my 5th grader’s class this year. This guide discusses planners, as a means for children to record their homework, to keep themselves organized, and to allow for communication, between parent and teacher. It encourages the children to “include their parents on what they are doing for homework.” It goes on to state that, “When you have them sign your planner, it is to be a signature indicating they are aware of what your assignments are and that you completed them.”

    The guide also reads, “Each morning the Planner Monitor will check to see if your homework assignments were neatly and properly recorded and that your planner has been signed by your parent. An unsigned planner will result in a pulled slip.”

    Three things stood out to me, when reading about these planners…1: If a student “Planner Monitor” is going to be viewing my child’s planner, the planner is no longer a communication tool, between myself and the teacher, as my privacy is compromised. 2: If I don’t sign the planner, my child is punished. 3. I’m signing for no other reason, than to prove that I’m parenting, in the manner approved by the school. Obviously, if the homework comes back finished, it’s complete, right??

    The guide goes on to mention Friday folders and Reading Logs. It states, “Every Friday I will send home a red work folder. Included in this will be notes from PTO, any newsletters, community flyers, UnitedScrip forms, and of course, any graded work. This folder needs to be returned on Monday, with the reading log. There will be a place for your parents to sign, indicating that they’ve seen your work and the reading log.”

    There is a place to sign, on the Friday folder, to indicate that I’ve looked over the graded work. A signature must be filled in, for each day, M-F, on the reading log, before it is turned in. Again, by their own admission, I am signing, for no other reason, than to prove to my children’s school, that I’ve looked at my children’s work. Why is this o.k.?

    September 23rd, 2009 at 7:28 pm
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  28. Anonymous says:

    Ok Wow….

    Who am I? I am a mom, an aunt, a referee, a nurse, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a cheerleader, a family counselor, a nutritionist, a chaperone, a student, a taxi, a bank, a family, and a good listener. Put them all together and you can figure out who I am. I am a member of the finest profession in the universe. I am a teacher. I wouldn’t change my profession for anything — not even the winning lottery numbers. I have worked in the public sector — earning MUCH more money. But nothing could be more rewarding than what I do.
    Reading the whining and complaining in this blog was infuriating. None of this is about you — it’s about your child and the one he sits next to in class. Your child is lucky. He has a parent who loves him and takes care of him and keeps him safe. I wish to God all of my students were so lucky. The policies in place in your school were created to help the children who need someone else looking out for them. In requesting your signature they are also pushing the parent who would otherwise not even glance at their child’s work to do so! Is is really so much to ask of you? Would you prefer that the teacher say, “John, Ann, Shalanda — you don’t need your homework signed. But, Lorie, Ilmar, Marissa, Jessica and Frank — get your papers signed. It’s the only way I can be sure your good for nothing parents will take two seconds out of their lives to sign their names!” Would that make you happy?
    Again your children are fortunate. Please understand that your school system is desperately trying to get other parents to step up and do their job! Please stop being part of the problem and understand that your district is really trying to even the playing field for the kids who are not so loved.
    I have taught in the elementary, middle school and now the high school level. It would break your heart if you witnessed some of the hurt I have seen. I’ll give you just two. Last year, one of my seniors visited several colleges. She was very exited about Sacred Heart University. She was so excited when she was accepted — it was all she could talk about. Fast forward to three days before graduation. Her down payment for her tuition was due. Her parents told her they wouldn’t be helping her — they couldn’t afford it! (She did not qualify for scholarships because her parents made too much money). Well, this lovely young lady is working at Dairy Queen while all of her friends are in college. WOULD ANY OF YOU DO THIS TO YOUR CHILD? NO! OF COURSE NOT. Another of my students was dating a boy her mother didn’t like. So, her mother threw her out of the house – gave her the $1500. she had saved for her daughters college fund — and told her she didn’t care what she did with it!
    Shall I continue and tell you about the prom bids, yearbooks, cap and gowns my husband and I have paid for over the years????

    Wake up. A signature is NOTHING. But if the policy helps EVEN ONE CHILD it is worth it. Don’t you think??

    I feel a little better now.

    BTW if you think you can do a better a job than your child’s teacher – why don’t you get your degree (plus a masters) and do it.

    If you can read and comprehend this – thank a teacher and your parents.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 9:16 pm
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  29. zzzzz78759 says:

    Anonymous Teacher, you certainly sound bitter about your career. Why do you continue?

    It’s not really a teacher’s business what goes on in families. In fact, I have recently had such a busy-body teacher tell my daughter she needed to get more sleep at night, was too old to sleep with her mother, needed to stop sucking her fingers to go to sleep, and wasn’t allowed to have her mother read to her anymore. It’s all none of her business and I told her so. She does not know anything about my daughter and the statements hurt her badly. I will not allow that to happen again.

    What really galled me, though was this statement:

    “Please understand that your school system is desperately trying to get other parents to step up and do their job! ‘

    The school system is most definitely NOT trying to get parent’s to do their job. They’re trying to get parent’s to do the teachers’ jobs. I already have a job, thank you. I have two, actually.

    I have a job that pays the rent, puts food on the table, clothes on my child’s back, and let’s us have a little fun now and then. I work between 50 and 60 hours a week.

    My second job is that of a parent. A parent’s job is to teach my child to be an honest, caring, productive member of society. It’s my job to love her, feed her, teach her right from wrong, wash her clothes, keep her healthy, be an advocate for my child, and a myriad of other things.

    Frankly, I don’t have time to teach my child to read, spell, write, learn geography, science, and math. That’s what my taxes pay the teachers to do.

    Every piece of paper my daughter brings to school has to be signed. Her daily folder also has to be signed. Her “Wednesday folder”, which contains a bunch of propaganda from the school (PTA newsletter, advertisements for assorted extra curricular activities, join us for the run/walk/bike-a-thon for assorted diseases), her “Friday Folder” which contains the mountain of busy work papers she’s done in school.

    I provide a MINIMUM of 12 signatures a week.

    All that in addition to the yearly “contract” (I refused to sign it), the promise to return library books (seriously), the “yes, I live in this neighborhood” paper (along with a copy of my lease or utility bill), the paper that says how my daughter will get home from school, the one that says how she’ll get to school, and my personal favorite, the promise to “go green” by recycling and not printing out email.

    My daughter is in second grade and the school can’t even make sure she takes a vegetable with her lunch. Where’s their culpability?

    The issue isn’t the time it takes but the distrust from the teacher and the schools. They are, in fact, assigning me homework and punishing my child if I don’t complete it.

    As for this statement, “if you think you can do a better a job than your child’s teacher – why don’t you get your degree (plus a masters) and do it.” I, for one, have the degree. You don’t need a Masters (that’s a proper noun – I know, grammar flames are wrong) to teach. I stopped teaching not because I didn’t like it (in fact, I loved it), but because, at the time, it didn’t pay enough for me to support my family.

    Now it’s different, with teachers making as much or more than I do AND getting birthday, holiday, and end of the year “gifts” totaling hundreds of dollars per event, working second jobs over the summer, getting bonuses for furthering their educations (as well as funding for the continuing education costs and paid time off) and “raises” for high test scores.

    I have nothing against teachers. I was one and come from a long line of teachers. I still have many teachers in my family. What I do have a problem with is the bureaucracy involved in our schools today and the expectation that I do the teacher’s job if she’s not competent enough to do it herself.

    FWIW, no teacher taught me to read. My father did, simply by letting me sit on his lap on Sunday mornings and reading the Sunday Comics to me. I was reading and doing math (including multiplication and division) long before I even started school. He learned to read the same way.

    Maybe what’s missing is that comfortable learning environment as opposed to the high stress environment children are thrust into now.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 10:40 pm
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  30. HomeworkBlues says:

    zzzzz writes: “The issue isn’t the time it takes but the distrust from the teacher and the schools. They are, in fact, assigning me homework and punishing my child if I don’t complete it.”

    Anonymous, this is a seminal point. It’s not the TIME it takes to sign a reading log, it’s the distrust and the disdain. It posits that parents are such idiots that they would never think to read to their child or instill in them a passion for reading unless the government told them to do so. You will counter that such parents do exist. But as FedUpMom said earlier, why must you always default to the lowest common denominator? And then harshly scold the very parents here who are involved and intellectual.

    Anonymous, I listened to your bromide about how kids must learn to do boring things now so they can do boring things later. We’ve mined that concept extensively on this blog already. A teacher actually said that to me after I sent a very carefully crafted and yes, respectful, email with concerns that a particular assignment was doing damage. I was careful and diplomatic. The response was vitriolic and disdainful. It disregarded my entire premise, that the assignment was turning off my heretofore passionate language arts kid to vocabulary.

    In her private school, the wonderful 4th grade teacher managed to do both — instill a desire and still teach the material. I’ve begun to deduce that “kids must learn boring things” is code for, “I don’t much like it, so why should you?”

    Anonymous, you do exude a bitterness about what you do. I am completely sympathetic to the demands of teachers, especially in government-run schools. But from you I neither get that you love children or the very things you are supposed to teach them. No matter. You can just send it home when those lazy little brats won’t do it at school. But now the game’s up and this blog is taking on steam. I can see why you’re agitated.

    As for my lazy unmotivated kid? Wild bears cannot pull her away from her homework at 2am. Which begs the question — why do you want her up so late? Maybe that lazy unmotivated student is just tired. Don’t assign elementary homework, get it done at school and allow your lazy little brats to curl up with a good book all afternoon and write a novel. And actually have a meaningful conversation with their parents that is not perpetually cut short by homework. That’s all my kid wanted to do every afternoon, read read and read. And let your students get sleep. They’ll reward you by being happy, content and rested.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 10:54 pm
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  31. HomeworkBlues says:

    Oh, the heartbreaking story about the kid who couldn’t afford her dream college? That’s us. Please don’t assume we are uppity well heeled cushy parents who cannot possibly know the suffering of those less fortunate.

    We rent, not own, one car, not two, and yes, we cannot afford college. Any advice?

    So how come my kid’s so well educated? I think my husband and I can take a bow. We did a lot of this ourselves.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:02 pm
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  32. DeidraHewitt says:

    I would like to add that, on my first day of Kindergarten, my teacher asked my mother why she hadn’t mentioned that I could read. My mother was startled to hear that I was reading independently, and asked me about it. I told her that I didn’t want her to know that I knew how to read, because I was afraid she wouldn’t read to me any more. I have great respect for teachers. There are many teachers/professors in my family, and my best friend has been a teacher, for over 20 years. Teachers have sparked my interest and guided my learning over the years, as have my family, friends, and life experiences, without my mom being FORCED to sign a single thing. I don’t have a single teacher to thank for teaching me to read, though. Furthermore, if you think that those poor children, whose parents neglect them, are getting any kind of positive reinforcement, from pleading for signatures from them, I would beg to differ. I clearly have philosophical differences, with anyone who thinks it is a school’s job to make sure that parents do their job. I believe that schools should educate children, period. As for the comments about Sacred Heart University, they hit home, because I went there. It was 1983. I didn’t qualify for financial aid, but my parents did have $5000.00 saved, for my college education. This was gone, in the first semester. The rest of my education was paid for, with the money that I had earned, in my after school jobs in high school, and the jobs that I continued to work, all through college. I had to transfer to Southern CT State, after 2 years, because I simply couldn’t afford Sacred Heart. I commuted to Southern, as I had to Sacred Heart, worked, and got my degree.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:06 pm
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  33. sorry - another teacher says:

    My suggestion is that you all read that teacher’s entry again…without the anger glasses on. That teacher is not condemning you, merely indicating that you should follow the status quo without teaching your children to constantly question authority. The amount of disrespect that children give teachers is astounding, and I cannot help but think that it begins with teaching them to constantly fight against what, in the end, is there to help them. All you are asked to do is follow the rules……… You can blame those parents that do not help their children (as you do), do not read to their children (as you do) and spend no time with their children (as you do). Maybe you can use your wonderful education to help those children and perhaps all these policies will change. As for all these bonuses and rewards that you speak of, I don’t know what district you are referring to, but is it definitely not ours. As for your ability to read and do math before school. Congratulations, that is quite an accomplishment. By the way, the teacher that wrote is not bitter at all, merely frustrated at having to raise children that should be raised by their parents….again, not your children….because you care.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:28 pm
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  34. sorry - another teacher says:

    wow. never mind. clearly it is only the “other teacher” who understood what i wrote. I was attempting to show you what other kids were going through so that you would understand your role. Clearly you are so self involved that you have no empathy what so ever for the children who are less fortunate than yours.

    Don’t bother responding. I won’t read what you write. You clearly don’t care about kids who are, as I said, less fortunate than yours. i wish you and your children well.

    September 23rd, 2009 at 11:47 pm
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  35. FedUpMom says:

    Now hang on a minute. I’ve seen this same argument on the “reading logs” post, and I’m just as unimpressed there.

    It goes like this — a middle-class, involved parent objects to a school practice (reading logs, kid being punished because parent forgot to sign something.) Then a teacher writes in, conceding that, yes, this practice may be pointless for your family, but it’s necessary for those other families with uninvolved parents.

    That just doesn’t make sense. If everyone agrees that it’s pointless for my family, why should I do it? And I’m not convinced that these policies are helpful for uninvolved parents, either. Can you imagine the plight of the child who has no one to sign all this paperwork, who gets punished for it day after day, week after week? As PsychMom points out, it’s a recipe for depression.

    The bottom line is that schools need to think long and hard about how they treat parents. I have never seen a school welcome a true “partnership”, although the private school where we are now is certainly better in this regard. What I see all the time is schools treating parents with utter contempt. “Do this, do that, sign here. We will punish your child if you forget any of this.”

    And if this is how they address the parents, just imagine how they treat our children!

    September 24th, 2009 at 8:40 am
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  36. sorry - another teacher says:

    I am sorry that you just don’t get it.

    Good luck to you and yours. I am sure your children will succeed because they have you….I am just sorry for those that don’t……I guess that is why we are here.

    Doesn’t all this encourage team learning? Aren’t the teachers supposed to work with the parents to encourage the child, instead of against them?

    Maybe home-schooling is right for you. Sadly, with homeschooling your child loses out on a social education.

    September 24th, 2009 at 10:44 am
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  37. DeidraHewitt says:

    Just not sure how placing the child, whether their parent is the “involved” type, or not, into silent lunch for the day, when their parent (“involved” type, or not) forgets to sign one item, is supposed to be encouraging anyone.

    September 24th, 2009 at 10:56 am
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  38. sorry - another teacher says:

    I understand….but what do you suggest gets done?

    I admit that corporal punishment is not the solution (nor do I use it), but have you thought about what the solution is? Since this is not working for you, what do you suggest would? Keeping in mind that opting out of policy is not an option. If its policy it is across the boards.

    Should a child then be singled out and chided if they have loser parents that want no part of their education?

    I love my job, I love the kids and I love the process. I would also love it if the learning did not stop at 2:00p when the kids leave. But that is up to the parents and they are not all you.

    Don’t be part of the problem….be part of the solution. (yet another wonderful lesson to teach the kids!)

    September 24th, 2009 at 11:10 am
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  39. HomeworkBlues says:

    sorry, you say we just don’t get it. And that is the part we don’t get.

    sorry, it’s not about disagreeing. We are allowed to disagree. Before I explain, and I’ll try to encapsulate, we came to this blog initially because we were distraught, depressed, helpless and alone. This blog served two purposes for us. An ability to vent and blow off some steam with like minded folks who felt our pain, and eventually, creating discussions that search for solutions, dialogue and cooperation.

    When your child is up half the night, rubbing her eyes, trying duitfully to do what is asked of her, awakens groggy and sleep deprived and you worry yourself sick that she’s going to fall apart, and you discover a blog that gets your pain, you vent. Sometimes it’s all you can do.

    You tried for years to talk to the teachers with at best, middling success. A sympathetic teacher here, a caring one there, but overall you are fighting a mammoth bureaucracy, steeped in rigid archaic procedure with practices better suited for prisons than places of learning, forgetting that it serves the public and not the other way around.

    We get it, we get it. But there are some inalienable rights (reference to Constitution intentional!) our children must have, and on that score, I don’t see how there can even be dissent. For example, teacher, if you were to argue with me about the need for calcium, I probably wouldn’t make the time to listen to you. It’s basic, it’s inarguable, kids need calcium!

    Similarly, in this regard, there are some basic needs children MUST have. Without argument. When you strip away all the reform, there are some very basic health concerns that cannot be debated. Here they are, the view from my living room.

    1. Children need sleep. This is not up for debate. Adolescents still needs nine and a quarter hours sleep, on average. In fact, mine needs ten. On average, she’s lucky to get six. I stay up with her and I check in on her all the time. She is not IMing, texting, on the Wii, on the tv, we don’t own either.

    My husband sits next to her for hours, reading a book. She has ADD and we do our part to keep her on track. We see the homework and we know how long it takes. It’s out of control. Simply put, it has reached the level of utter absurdity. Maybe you don’t assign that much, maybe you do. But I can only give you the view from my living room. And that is how it looks over here.

    2. Kids need time to recharge their batteries. Homework on weekends, holidays and summers never ever give them a break.It is child abuse.

    3. Children must play. Children need recess.

    4. A test prep culture does not promote learning. In the words of Alfie Kohn, it’s a “bunch ‘o’ facts” method that passes for an education. It deprives children of developing their young brains to think critically.

    Let’s start with that. Children need sleep, nutrition, play, outdoors, down time, reading time, family time. THAT is what we are fighting for here. And we are surprised that *you* don’t get it.

    5. You keep saying teachers deserve respect. Can’t argue with you there. But it works both ways. You cannot have contempt for parents and expect respect and cooperation in return.

    6. I want schools to teach. Get rid of the fluff and you’ll find you have plenty of time to get it done. When you list all the non teaching tasks you must do to justify all the work sent home, those are excuses. At the end of the day, our children need an education, not excuses. Regardless of whose fault it is, and surely the administration gets a chunk of the blame, at the end of the day, our children need an education, not excuses.

    Teacher, you may argue you agree. Good! But if you assign homework overload and busy work, then you don’t agree. You are sending a mixed message.

    You go on to say: “Sadly, with homeschooling your child loses out on a social education.” As someone who has homeschooled, written articles on it and is still plugged into that community, your statement just goes to show how little you know. Homeschooled children do not miss out on socialization, that is a myth. I am here to prove you wrong. My daughter had no time to socialize in school, so saddled with homework was she, always. I became so concerned about her lack of socialization, I took her out of school so she could actually socialize!

    September 24th, 2009 at 11:11 am
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  40. DeidraHewitt says:

    Sorry: I am glad that you do not use corporal punishment. Would you mind sharing what you do, if a parent forgets to sign a planner? Also, have you discovered that the “loser parents that want no part of their child’s education” suddenly become better parents, when forced to sign planners/reading logs? Have you seen their children become better students? Please do not mistake my questions for snarkiness. I am avidly trying to research whether these policies actually help anyone. I would love to be a part of the solution. I simply believe that the solution might entail changing the current policies, if they aren’t serving anyone. I already know that they are not serving me.

    September 24th, 2009 at 11:24 am
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  41. sorry - another teacher says:

    Your argument sounds too generalized. This sounds like a district specific problem and not a general one. It makes your district sound like a penal colony, where the inmates are overworked and whipped for misbehavior. If that is the case, please know that this is not the norm. Perhaps you should look into another district

    If the students in your district are up half the night doing homework and are unable to take advantage of extra-curricular and social activities during school…there is a much bigger problem in your district and it is not the norm.

    I am all for a well-rounded education, Social and extra-curriculars are just as important as grades. Major universities are not looking for 5.0 GPAs, they are looking for future leaders. Yes, grades are important, but not the only thing.

    I would be very interested in reading your articles written on home schooling, can you post them? As a person dedicated to education and an advocate of public schooling I would appreciate all views. I have experienced students,first hand, who have come out of home schooling to enter the public system and they are rather behind socially, again, from my experience.

    September 24th, 2009 at 12:27 pm
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  42. HomeworkBlues says:

    f the students in your district are up half the night doing homework and are unable to take advantage of extra-curricular and social activities during school…there is a much bigger problem in your district and it is not the norm.


    Teens in high achieving school districts are given homework amounts that WAY exceed anything rational. It’s not just my kid. I’ve already adjusted for time goofing off on line, overscheduling, both of which we are on top of. My daughter gave up a beloved activity because she was anxious about her homework load.

    Homework overload and sleep deprivation is a very serious problem and one that schools just pretend do not exist. Watch the trailer for the film, Race to Nowhere. It’s the key reasons why I pulled my daughter out of what is considered her the “best” middle school.

    Most gifted programs severely overload the children. And the solution is often not, “well, then just don’t do the gifted programs.” Because then what exactly do you propose for highly gifted kids? Homeschooling? You got that right, it’s the only solution I see right now. Too late for us, we’re almost out the door but what I strongly recommend for anyone in this boat, but younger.

    September 24th, 2009 at 12:37 pm
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  43. HomeworkBlues says:

    Corrections. My posted copy followed by corrections in CAPS with some quick commentary on sleep deprivation.

    1. Homework overload and sleep deprivation is a very serious problem and one that schools just pretend do not exist. ARE VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS.

    2. It’s the key reasons THEY ARE THE KEY REASONS

    3. what is considered her the “best” middle school. HERE

    I stayed up with her and see the mistakes I am making? These are simple errors. Imagine what she is going through today. She needs more sleep than me so she has to work that much harder to focus in school. And this on ADD. And when she comes home, having only had less than six hours sleep (and that’s a good night, it’s often much worse), she’ll have to tackle a new mountain of work and the cycle continues.She is unable to nap, her body won’t let her, so she can’t even fall back on that as some other students do. Besides, if she did, she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep when she finally does tumble into bed.

    sorry, if you think this is an isolated problem, you are not paying attention. If it’s so isolated, why aren’t schools shocked? But they aren’t. I’ve never been asked to fill out a survey, not in elementary, and not now, in high school when it counts the most. I’ve never been asked about homework at home, invited to a meeting. A student told me years ago, “there’s a very large unrecognized sleep deprivation problem at this school.” I repeated that to a director who scoffed and said, Oh, the kids sleep.” Except they don’t. What are we doing about it?

    September 24th, 2009 at 12:44 pm
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  44. HomeworkBlues says:

    Thanks for your willingness to see all sides and your respect for a well rounded education.

    You write: I have experienced students,first hand, who have come out of home schooling to enter the public system and they are rather behind socially, again, from my experience.”

    My daughter spent all but one year in school and she is behind socially.She did much better on the sabbatical. But for the sake of argument, let’s just say there weren’t nearly enough kids to socialize with that year, which was NOT the case, blessedly. But let’s just say it was.

    Even without that, if your child awakens when she is rested, eats when she’s hungry, learns at the most optimal time of day (I would never dream of giving her complex material when it’s bedtime) and in addition to her academics, plays, reads, socializes, draws, goes to museums, classical concerts, free outdoor films and has intellectual discussions with Daddy that go on for hours, isn’t all this already head and shoulders above what she could ever get in school? Think about it!

    My daughter’s school is not a penal colony. .She actually likes it. But it’s too much homework. The stark draconian schools I reference can be generalized, they crop up everywhere in this country.

    September 24th, 2009 at 12:52 pm
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  45. DeidraHewitt says:

    My dilemma remains that I am being FORCED to sign between 400 and 500 items, per child, per year. If I forget, or choose not to sign anything, my child is held responsible, and punished. I am told that these policies were not written, with me in mind. It is explained that they were written, with the “loser parents that want no part of their child’s education”, in mind. There are no private schools in my county, and I couldn’t afford one, anyway. There is certainly no way that I can afford to move. Furthermore, judging from the many posts, my county is far from the only one, who is forcing these signature policies. Again, using the argument that the policies were written to address the “loser” parents, one can assume that these “losers” were not consulted, when the policies were written. Judging from the amount of “involved” parents whom I’ve spoken with, and those who appear in this blog, we weren’t consulted, either. This begs the question whether ANY parents were involved in the creation of this extensive, apparently country- wide notion that parents should sign 400-500 things per year, to help make better students. Where do these policies originate? How do they become so widespread? I can definitively tell you that these “policies” do not appear in my county handbook, or my school handbook. I find out about them, on a per teacher basis. Problem is, all of the teachers, in all of the schools, are basically doing the same thing. I am asking if anyone can provide studies which show that “loser” parents become better parents, due to providing hundreds of signatures, or if their children become better students. Is there anyone out there who can even tell me, through their experiences, that they have seen this happen? I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I am searching for them. I know that this “sign or your child is punished” policy doesn’t work for me. If it truly doesn’t work for anyone, shouldn’t we examine exactly what we’re trying to accomplish, and brainstorm other ideas? I am still open to listening to what you do, Sorry, when a child submits an unsigned planner to you.

    September 24th, 2009 at 1:29 pm
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  46. CATeacher says:

    I teach 4th grade, and I do require one signature a week–on the dreaded reading log. Why? Well, I’d rather not do a reading log at all, but it covers 1/2 of the 40 minutes a night of homework required by my district. I hope that your kid is reading anyway, and asking them to write down what they’re reading shouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world. And I ask for your signature not because I don’t trust you, but because there are many kids who don’t like to read, won’t read, and will just write something down to hand the paper in. I’m not even asking you to read with your kid, just to verify that they read something at home. Two reasons: They need to be reading and not all kids do it without the extra prodding, and to keep me from having to assign 20 minutes of busywork.

    September 24th, 2009 at 1:53 pm
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  47. DeidraHewitt says:

    CA teacher…I appreciate your comments. Thank you. I have two follow up questions: Is the one signature a week all that is asked for, from your parents? (Not including health forms, transportation forms, and other documents, for which the school has a legal obligation to obtain, and which I have no problems with.) Are the children punished, if the parent forgets to sign?

    September 24th, 2009 at 2:02 pm
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  48. HomeworkBlues says:

    CA Teacher, what happens if my child reads for five hours and just doesn’t do the log? Is that acceptable to you?

    September 24th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
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  49. HomeworkBlues says:

    sorry writes: I am all for a well-rounded education, Social and extra-curriculars are just as important as grades. Major universities are not looking for 5.0 GPAs, they are looking for future leaders. Yes, grades are important, but not the only thing.”

    There is a myth that when kids at high achieving schools are up half the night, they are only going for the grade and if they could only live with B’s, they’d get more sleep.

    That’s not what’s happening in our home. Yes, my daughter does have perfectionist tendencies, but it’s not about the grade. That’s her personality.

    But aside from that, she’s basically just trying to plow through the work. We are happy with B’s. She’s just trying to survive. She never finishes, ever. It’s never done, there’s never a sense of completion, of satisfaction. She finishes up what she views as the major assignments and then the backlog just piles up.

    I have given her permission over the years to blow off assignments, telling her that if she has this much work ___________________________________, and only this much time, ____________, she is to only do this much, ____________. But you know, that was never okay with teachers. She’d still get into trouble for not finishing.

    If you tell teachers she’s up too late, they tell you it’s the kid’s fault. sorry, even you indicated grades are not everything. Hey, you’re preaching to the choir. Teachers want every drop done and then blame the child when she’s up late.

    I read an article where a student in our area described the unbearable stress he and his friends were under, buried under mountains of homework. He said that when some kids finally scrrewed up the courage to broach it to their teachers, they were told, it’s time management. Even when it looked as if the school would help, the student noted that school officials came up with every suggestion. But the one thing they did not do, the only thing that mattered to this student, was….drum roll…reducing the work load!

    I don’t want advice. I don’t want lectures about time management and how this is so unusual. Here’s what I want: Make it stop. Assign LESS HOMEWORK.Build in supervised study hall periods. Get it done at school. Just do that, start there. And then we’ll keep talking.

    September 24th, 2009 at 3:11 pm
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  50. DeidraHewitt says:

    I’m not sure whether to take anything away from the fact that I have flat out asked two different teachers, who have posted to this blog, admitting that they require parent signatures, whether the children in their classes are punished, for the (what are perceived as) sins of the parents, who forget, or choose not, to sign something. Maybe they stopped surfing this blog, or maybe they don’t want to admit that they too, punish children unfairly. Please teachers, if you are tired of spending countless amounts of your time, checking planners, logs, folders, and individual assignments, for signatures…if you have not seen any improvement in the “loser” parents, or their children, based on hundreds of signatures…if you feel bad about punishing children, because their parents didn’t sign something…please speak up. Perhaps together we can work to iron out what the objective of these countless signatures really is, and find different ways of attaining the goal.

    September 24th, 2009 at 3:22 pm
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  51. HomeworkBlues says:

    Deidra, I was wondering about that too, noticing you still haven’t gotten an answer. There’s a lot of dancing around, but you want to start talking and working on solutions.

    When it comes to the mountains of paperwork generated by all these signatures, something obvious puzzles me. We’ve had some teachers on this blog say, don’t blame us, we have less time to teach because we have all this administrative stuff to take care of. So then we suggest, get rid of the fluff, the time wasters, the paperwork and please, just teach, and we are told, you are rude and disrespectful. We are trying to help you. On that same vein, I read recently that most teachers don’t read the mountains of words kids write. Try that on for size. The children are up half the night, blearily cranking out essays, and many teachers don’t even bother to read the whole darned thing.

    Deidra, you are more magnanimous than me. My child is older, I’ve seen too much. It’s easy to get cynical. Or worn out. But I’m all for dialogue. As long as somebody’s actually listening.

    September 24th, 2009 at 3:44 pm
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  52. DeidraHewitt says:

    HomeworkBlues…I really appreciate your support and feedback. You are right…I haven’t been at this as long as you. Maybe I’ll get lucky and see something change, before I’m completely worn out, too. Any idea whether there is any research at all, concerning parental signatures equating (or not equating) to improvement in parent relations, or student success? I’d truly like to get to the source of where this idea came from, and why it’s taken off around the country. Thanks 🙂

    September 24th, 2009 at 4:10 pm
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  53. HomeworkBlues says:

    Deidra, I admire your doggedness. And you know, it’s the sort of thing I want to research too, when my daughter finally graduates high school.

    But don’t give up the homeschool alternative. My homeschool friends post pictures of pumpkin farms and hikes and jumping in streams this week. Wait till autumn truly makes its debut with all its vibrant colors and crisp air.

    There is just so much joy and passion for learning in this world. We are told it’s not really okay to feel all that joy, that our kids must learn to do boring things. But I see these other children, happy, go lucky, rested and eager, and it’s heartbreaking because it is what every child should experience, not just the homeschooled ones.

    Homeschool friends use their time wisely and if you told them they should spend a certain amount of time every day doing busy work for no other reason than, because I said so, don’t question authority, they’d burst out laughing. Who has that kind of time to waste when a whole world of streams, books, science experiments, building a ship out of leggos, constructing a forte in the woods, going to a midday ballet, doing a math lesson figuring out the city street grid, checking out that Picasso exhibit, curling up in a fuzzy chair in the library and not budging for hours, and dying to touch that snake on the rock.

    I feel it’s the last place in this country where a kid can still truly be a kid. What I loved most about our sabbatical is how pure and fresh the air suddenly felt, not poisoned by all this rancor and stress.

    Look, initially I would have been happy with school teaching and me parenting. That is the unspoken deal but somehow the contract got broken. Despite the fact I spent a great many years signing contracts!

    School should do school and teach so that I can “homeschool on the side.” But once that balance was gone, once schoolwork crept into every corner of our lives, eating up almost every minute, always hanging over our heads; every afternoon, every evening, every night, every weekend, every holiday, every vacation and even summer wasn’t sacred anymore, that’s when I realized, what choice do I have? It’s either my family or school. Somehow someone decided it was not okay to have both.

    September 24th, 2009 at 5:11 pm
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  54. zzzzz78759 says:

    Two questions…Do the “loser parent’s” sign the logs and, if they do, is that a guarantee they’ve checked the work?

    September 24th, 2009 at 6:32 pm
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  55. DeidraHewitt says:

    zzzzz: I would love to know how often “loser” parents sign things. In the event that their unfortunate children have a school with policies like ours, the children are punished at school, in addition to suffering the pain of having uninvolved, neglectful parents. I am still waiting to hear from anyone who can site research, indicating that hundreds of signatures equal more involved parents, or more academically successful students. There’s alot of quiet on that front, though.

    September 24th, 2009 at 7:07 pm
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  56. DeidraHewitt says:

    Just heard a new rationale for the “sign or your child will be punished” policy. My neighbor’s son is in 6th grade, in middle school. He was punished, because my neighbor forgot to sign his planner. When she questioned the teacher AND principal about it, they explained that the policy is there, to teach the kids responsiblity. They stated that, “It is the children’s responsibility, to make sure that the parent signs the planner.” I have a FUNDAMENTAL difference of opinion, with this philosophy. In the same way that I do not expect my minor child to take it upon himself to tell a teacher what to do, I do not expect him to tell me what to do. My husband and I are the bosses, in our home. When my child behaves at school, does his work, brings home and completes his homework, and returns it to school, he is being as responsible as a child has to be.

    September 25th, 2009 at 3:18 pm
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  57. FedUpMom says:

    I honestly don’t understand how this got started or why anyone thinks it’s OK. These poor kids! What are we doing to them? Why does anyone think it’s reasonable to punish a child because of what their parents did or didn’t do?

    You don’t teach kids “responsibility” by punishing them for trivial offenses, or even worse, their parents’ trivial offenses. You just make them miserable.

    Really, I’m speechless, or the keyboard equivalent. It’s just so crazy.

    September 25th, 2009 at 3:55 pm
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  58. HomeworkBlues says:

    Deidra, and I love your name! I like it better than DieRdra. No one pronounces that first R anyway, good you took it out!

    The mere notion that children are now instructed to discipline their own parents sends a chill up my spine. What is this, Lord of the Flies?

    Remember the story of how my daughter got an F in 7th grade because I didn’t sign that “contract” fast enough? It was sitting in my recalcitrant printer for three days, daughter repeatedly asked for it (see, she’s responsible!) and I kept saying, honey, don’t worry, I’ll get it.

    Then she got that big red angry F. Guess who she was angry at? The teacher? Well, she didn’t take it out on him and we want that, right? Despite what a teacher asserted here earlier, that we are teaching our children to be disrespectful, my kid’s one of the best behaved in school on the planet. Not always at home, but in school, quiet and cooperative.

    So guess who she took it out on? You guessed it, ME! She was angry with me and I had to do a lot of damage control over that. It is beyond unethical to turn children against their very parents, checking up on them to make sure they do their job (er, the school’s job). At the very least, do no harm. School’s have no business causing rifts between parent and child. Our jobs are hard enough in this frenetic culture. How about our attention is diverted to keeping our jobs and feeding our children?

    My advice? Don’t sign what you don’t want to sign. Write a note. A well crafted intelligent screed, stating your position clearly. You are not signing anything and you you are stating (not asking) that your child will not be punished. You did not forget, you are not irresponsible but here are the reasons you object. And have a nice day.

    September 25th, 2009 at 4:52 pm
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  59. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction: School’s have no business causing rifts between parent and child.

    Make that SCHOOLS. No apostrophe.

    September 25th, 2009 at 5:12 pm
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  60. DeidraHewitt says:

    Thanks, HomeworkBlues 🙂 I actually think that I finally have a final draft of a letter ready, to send to my School Board, and Supt. I’ll post the outcome, once I have it. I’m trying to abolish the policy, county wide, otherwise, I will encounter it again, in middle school, next year.

    September 25th, 2009 at 7:46 pm
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  61. DeidraHewitt says:

    Oh…and Sorry…If you’re still checking in on this blog…With regards to your #38 post…I actually have a suggestion… I really like the reflection log idea, used by a 4th grade teacher, named Angela Bunyi. It can be found at I would still be against punishing children, if their parents failed to fill out this once weekly form. I believe however, that if the “uninvolved” parents filled out even one of these in any given year, it would provide a teacher with more information than a thousand mindless signatures. To me, these logs indicate a true partnership, between parent and teacher, with the best interest of the student clearly in mind.

    September 25th, 2009 at 7:53 pm
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  62. sorry - another teacher says:


    I researched our policies with other teachers in our district and there are only 5 teachers in the entire district that require homework signatures…and not for every assignment.

    Please know that my responses were never meant as an attack and I appeciate your not treating them as such.

    It sounds like your problem, while it may be in many districts, is not across this wonderful profession.

    For those that seem to have a general grudge against the profession because we have it “easy” and “are overpaid”, look a little closer.

    I won’t be visiting the blog again. Best of luck with your district….you sound like a great Mom. Your kids are very lucky…I only wish all the parents of my students were as caring.

    September 28th, 2009 at 3:53 pm
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  63. DeidraHewitt says:

    Sorry: Although you probably won’t read this, I’d like to thank you, for the information. I am delighted to know that there are districts/teachers, who are willing to involve parents/families in ways other than “sign or your children will suffer the consequences” policies. I am hoping that my district will be among them, in the near future. 🙂

    September 28th, 2009 at 6:57 pm
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  64. Sara Bennett says:

    Dear Sorry, another Teacher: I hope you do come back and continue to participate in the discussions here. In fact, I invite you to send me a guest blog entry so that your concerns can be put in a more prominent position. Also, if you take a look under the category “Teachers Speak Out,” you’ll notice that I like to feature teachers whenever I can. I have several blog posts by teachers lined up for the coming weeks. It’d be nice to put you in that line.

    Good luck to you.

    September 28th, 2009 at 8:42 pm
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  65. PsychMom says:

    I don’t recall anyone ever saying teachers are overpaid and that they have it easy….

    September 29th, 2009 at 8:07 am
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  66. CA Teacher says:

    Answering the questions, perhaps late:

    Yes, the one signature a week is all I ask, aside from a signature on an occasional progress report if the kid is failing. (You do want to be notified of that, right?)

    I have to say, in my years of teaching, I’ve never had a kid say their parent forgot to sign a reading log. I’ve had forged signatures from kids who didn’t tell their parents they were supposed to read and then didn’t.

    I accept reading logs late, (as I do other work) if the signature is forgotten.

    And no, it is not okay for your kid to read 5 hours and not turn a log in. It’s great that the kid is reading, but… Does your employer pay you if you work hourly, put in your 5 hours, and not turn in your time card? Is it okay to write a report and just not turn it in? After all, you did the work. I don’t think writing down that you read one hour of Harry Potter a day is too much to ask, or that it should make any kid miserable about reading. It also helps me to know if kids are reading books at a good level for them. Most of you who read here seem pretty bright, but you’d be surprised how many 4th graders are reading 1st grade level books, and then their parents wonder why their learning is stagnated.

    Reading logs are something to show administration when they ask what homework is being assigned. Like it or not, sometimes we are asked to document what work we are doing in life–both me and the kids.

    October 1st, 2009 at 9:39 pm
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  67. CA Teacher says:


    I didn’t answer before because I rarely come back and recheck comments. I’m busing reading those essays that my kids write (in class) and making meticulous comments to help them with rewrites. You know, those papers a lot of comments seam to think teachers don’t read.

    I really wonder when both teachers and parents will quit sniping at each other and realize we’re on the same team–then work together for a solution. I live on both sides of that fence, and neither group seems to have enough respect for the other.

    October 1st, 2009 at 9:45 pm
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  68. FedUpMom says:

    CA Teacher writes:
    And no, it is not okay for your kid to read 5 hours and not turn a log in. It’s great that the kid is reading, but… Does your employer pay you if you work hourly, put in your 5 hours, and not turn in your time card? Is it okay to write a report and just not turn it in? After all, you did the work.

    For the umpteenth time, school is not a corporate job, the kids are not employees, and the teacher is not the boss. The purpose of school is to help kids learn. If a child is reading, it isn’t her job to prove it to you. It’s your job to figure it out, and encourage and support her to read more.

    And it is not unusual at all for the brightest kids, who have learned the material, to refuse to turn the work in. It’s because the school system, full of teachers demanding they account for work that is really beneath their intelligence, starts to feel like an intolerable insult.

    October 2nd, 2009 at 8:24 am
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  69. FedUpMom says:

    CA Teacher — I would like to add that a child who reads for 5 hours may want to own her reading. That is, she doesn’t want to turn it into something she did for you. That’s a perfectly good reason for her not to turn in a log.

    October 2nd, 2009 at 8:27 am
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  70. PeggyinMA says:

    This is what we deal with in our house.

    My kids are taught to respect their teachers and do what they say. Unfortunately, I find it hard to defend the teachers when they demand detailed “accountability” from students regarding what, when, and how they read on their own time, in their own home. Kids are smart and find this insulting, no matter how much I smile and encourage them to be positive about it.

    I offer every teacher face-to-face assurance that my children love to read and are reading a great deal at home.

    I am told in response that that is not enough. They demand that children create a paper trail for them, presumably to appease their administration.

    How has this gone wrong for so long?

    Of course I worry that many people (children and adults) do not read. Don’t put this problem on the backs of the children who do, however, because it’s a great way to make them resent teachers and learn to hate reading. I have faith that teachers can develop a better approach.

    October 2nd, 2009 at 9:25 am
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  71. DeidraHewitt says:

    CA Teacher: I get the feeling that you couldn’t care less what I would like to be, or not like to be, notified about. I can tell you that noone in my public school system has ever asked me, either. Since someone has to be involved in policy making (and in my case, I know that the parents aren’t), I have to assume that the teachers are. They are given the respect to make and enforce, whatever policies they’d like, regardless of what I think, feel, believe, or research. This enforcement extends to punishing my children, should I disagree and not comply. In my view, this is showing parents no respect, whatsoever. I have read other posts/blogs on this website, and am delighted to see that there are teachers, who are willing to work together with parents, to come up with solutions. My post #61 attaches a link, to one teacher’s ideas, which I much prefer to reading logs/planners. You are certainly entitled to agree to disagree that there are no better ways to encourage reading, than reading logs. There are teachers who would agree with you, and those who wouldn’t. Based on my personal experiences, I have found more parents who would prefer an alternative to reading logs. It doesn’t sound like you punish the children, of the parents, who disagree with you, so I certainly applaud you for that.

    October 2nd, 2009 at 10:08 am
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  72. DeidraHewitt says:

    Peggy: I like your use of the phrase, “paper trail”. Isn’t that what all of this is really about?…A paper trail that winds it’s way back up to the Federal Government, to satisfy the “No Child Left Behind” guidelines, to insure funding for the schools? All of the micromanaging/signature mandates are not in place for the sake of individual children’s successes, they are a way to prove accountability, to obtain money. Parents provide proof to teachers, who provide proof to administrators, who provide proof to superintendents, etc., up the line. I think we’d all agree that our schools have to be funded. Personally, I believe that there has to be a better way. I find the current state of affairs very sad.

    October 2nd, 2009 at 10:17 am
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  73. CATeacher says:

    Dear people who comment here,

    I am an anti-homework teacher and mom. However, after reading comments here and in other places, I get the distinct feeling that you all are so completely anti-teacher that there is absolutely nothing that any teacher, anywhere could do to make you happy.

    Sorry you don’t like to believe me, but I’m a good teacher. I have some parents who’ve asked me to assign more homework, but I explain why they don’t. People request me to be their child’s teacher. Kids who’ve gone on come back to visit me. My kids learn their stuff and do well on standardized testing. Doggonit, I’m a nice person, a good teacher, and people like me.

    Sorry, Sara, but you’ve lost another commenter on your site. Too many of your readers are just plain vicious and unwilling to believe that any teacher, anywhere, could possibly have good motives.

    October 6th, 2009 at 12:39 pm
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  74. CATeacher says:

    And Dee whoever, you’re showing a lot of ignorance. Teachers absolutely do NOT make policy. We wish we were asked, too.

    October 6th, 2009 at 12:40 pm
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  75. PsychMom says:

    We’re not anti-teacher. We’re anti-homework. We’re not making comments about you as people because we don’t know you. We’re commenting on behaviour from teachers we have encountered, that we feel as parents, are distructive to our children. Why are we not permitted to counter?

    October 6th, 2009 at 1:21 pm
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  76. DeidraHewitt says:

    Well, although I made reference to the feeling that I got from some posts, which contained sarcastic comments in parenthesis, I don’t believe that I made any personal attacks on anyone, teachers or not. I thought I made very clear that I have family and friends who are teachers. I wrote posts about my life being shaped by teachers, among others. I referenced a link, to a teacher whose ideas I like, very much.

    I apologize for my shortcomings, concerning my expertise on policy… although I don’t believe that I claimed to be an expert. Unless I’m very much mistaken, Superintendents and School Board members, very often, have educational and/or teaching backgrounds. Since I mentioned that those in my district haven’t consulted parents about policy, I continue to believe that they have only collaborated with teachers. If they collaborated with noone, and the teachers WISHED they’d had input, the vehemence with which these teachers enforce these policies surprises me.

    The topic of my post was a simple one, really. Teachers in my district are enforcing policies, which punish children, for the actions of their parents. I find this inherently wrong, and counter-productive. I appreciate the teachers, who have commented here, with a willingness to agree that these policies should be re-visited.

    October 6th, 2009 at 8:36 pm
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  77. DeidraHewitt says:

    Below is a cut and paste copy of the email, which I received from my principal, after I sent a note, and had a phone conversation, with my son’s teacher. I had objected to the, “sign or your child will suffer the consequences” policies. The only thing that I have edited, are the names. As you can see, the principal made some concessions for me. In my opinion, this is evidence that teachers/principals have far more control over policy than I do. It is my understanding that, in the middle school, lack of a parent signature results, not only in punishment of individual children, but takes “points” away from their “team”. I have an appointment, to discuss these policies, with our Superintendent, on Oct. 19th. I’ll post his input, once I have it.

    Mrs. Hewitt,

    After meeting with Mrs. *teacher* this morning, we were able to determine what assignments would routinely require a parent signature. We also decided what procedures would be followed in the event that certain requirements were not met. The following items include the assignments that were discussed as routine instructional practices/activities:

    * Friday Folders – These are sent home on Friday afternoons and include student work from that particular week. The parents are asked to review the papers and sign.
    * Reading Logs – These are included with the Friday folders. The reading logs indicate what books/materials the student read throughout the week.
    * Oral Fluency Reading – In building fluency skills, students are asked to read aloud, once a week, to parents. Parents sign once the assignment is complete.
    * Planners – The planners include daily assignments and are sent home Monday – Thursday. A parent signature is required each day.

    It was agreed that *student* will not face consequences (pulled slips, silent lunch, non-participation in Fun Friday) by not having a parent signature. There are times when students receive a small token (candy, sticker) for 100% participation and/or completion of assignments. Due to some requirements (parent signatures) not being fully met, *student* may be excluded from the 100% incentives when those times apply.



    October 6th, 2009 at 10:02 pm
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  78. PsychMom says:

    Hey Deidra…..I find the letter still outrageous….principals and teachers don’t make policy. HA!
    Who’s going to school here? You or your child? You should bring in an article by Alfie Kohn on rewards and punishment too…and how ineffective it is. This handing out candy practice is silly and inappropriate.

    October 7th, 2009 at 8:04 am
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  79. DeidraHewitt says:

    PsychMom: Yes, you too picked up on the fact that the principal has the power to change, or not change, the policies in place. In my case, I asked that my child not be punished for lack of my signature. I also asked that he not be denied rewards, for lack of my signature. The principal agreed to one of my two requests. Clearly, I do not have any power on my own, to keep my child from being subjected to these procedures.

    In my case, there has been an exception with regards to punishments made, for my child. He is still passed over, for rewards. He has expressed sadness, for the children punished frequently, for lack of parent signatures. He mentioned one little girl in particular, who is punished often. He said that the consensus among the classmates is that, since her parents recently divorced, this little girl must have trouble getting signatures. It bothers me more than I can say, that there are 10 year olds, gossiping about a child’s personal life. These children would have no view into that poor girl’s situation, were it not for these policies!

    As for the reward/punishment situation, I agree with you. Success is it’s own reward. I do not bribe my children, and there is no allowance, in our home. I really enjoy the “Responsive Classroom” approach to discipline, but that is a whole other topic! For now, if I can manage to get our school to hold my children accountable for their own work only, and stop forcing homework on parents, I’ll start to feel a little better.

    October 7th, 2009 at 12:45 pm
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  80. Anonymous says:

    I am a 4th grade teacher and have always asked parents to sign their child’s planner. I had the idea that this was a way to assure that the parents saw their child’s assigned homework and were informed about upcoming events. Many of these comments caused me to reflect upon this practice. I do want my students to be independent. So, I will no longer be requiring a signature in their planner!

    October 15th, 2009 at 7:25 pm
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  81. Disillusioned says:

    Great idea 4th grade teacher! On the topic of children being punished for adult sins….our Principal sent a letter last year declaring there were too many tardies and this was disrespectful to the teachers and took away from valuable teaching time (as the kids had to go to the offfice and get a tardy slip).

    She instituted a policy that any child who was tardy (no leeway at all) was to be benched for recess (including the kindegartners!). I saw many a crying kindegartner sitting out recess (and not really making the connection to mommy being thirty seconds late). Great way to instill a love of learning and school in our five year olds!

    October 15th, 2009 at 10:26 pm
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  82. FedUpMom says:

    Disillusioned, your school sounds like a real disaster. Why are the parents putting up with this? I don’t believe that you’re the only one who’s upset. Can you get a group together and start making some noise?

    October 15th, 2009 at 11:58 pm
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  83. Fed Up Dad and Teacher says:

    If you are lucky, teacher pay might be tied to the tests and then you will have the power. HA!

    October 16th, 2009 at 1:47 am
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  84. Fed Up Dad and Teacher says:

    Standardized Test Answer Sheet:

    1. A
    2. A
    3. A
    4. A
    5. A
    6. A
    7. A
    8. A
    9. A
    10. A

    Straight A Student

    October 16th, 2009 at 1:52 am
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  85. Disillusioned says:

    FedUp Mom- I know there are. Yet…..there is a very weird dynamic at play in the school. The heavily invovled mothers buy into this draconian policy. It’s as if they are also small children and want Mommy’s (the principal’s) approval. Consequently, it is self-reinforcing.

    October 16th, 2009 at 1:46 pm
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  86. DeidraHewitt says:

    Disillusioned…you’ve hit the nail on the head! I learned, a few years ago, to keep my opinions mainly to myself. When I questioned the “silence during the first 15 minutes of lunch” policy at the elementary school, other involved moms said they “didn’t like to make waves”. There are MANY policies, which I despise, at my children’s school. The only ones that I truly get in the ring and fight about, are the ones that I see directly affecting my family. Unfortunately, the silence of other parents is astonishing. Your issue of elementary children being punished for being tardy (which they can’t control), ties directly to my issue of children being punished for lack of parent signatures, which they can’t control…terrible!

    October 16th, 2009 at 2:40 pm
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