Guest Blogger: First Grade in Public School Was Pure Torture

Today’s guest blogger, Tracy Stevens, is a former high school Spanish teacher who infrequently gave project-based homework to her students. Currently a telecom salesperson and the mother of two boys who attend private school after a difficult year in public elementary school, she is the author of abettereducation.blog, which is full of interesting interviews (including one with Daniel Pink) and thoughts. Today she writes about her son’s experience in first grade in public school and her decision to have her son repeat first grade in a more child-friendly atmosphere.

First Grade in Public School was Pure Torture
by Tracy Stevens

My son was born in August and attended a Montessori Pre-School since he was 1-1/2. When it came time to consider 1st Grade, we met with his teacher and the head of school and we felt that, despite being one of the younger kids, he was socially and academically ready to handle the rigors of public school, especially in the public Montessori Elementary School that we found for him, where he would experience a familiar classroom and learning system.

It was a year of pure torture for the entire family. The teacher encouraged reading through competition. Each kid had a thermometer that showed his level of reading. If you were a girl or an older child, your thermometer was pretty full. My son’s low thermometer was humiliating for him, and was also a marker of his confidence and curiosity as the year progressed.

Because he wasn’t up to the reading level that was stipulated for that grade, the teacher’s way of remedying the problem was to provide more homework. Each 1st Grader had at least an hour of math and reading homework every night. My son struggled with his and this hour would turn into longer to get it finished. If he were not finished with his schoolwork to his teacher’s satisfaction, he would stay in for recess to finish it. He also had a tutor during afterschool care that would help him with his homework. This boy was in school from 8:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening, sometimes with limited or no recess and little play time left in after care. Then he would have at least an hour of homework at night. Where was the balance in his life? Where was the time for play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time? We began to make it a point to provide this for him, regardless of what was required by the school. At first we had him do no more than 15 minutes of homework each evening. Soon, though, we just stopped complying with the homework mandate all together. It was causing misery, frustration, and daily crying sessions.

We decided to repeat 1st Grade, this time in a Waldorf school and the experience could not be more different. Waldorf doesn’t believe in homework until the 3rd grade and even then that is only a brief time for a musical instrument. They have a much more gradual approach to reading, in that they do not expect students to begin reading on their own until 3rd Grade. When they do read, they have had years of preparation and familiarity with letters, phonics, comprehension, and other reading skills so that it seems to be a natural, easy thing for them to do. There is no standardized testing at a Waldorf school, so the pressure to quickly get students up to testing level is eliminated, allowing them to learn at a pace that is suited to their needs. Waldorf believes in balance and regards education of the head, heart and hands of equal importance.

My son is happy again. Gone are the homework battles and daily tears over it. His confidence is restored and he is genuinely enjoying learning new things again.

25 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: First Grade in Public School Was Pure Torture

  1. I bookmarked that blog in a heartbeat. It’s so reassuring to know that there are parents who are standing up to this nonsense. Her son is likely able to learn now because he’s not tied up in emotional knots all day long. Thanks for introducing Tracy!

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  2. ?
    I thought montessori didn’t go into that nonsense… of course, then I saw the “public” descriptor and it all became clear.

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  3. I sympathize with having an overloaded first-grader. I just wish I had the kind of money that Montessori/Waldorf schools cost. An excellent solution for those who can afford it.

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  4. I completely agree with you, Max. Private school is not something I anticipated to say the least. While I am happy I can afford to give my kids this kind of education at this time, I think it is totally wrong that my family can have that kind of education and others cannot. I have made efforts in the last few months to open a charter school using the Waldorf model but I stumble into the standardized testing machine that drives everything from curriculum to recess schedules and it seems to negate any good I might do so I have put those aspirations on hold for now. I am not sure what to do with my frustration and passion at this point, beyond writing about it.

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  5. It sounds like a miserable experience, no doubt, and I’m glad you found a better environment. Keep in mind that it varies widely from school to school, and teach to teacher. In other words, I don’t think it is a public versus private school issue. We love our community public school. And it also has a general practice of holding off on homework until 3rd grade. I urge parents to carefully research all options and, if possible (and it sounds like it wasn’t in your situation Tracy), invest in making your community public school the best it can be for all kids. As a public school family, standardized testing is the only pill I feel we have to reluctantly swallow and it remains to be seen (my kids aren’t old enough yet) how that will change my opinion! Thanks for sharing your experience Tracy!

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  6. I totally sympathise! We had a very similar experience. We managed only half-way through 2nd Grade before moving our son to a progressive, democratic, community school … which he loves!

    In the documentary film that Sara collaborated on (“Slipping Behind”), a woman states that she fully expects this generation of children to sue the adults of today over the complete loss of their childhood … We need to stop the madness somehow … any ideas?

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  7. To Diane:

    I might be naive, but I think all it takes is for parents to take responsibility for being parents. Parenthood is a role that must be taken seriously if our children are to be protected from schools, from advertizing and mass media and all the myriad “adult world” things they are exposed to. It is NOT a parent’s role to prepare small children for the adult world. We need to protect them from it. It’s just my opinion, but I consider homework an adult activity. Eighteen year olds who attend higher learning facilities study. They need too. In some cases they get 3 hours of class time a week in college or university on a certain topic, and they need to supplement that with private study. The same does not apply to elementary school.

    My way of thinking about kids is akin to starting plants indoors in the spring. Pouches on kangaroos, dens where baby bears, wolves, rabbits and many other creatures spend the first few weeks and months of their lives are all similar ideas. We are supposed to protect our young to keep them from mortal dangers, creating space for them that nurtures and stimulates them. School in the human world is supposed to be one of those nurturing places. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free-range kids…but I’m not for exposure to adult stress and pressure.

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  8. Where was the balance in his life? Where was the time for play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time?

    Where? Well, from what your blog reads; “This boy was in school from 8:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening, sometimes with limited or no recess and little play time left in after care.”
    Keeping your young child at school until 5:30 every day is ridiculous! Most children are out of school at 2:45 or 3:00 with TIME for play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time AND HOMEWORK. After a long day like that I would be exhausted too and wouldn’t have any steam left to complete homework well. Most children (that I know) have a good 5 hours between school letting out and bedtime. Your child has 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Just eating dinner, taking a bath and doing his homework would use up all the time he has.

    Please consider adjusting YOUR schedule to spend more time with your overtaxed child.

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  9. To June:

    An 8 to 5 day is the rule for most children today because most parents work. I’m fortunate to have my child at a school that has an afterschool program right in the school, so she gets playtime outdoors after 3:15 until I pick her up at 4:45 or so. Ours is a single income earning family…I have no choice. Believe me, since the day I first dropped her off at daycare when she was 22 months old, I have been terribly aware that she will always have a longer day at “work” than me. That’s why I’m on this site…..so that I can find a way so that I don’t have to deal with school issues when I get home with her.

    I’ve said it before. I see no reason why teachers and the school should feel they have the RIGHT to decide what the schedule should be in my home. I don’t tell them how to run their classroom or their school.

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  10. June writes: After a long day like that I would be exhausted too and wouldn’t have any steam left to complete homework well. Most children (that I know) have a good 5 hours between school letting out and bedtime. Your child has 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Just eating dinner, taking a bath and doing his homework would use up all the time he has.

    Please consider adjusting YOUR schedule to spend more time with your overtaxed child.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Oh, I see. It is so important to have time for homework in elementary, despite good research to the contrary, that mom must adjust her schedule so she can pull a second shift. As unpaid home teacher. Mom complains child is exhausted from a long day at school and no recess. Mom’s fault!. You insist she should work part time to make more time for her child. But she’s trying to tell you that without homework, she WOULD have time left over for her child all evening.

    To echo PsychMom, it is terribly condescending for the school to dictate every waking moment of a family’s life, even suggesting a working mother adjust her schedule! Does it occur to you this mother may not be able to? Many parents would if they could. Many moms are single and must work to put food on the table.

    Can you imagine what chutzpa? Think of all the days your child comes home and tells you they watched videos in school all day. It’s our tax dollars yet we parents are not allowed to scrutinize what goes on in school all day. We aren’t even allowed in the classroom to observe for ourselves. But it’s okay to tell a mother who has put in a full day’s work already that her first priority is to make sure all the homework gets done. To make up for all the time frittered away while the child spent seven hours at school. The teacher gets paid, the family does the work. I ask again, just who is the greater fool?

    You go on to say: “Most children are out of school at 2:45 or 3:00 with TIME for play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time AND HOMEWORK.”

    June, I was and am that mom who was home in the afternoon. My daughter was not in aftercare. And I can tell you, June, once my daughter got to public school, she did NOT have time for “play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time AND HOMEWORK.” Get real. No child does and still makes it to bed on time. Homework ate up every minute. We often threw caution to the wind and went out and played. But then the homework didn’t get done.

    Rather than justify homework, accept the fact that this mother cannot pick up her child until 5:30. When she does, she wants all of him, all afternoon and evening. Because with no elementary homework, she will surely have time for “play, movement, creativity, socializing, and family time AND (NO) HOMEWORK.

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  11. Okay I do see valid points from both HomeworkBlues and PsychMom.
    But, HomeworkBlues do you really feel that helping your child with their homework is “pulling a second shift’? I wonder how that makes your child feel? Speaking of the feelings of the children. How do they feel in the classroom when it’s time to turn in their homework and they have none or it’s uncompleted? I think these little guys and girls are in an awful spot.

    I stumbled across this site and found it really interesting and alarming that so many people are going through this. I cannot speak from experience here, so bear with me. I am a stay at home mom of a 3 year old boy. I am very fourtunate to have a husband that happily provides for me to stay at home with our son. We have not and are not going to put him in preschool prior to kindergarten. Another subject of course, the data just did not hold up for pre/k being at all beneficial and possibly detremental for kids, especially boys. If anyone is interested in that subject here is a great site http://www.universalpreschool.com
    Back on subject- So please fill me in on what my family is getting into with the school years approaching!HomeworkBlues, even though you are able to be home after school with your child there still isn’t enough time to complete the homework? Obviously there is WAY too much! The other children in the class must be experiencing the same problems. I intially thought that it was obvious that the problem was not enough time with the late pick up, but clearly that is not true from what you have said.
    What is going on here??

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  12. June asks: ” But, HomeworkBlues do you really feel that helping your child with their homework is “pulling a second shift’? I wonder how that makes your child feel?”

    Oh, please, June. I don’t “help” her with her homework. Her smarts make me look average. It’s not about “helping” her. It’s about a child who would come home from a gifted program in elementary with a backpack stuffed full of hours and hours and hours of homework. And as for “helping” her, Alfie Kohn writes in “The Homework Myth” that kids often come home with assignments that parents with graduate degrees cannot figure out. We aren’t talking about “helping” a job. We are talking about parents being involuntary unpaid teachers to their own children.

    Please, June. It’s not about “helping” her. School can’t pull that old canard on me, I’m too smart and been around the block a little too long.

    How does that make my child feel? Not sure what you mean, given that we are incredibly involved, doting and committed parents. Given that we were so involved and did help when she needed it, and found ourselves homeschooling after school, we eventually made it official and pulled her out of school altogether for one year. If she was doing all her work after school rather than during school, why was I sending her? I don’t mind teaching her! But then I get to call the shots. I don’t want to be middle manager. If that much level of involvement is expected of me, then I need to be put on the school’s payroll.

    I read a thought provoking blog yesterday how suburban schools with very high test scores often offer mediocre education but that affluent parents are expected to do it all, help with the homework, make sure it gets done, and be expected to hire tutors when necessary. Because affluent suburban parents will pull out all the stops, those mediocre schools with the high test scores coast on their so- called “excellence.”

    But the parents are doing all the work! And as long as those parents believe the likes of June, who make them feel guilty for noticing the Emperor has No Clothes, schools can brag about those high scores and pull the wool over their eyes.

    June, I paid my dues. I have nothing to feel guilty about.

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  13. Hey June,
    Just wanted to comment on the ‘how do the kids feel when it comes time to turn in their homework and they have none or uncompleted?’ Personally, I think my elementary school had a reasonable amount of homework (lots of mine was late but that’s because I’m particularly bad at time management), so I can’t exactly speak to the level of education which your son will be entering, but I do think my current high school has too much homework (it’s a pretty overachieving atmosphere in general, although the teachers are really excellent IMHO).

    As someone who still has problems with time management (although I have improved some since my elementary/middle school days,) in addition to what I consider to be too much homework, I have on many occasions come to school with homework incomplete and faced basically the same situation you were asking about. Personally, when it’s 10:30 at night and I’m getting nowhere on, say, a draft of an essay that’s due the next day, I am the sort of person who chooses to take care of myself, be awake and ready to learn in class the next day, and go to bed without finishing. I know many people who stay up insane hours, and indeed don’t get as many assignments late as I do.
    It isn’t fun coming in the next day without that next draft, or sheet of chemistry problems, or what have you. I feel kinda like I’ve let the teachers/myself down, often, but I think that it’s more important to take care of myself and face that the next day, to get my sleep and eat dinner and go up the next day and say ‘look, teacher, I worked on your assignment/I had basketball until really late and there just wasn’t enough time to finish all I had to do, and it was 11:00 and I just went to bed. I think its more important for me to be awake during class than to get everything in exactly on time when push comes to shove. I’m working on being more efficient at using my time, and I still have more to go.’
    In that same vein, I think knowing that you did the right thing by yourself/your kid, went to a museum, had a great discussion, got sleep, went to sister’s birthday dinner, kinda balances out the embarrassment of not having finished homework. Especially if the family has a clear expectation with the school like ‘I don’t allow my 3rd grader to spend more than 45 minutes on homework a night,’ I think the embarrassment would get less and less over time, since it becomes less of a ‘why didn’t you do this?’ when the policy for that family has been clear and consistent.
    Good luck with school coming up in the next few years, hope you get a good one! 😉

    –High School Rising Junior

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  14. Homework Blues — could you post a link to the interesting blog you read? I agree with it already! The schools in our district are constantly crowing about the high scores that really have nothing to do with the teaching they provide.

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  15. To the HighSchool Soph….it drives me nuts when kids say they have poor time management skills. And then you specified to say that now your time-management skills are better now than they were in elementary. This nonsense about time management skills has been fed to you and a whole generation as being a criteria you’re supposed to be able to achieve through diligent schooling.

    Well, as the regulars to this site know…I have strong feelings about this topic, to put it mildly. And to June, the Mom of the three year old, you need to know this too.
    Children don’t have time management skills…..and they won’t until they are close to the end of high school. Adults in college or university can properly be expected to have “good” time management skills…anyone below that age with these skills are doing very well.

    Being able to plan and organize ourselves is a higher brain function that is largely governed by the front parts of our brains, called the frontal lobes. It’s not something that can be trained for, it’s not something that’s going to get better from the beginning of Grade 3 to the end of Grade 3…it’s a maturational development that goes at it’s own pace and is different in everyone. Similar to developing the ability to walk or talk or using the toilet, we grow into the ability to understand time and plan our activities. That’s why human beings have to be parented for so long….we need our parents’ (hopefully) fully functioning frontal lobes to keep us safe from danger and to be able to plan for and acquire food for us. And yes, there are boys and girls out there who have these skills early in life….you’ll always have exceptions. But that’s what they are…exceptional. It sounds like those exceptional kids get punished in school by being overloaded with work because someone thinks more is better.

    Time management ability is not something that should ever be evaluated in young kids…and if you’re struggling with it, well yes, you should be because it’s hard to do. And maybe that’s why we parents feel so overloaded. Our lives are scheduled so much as it is…and when a teacher then wants to dump more on our lives, we reject it because it takes away from our priorities, which are the love and care of our children.

    Would someone please pull me off of my soapbox now….I could go on all day.

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  16. FedUpMom, ask and you shall receive! My county (we don’t have districts, like PA, it’s a county-wide system) crows too. They have some mantra about being a world class institution, committed to excellence. Excellence. That edu-buzz word, right along with RIGOR! I would mutter to myself that rigor is code for, oops, I forgot to get anything done today, I think I’ll send it all home to the parents.

    From Kitchen Table Math:

    “Parents and school boards in affluent communities may not want to hear that the teaching in their schools is mediocre. The accountability system does not call
    attention to the problems of instructional quality in these schools, nor does it reinforce efforts to solve them. Unlike low-performing schools, which may be galvanized by external pressure to improve, so-called high-performing schools must often swim against a tide of complacency to generate support for change.”

    Thought provoking stuff. And here’s a comment to the post:

    “I live in an affluent, high-standardized-test-scoring school district. Some of the observations made here (e.g. pervasive use of private tutoring, learning problems often pushed onto parents) absolutely describe our district. Opposition is likely to be fierce from all sides to any change that might threaten the all-important (for neighborhood reputation and property values) test scores.”

    http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2009/06/alternate-universe.html

    To add, I got this Kitchen Table Math from a blog I discovered, and she linked to it. She makes the same argument I do; if it’s all sent home, why am I sending her to school? May as well homeschool! And so she does:

    http://bendingthetwigs.blogspot.com/

    To June: I appreciate the rest of your post as you are starting to ask probing questions. Now you get a feel of what we are fighting for. We want excellence too. We just don’t want it all coming home, to us accountability means, just what did you do in school today, not, how high can you go? To us test prep does not count as “good use of time.”

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  17. PsychMom, DO NOT pull yourself off your soapbox. We have newcomers to this blog all the time and although it would be nice if everyone did their research first, their “homework,” if you will, many do not.

    Keep educating. Keep talking. Otherwise, newcomers think we are all just a bunch of spoiled lazy whiners.

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  18. Thanks HWB- It’s when the kids write in about their crazy lives and the words they use…the expectations of them are so wrong. I just can’t keep my fingers from the keyboard.

    Highschool Soph…keep looking after yourself. It is far wiser to sleep and eat than it is to be sleep deprived and nutritionally compromised. Young brains need food and rest and they suffer if they don’t get either one or both on a consistent basis.

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  19. High School Soph/Junior: I want to second PsychMom’s advice to you (we should have a meeting and get to know each other so we don’t have to call each other High School Soph, PsychMom, FedupMom and HomeworkBlues! I need a new moniker and am about to change it but that would only confuse everyone even more).

    My daughter is a year older than you, also in a very high achieving demanding school. Believe me, I know all about those late nights. When I was in high school, an all nighter was such a rarity, I only remembere doing it about twice. And I probably have some form of ADD! My mother was very strict about bedtime, we had to be in bed at 9pm, no exceptions. To this day, I thank her for that. Once when I stayed up all night, I prayed she would not awaken and see me burning the post-midnight oil.

    But those late nights were rare. That night, I was deep in flow, crafting a masterpiece and I remember how thrilled I was the next morning that I’d finished it. I went to school and don’t know how I got through it, the entire day was a blur. When I came home, I crashed. I went straight to bed and slept till the morning.

    These days when a child (yes, you’re still a child) stays up till around 2:30, she has to pull off that feat yet again the very next night. The message? You’re tired? No excuses. So much for caring compassionate schools, concerned about the health and well being of children.

    My duaghter doesn’t get to come home and crash. Which is why I hate this sleep deprivation and we deal with it all the time. At my daughter’s school, the kids who can make it are the ones who are able to take a nap when they come home. My daughter is not a napper, she just can’t will her body to do it. She can stagger through the week on five hours sleep (I don’t allow these late nights but she also has trouble falling asleep) and still not be able to nap when she comes home. So success at this school hinges not on your intellectual capability but…whether you can nap! Survival the fittest. The Japanese have refined this nap on demand to a fine art. I hosted a Japanese student and the minute the metrorail began moving, they all checked out.

    My daughter walks through the door, looking tired and listless and some days she attacks her homework with a kind of grim resolve. Like you, Soph, she likes her school and many of her teachers. But we talk about sleep deprivation all the time. I am the mother who says, you have done enough, you are going to bed. I’m sorry to say I’m in the minority at that school.

    Soph, you are making the right decision. Yes, we know many students who will stay up until every last drop of homework is completed. This tends to be more girls than boys, probably because girls are still socialized to be compliant good little girls, vying for the teacher’s pet role.

    But as you know, Soph, when you stagger into school on little sleep, you will derive very little from your school day. Think of how much more satisfying your life would be if you were fully rested, each and every day of school!

    And research now tells us that if you only get five hours sleep, you may as well flush everything you learned earlier that day. We used to think it was the opposite, that your next day is shot. It is of course but we now know (famous Tetrus study) that if you go to school on a Monday, say, and then get five or less hours of sleep that night, you will not retain anything you learned earlier that day. And your Tuesday will still be shot. That is because you are rising during your deep REM sleep and it is in REM sleep that we consolidate information and commit learning to memory. If you can’t remember it, you really haven’t learned it. This must be why so many students spend hours cramming for tests. They simply do not recall what they learned the first time they read it.

    Furthermore, there is tremendous brain growth in the teen years. More sobering research and it just confirms the obvious. Teens need more sleep because of rapid brain growth. You sleep less, you compromise that growth. We know that when we are sleep deprived, our IQs drop. We are simply less smart, less alert, less efficient. We’ve always been led to believe those effects are temporary and our normal IQ comes back after we’ve gotten the sleep we need. In teens, that effect is permanent. Sleep deprivation equals diminished IQ. Permanently. Hyper-competitive baby boomer moms, take THAT to the bank!

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  20. THANK YOU! I’m glad some other people believe in sleep too!!!! I was getting a little worried it was just me 😉 PsychMom, thanks too…I think maybe we do go a little overboard with time management expectations (at my school we like to say that if you never do anything after school and never get sick and like waking up early the amount of homework is perfect!) but for me personally…I dunno, I generally see myself as a little behind the curve–which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, so long as I take steps to get better. It’s when I can feel myself procrastinating or taking forever on something that I can SEE could be so much easier if only I could get myself to work/work efficiently…
    Anyway, about the sleep issue, something from my own school:

    At my school they just did an SOS (stressed out students/challenge success) survey (shows they’re trying to change–yay) and our dean of students was being like, wow, we’re awesome, we get more sleep and have fewer checked-out students than the average! Woo hoo! And then you look at the numbers…yeah, we get more sleep–by seven minutes! And the school average is still something like 6 and three-quarters hours, when recommended is nine and I still feel like I need nine and a half or more to really be in top form. And yeah, we have fewer checked out kids, but we still have enough to fill an entire grade. “Only” one quarter of the school checked out or totally disengaged is NOT something we should be celebrating! And then the letter they sent out to the parents I think pushed beyond presenting ‘shiny side of the apple out’ into substituting a plastic apple when they thought no one was looking. It is true though that we have some pretty seriously hyper parents at my school (who all seem to be the ones who can write the biggest checks i.e. the ones that the school doesn’t want to make upset) and I can sort of see why they would rush to reassure them, esp. during economic downturn etc., but there are plenty of sensible parents too who are going to look at this and not really get the full picture, in my opinion. Sure, they had a parent coffee where they could come and see the data, but during the middle of the day when working parents wouldn’t be available, in a really small room with space for like 20 people, and hardly advertised it at all to the community. I know my school really does want less stressed and more engaged kids (the admins really are good people, just I think a little too ready to congratulate themselves/rest on laurels) and I’m really glad they took the survey, but…jeez. Now lets DO something about it, not just be happy we’re marginally above the (abysmal) national average!

    I think all schools should be made to do a survey, get the average student’s day (hours of work/after school commitments, commute time, etc.) and work their homework assignments so that it is indeed possible for a kid to get at least the recommended 9 hours of sleep a night. And when I say work the assignments, I don’t mean, if they do the math and it turns out there’s only 2 hours of homework available time, minus a reasonable amount for, like, anything the student might WANT to do with their unstructured time, no giving us an assignment that the TEACHER could do in two hours! (I’m beginning to think that’s the problem with unrealistic homework time expectations in elementary–teachers could do it in 35 minutes, so added 10 min for a margin and called it ’45 minutes of homework a night.’

    sorry, now I need to get down off my soapbox! 😉

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  21. Dear High School Soph–oh wait I’m a junior now I guess,

    Thanks for your description of how the SOS results were presented. Like you, I believe that schools should be worried when a fair percentage of its constituents (students/parents/teachers) is unhappy. If you want to email me privately and let me know the name of your school, I’d be happy to pass along your insights (anonymously if you’d like) to the founders of Challenge Success. I’m sure they’d want to know what you have to say.

    As far as the way you’re managing your life, congratulations. You really seem to be well grounded and are making healthy choices over and over again. I wish more people would learn from you, students and adults alike.

    Have a great summer.

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  22. I echo Sara’s comments. And no, please do not get off your soap box :). We need to keep hearing from you, we like the window we get from the teen’s perspective.

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  23. Thanks, Sara! Hmm, I actually might take you up on that…I just hope I’m not being too nitpicky/not ‘count-your-blessings-y’ enough.
    I really DO appreciate how my school is looking to improve, and it IS true that we have less turned off students than the average school does, I don’t want to be making my school look really bad because they do a lot right. “Overwhelming majority” in the parent letter suggests to me a statistic less like 75% and more like 89% at least, but I very well might just be parsing semantics. Semantics aside, however, I think just stating that an overwhelming majority of our students are happy and wonderful and that we get ‘slightly more sleep than the average’ (is seven minutes really worth reporting? That’s like, within standard deviation) really doesn’t do enough to rally support and energy to do something about the 100 kids in our 400 kid school who are either tuned out completely or feel like they’re running rat races. And the parents who AREN’T nuts, of which there are many, deserve clearer information, I think, and really a kind of call to arms. I don’t mind feeling proud of what we’ve accomplished, but the reaction of the school has seemed to be veering a little into complacency. Their big, lauded change that they’ve made to the schedule has been to make school start 30 minutes later one day a week, if you don’t have an art class during 3rd period. Great, awesome, wonderful–just don’t stop there, because you’re not done yet! I guess I’m saying that it’s not that I think my school’s horrible and a bad place that I want it to change and improve, it’s because I feel like I can see what, with a little effort and some soul-searching and some diplomacy, this place could become. My school has done a lot, but it’s still got the kind of Potential that I’d hate to see stuffed back in some cupboard to get dusty.
    Do you think I’m just quibbling over details, or would my concerns really be worth sending over to Denise Pope et. al?

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  24. Dear High School Soph–oh wait I’m a junior,

    You’re not being too nit-picky, nor are you quibbling over details. Please send me privately whatever information you’d like me to pass on to Denise Pope and I will. I know she would want to hear it, but if I just show her your comment and she doesn’t know which school, then she can’t do anything about the information other than be frustrated.

    Like

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