Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Rural Alabama

Today’s guest blogger, Jerri Ann Head Reason, lives in rural Alabama with her husband and their two sons, a 6 year old who just started first grade and a 4 year old. Jerri Ann, who has a B.S. in Education and a M.A. in Counseling, has been writing to me for over a year, ever since she discovered The Case Against Homework. Last year, she blogged extensively about her adventures with kindergarten homework. This year, she decided to become the Parent/Teacher Liaison at her son’s school–the very same school where her father taught, and in the same district where she was a student and where she has taught as well. In addition to her blog, Education Uncensored, she recently started PhD in First Grade to help parents and children keep track of the “massive amount of homework given to the first graders.”

One Mother and Her Army
by Jerri Ann Head Reason

My son was in Kindergarten last year and mostly I complained about the state of affairs at school, including what we now refer to as the horrible “H” word; homework. I couldn’t fathom how five-year-olds could be expected to do any “H” word, never mind the amount he was expected to do. And, that’s how I met Sara Bennett and I came to read The Case Against Homework. Mostly I spent my time complaining online and to anyone who would listen but not actually talking to people who could help. This year, as the parent of a first grader, I have taken a different approach. That approach is “if you can’t beat them, join them, and then change their minds, one person at a time”. Knowing the people who can help make the change possible is essential and it’s not going to happen if you just sit back complain. If you have any question about the amount of “H” word I am referring to, see the website I created to help the first grade parents keep up. It’s a doozy, PhD in First Grade.

I started this year out with a bang. I joined the PTO first. That put me in direct contact with a few people who had some pull. I did some teaching for the school and the PTO to parents regarding various topics and the principal quickly asked me to serve as a Parent/Teacher Liaison. Obviously, it’s not my role to get into the privacy of students, parents and teacher’s conversations. But, instead of a having to have a group of people bound together and barge into the school building with a complaint, she asked that I be that go-between and that I then approach the administration with any serious complaints. I quickly agreed and set about meeting parents, teaching parents of the kindergarteners or any other students new to the school about the policies and procedures that may not be obvious (and in my opinion probably aren’t even necessary) and helping everyone learn to use the monitoring system that our schools use via the computer. I also used this as an opportunity to ask parents their opinions on the “H” issue.

And, to my surprise, all were in agreement with me…the “H” word is out of control. So, having secured a relationship with the PTO Secretary who is also a trustee, I took my case to her. She expressed that she “sort of” agreed with me and would try to help me look into it further. I then approached, the second of three trustees. He has children in the school who have been subjected to the craziness of it all, and immediately I had another ally. My next step was to approach the School Board Member who represents our school and having children of is own, although in a different school, he agreed with my thoughts, my ideas and was open to reading the statistics regarding the “H” word.

That leaves me with one Trustee to approach and he has a son in high school and one in my son’s class. Once I have made my case to him, then I will take my information and move to a higher authority. And, believe it or not, it’s not looking to be near as painful and difficult as I originally thought it would be. And that? That makes me smile. I know my children aren’t going to lose their childhood to homework. It’s been a slow process if you look at the overall picture. But, if you look at it from the standpoint that school started on August 11th, I’m one month in and I’ve managed to sway some key people. And, one final straw came yesterday when several teachers that I approached regarding the “H” word said to me, “I don’t give it unless it is absolutely necessary. The board (school board) is not real fond of that technique but that’s how I like to handle my class.”

And, therein lies the problem. The “H” issue rolls downhill and it all starts with the State Department of Education pushing “higher learning” and “better test scores” without knowing that the “H” word is not the way to accomplish this. It trickles down until teachers are actually evaluated by the way they handled the “H” word.

So, we have a long way to go, but I have gathered some of the best people to help me march the march and hopefully before the end of this school year, I won’t be sitting with my first grader while he does 40 minutes worth of homework every night. If you live in Alabama and you are fortunate enough to have found Sara and the book she co-authored, by all means, contact me. Let’s make this a state wide campaign, we can be much more successful that way.

Ready, Set ..Go!

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