80 thoughts on “Open Dialogue Week

  1. Fred–The meeting sound like a great start. They acknowledged there’s a problem and that they’re going to start to address it. If it were me, I, too would take what they say at face value. But I’d also tell them that while they’re figuring out a long-term solution (and I’d ask to be part of the discussion that leads to that long-term solution, there needs to be some short-term solution. Maybe something really simple like each parent who wants to can “opt out” (I’m a big dreamer), or putting a time limit on homework, or alternating days for different kinds of homework, etc.

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  2. Thanks, Anon. So, following the meeting, the principal sent me an e-mail with the name of that person and the this: “Remember change is a process not an event !”

    Really interesting, a little mind-reading there? In any case, I sent the following reply/followup:

    “Dear ____

    Thank you for the name. And thank you again for the meeting this morning. Please share this and my thanks with Mr. ____ and Mr. ____ — I do not have their e-mails.

    I fully understand the need to adhere to an orderly process. I am in this for the long haul, so to speak, not only for my fifth grader’s sake but also for my second-grader’s — and for the benefit of all the students and families.

    I continue to appreciate your responsive, thoughtful approach and commitment to change.

    At the same time, there have to be visible, measurable, and meaningful changes; process cannot be simply for its own sake. To that end — and based on my sense of the timing from our meeting this morning — I would hope to have some indication by early summer (?) of where and how the process is going, what changes may be impelmented, and when. I will make a point of inquiring again then, and would also ask that if there are relevant discussions or changes prior to that, you would let me know.

    There is also a risk in my mind of deferring action until later, though I understand the need for process. The risk is the continued deterioration of my daughter’s feelings about school. I am hopeful that we can at least cope with the difficulties and get through the year. However, I will need to continue to call out unnecessarily difficult, excessive, or poorly thought-out assignments if and when they arise. I will strive to do so directly with the teachers, but at some point I may need to bring you in the loop.

    Finally, I want to reiterate my offer to participate in any way you would find productive, such as making a presentation to the faculty, and enourage you to consider taking advantage of this offer. My views are hardly strident, and I am interested in constructive engagement.

    Enjoy the spring!”

    Alas, I am given to an excess of words….but hopefully conveyed what needed to be conveyed….!!!

    And now, I’m getting ready to roll on a few days of well-deserved vacation with aforementioned older daughter….By for now, and THANK YOU, SARA for making this wonderful forum happen!!

    –Fred–

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  3. @Fred Baumgarten —

    from “Bad Teachers”, by Guy Strickland:

    ****
    DELAY

    The principal knows that time is his greatest ally… If the principal can stall for a while, there is a good chance that the parents will cool off and let the problem slide. Or the parents will decide they “can’t fight city hall” and give up entirely. Even if the parents do pursue the problem, the principal might be able to stall until the end of the year, at which time the problem “solves” itself.

    How can you tell if the principal is using a delaying tactic? He will listen politely to your comments and then insist that he needs some time to gather more information. He will say that he wants to discuss the problem with the teacher … Your best plan, therefore, is to schedule a date for the second meeting before you have left the first meeting; if you don’t, the delaying tactic will already be working effectively against you.
    ****

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  4. Kerry Dickinson says:

    I’m con­sid­er­ing look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of start­ing a char­ter school for grades 6?–?12 in the East Bay (of Cal­i­for­nia). But, we already have “good” schools here with high API scores and I’m not sure if I can sell my idea to enough peo­ple to make it a worth­while endeavor. I’d like to know from read­ers who post com­ments on Sara’s web­site what, in your opin­ion, would an ideal 6th-12th grade school look like? I already have my own ideas, but want to gen­er­ate more ideas from like-minded folks.

    Take the school you are trying to get away from and do exactly the opposite. Unfortunatly, charter schools still have to play the same standardized test game. I entertained the thought of starting a private progressive unschool, but I’m not sure how committed I am. I know how much work it would take and I want to spend my time with my daughter while she is still young. However, reading some of the comments on this site get me all stirred up.

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  5. “The phys ed teacher repeated the idea that students “need to learn time management,”

    Ah, yes, she ougtha know. After all, she is a pys ed teacher. Not knocking phys ed teachers, by any means, but her opinion in this matter counts why? There is her area of expertise, I am certain. It’s always a good thing when folks spout off group think without having researched or given the idea any legitimate thought.

    The gym teacher clearly has picked up the “it’s not the teachers, it’s your kid’s time management” mantra from various meetings over the years and is simply regurgitating. As if you’d never heard it before. And if students need to learn “time management,” then let the schools teach it and manage it there.

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  6. I have a better and simpler solution for your principal, Fred. Eliminate elementary homework entirely. That solves the whole problem! That way you don’t need the “process.” The meetings, task forces, research studies, surveys, reports, changes that are all surely to follow. With a good chance there won’t be all that much improvement. No wonder schools love busy work so much. They spend most of their day engaging in it.

    Just get rid of homework! Let the children read, draw, write novels, go to museums, nature centers, plays, lectures, puppet shows, make dinner, build a train set, build a shelf, build a forte in the woods, just to name a few, during their free after school time. Hey, I’d settle for a book list (not a log, just a list) if my daughter would have been allowed to read all afternoon. Can you imagine the great literature she would have had time to consume?

    Tell the principal all that! What an education your children will receive. Of course then the onus is to use time wisely in school. That concept ougtha take six months of meetings alone.

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  7. Fred says:

    ***
    In tak­ing this approach, I also real­ize that I am likely giv­ing up the hope of sig­nif­i­cant change this year, in effect con­demn­ing my own daugh­ter (and fam­ily) to a mis­er­able fifth grade year.
    ***

    Fred, if your daughter is truly miserable, just get her the heck out of there. Is there someone at home, so you could just take her out of school? “Bad Teachers” by Guy Strickland says you can take a kid out for the last 8 weeks with no bad consequences from a public school.

    If you can’t keep her home, try to give her as many “mental health days” as possible. If the school squawks about it, have your pediatrician write a note that your daughter is suffering from stress and anxiety.

    Allowing your child’s unhappiness to continue while you wait for improvement from the school is a bad bargain.

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  8. HWB says —

    ***
    No won­der schools love busy work so much. They spend most of their day engag­ing in it.
    ***

    Right on, HWB. In the words of Lily Tomlin, “… and that’s the truth. Pbbbbblt.”

    Fred says:

    ***
    All at the meet­ing agreed that there needs to be bet­ter sup­port for time man­age­ment, with teach­ers get­ting more actively involved in sug­gest­ing how much time an assign­ment should take, how it should be done, and break­ing out assign­ments into man­age­able tasks. The phys ed teacher repeated the idea that stu­dents “need to learn time man­age­ment,”
    ***

    “Time management” is all about pushing long-term work onto younger and younger kids, who are just not developmentally ready for it. And if the teachers break the assignments up, you’ll get crappy “note-taking” exercises like the one my daughter got in 5th grade: “write down 3 facts from page 18. Now write down 4 facts from page 19”, etc. Add in to the mix that they’re really asking the parents to manage the kids’ time in a way the school approves of, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.

    Nix the “time management” assignments. Just let the kids grow up.

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  9. FedUpMom writes: ““Bad Teachers” by Guy Strick land says you can take a kid out for the last 8 weeks with no bad consequences from a public school.”

    FUM, I’ll do you one better. You can pull your child from school anytime! Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states in this union so there should never be bad repercussions. Fred, I’ll second FedUp’s suggestion. Why don’t you consider taking your girl out for the rest of the year? There are no negative consequences. I haven’t studied the homeschooling laws in New York, but in my state, it’s pretty simple. I didn’t yank my child out midyear but many folks I know did just that. My state requires you provide a Notice of Intent at the beginning (and this could be no more than a few paragraphs) and Proof of Progress at the end (I submitted a test) and they leave you alone in the middle.

    Should you go this route, DON’T clarify the rules with the school. They are often wrong. My state has a wonderful state homeschooling organization, I got all my information from them. Also, remember. You do NOT need the school’s permission to homeschool. Even if you choose to go on a cruise for three months, in the eyes of the law, you have become a homechooler so you do have to file the appropriate paperwork.

    Fred, think about it. If you plan to put your daughter back for 6th, this should be easy as pie. I’ll make it real simple for you. Take her out and unschool her. If you have someone at home to take her around, that’s all you need to do. Take her on a field trip every day. Have her read to abandon if that’s what she loves. Do a little math. That’s all you need.

    Trust me on this. Your daughter does not need to suffer, you do not need to stick it out. And no, you won’t be teaching her to be a quitter. What you can do at home is so much more compelling than what she gets at school. And remember: schools are heading into test prep season. And after the tests, the teachers check out for the remaining six weeks and it’s project city. They waste time in school and it all comes home. At least it does in the gifted programs.

    For the rest of the year, take her out and start learning now. You can get all your learning done during the day. There is no homework. In our case, Learning Never Ends. I’m not homeschooling now but the year we were, it wasn’t school and then homework. We didn’t bisect. It was seamless. Sometimes my daughter did her essay writing at night but that’s because we spent the whole day at the science museum and the essay was due at midnight. We always discussed, learned, created and read but she almost never did academics in the late evening as she did with school. And if it was essay deadline night (on line course) and she was working up to deadline, she got to sleep in the next morning.

    Take her out. Tell the principal your daughter is suffering and there are so many neat things you don’t have time for now that you are taking her out. Tell the principal you’ll keep up with her and will return your child next year, at which point you are confident changes have been made.

    I’d go for this, Fred. It’s three months. Three months of awesome learning where you have an opportunity to rekindle that spark. Childhood goes fast. You may think three months, three smonths, but when it all runs out on you, three months is a treasure. If you can grab it and have a great time with your family, nuke homework tears and frustration for three months, grab it.

    Trust me. It’s what I would do. I have a 12th grader and contemplated doing just this in 5th grade to avoid that oppressive end of year project. I didn’t do it that year. It took another two and then I was left with only one year before high school. I regret my cold feet every day.

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  10. Hi Fred- Don’t mean to discourage you…..however, I find it interesting that the teachers who post here say they have very little latitude re: homework. On the other hand, the principal has told you the teachers must “buy in” to the concept of homework revision. What does this mean exactly? Would the teachers be afraid they could no longer outsource to the parents? Are they afraid of lower test scores without homework? Are they to rigid and/or unmotivated to re-design homework (probably). Does the principal need the consent of the school board to make any significant change re: homework policies?

    By there very nature, bureaucracies and sacred cows (education) are resistant to change. What’s in it for them? Will the principal and the teachers be better off playing it safe and make no changes (to them it really isn’t that broken). It will be interesting to see how it plays out. One last thought, I believe you stated the Phys. Ed. teacher was a man. She might have just brought him in for intimidation factor because you are a man. In our school, I notice the response to every parent complaint is very well scripted on the part of the teachers/principal. Good Luck!

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  11. Fred –

    In the meanwhile, have you considered trying to just opt out of homework. Write some formal letter stating that you will take full responsibility for any negative impact on her learning process. Of course, they must agree to only base her grades on in-school assignments.

    I find it annoying that the school day takes up at least half of a child’s awake hours, then there is homework nibbling away at the rest. There is more to life than academics and as parents we get very little time to prepare them for it. I just got my son’s homework load reduced and limited to reading assignments. Still homework feels intrusive. We had to stop playing chess yesterday so my son could complete his reading assignment and sight words. I fantasize about negotiating a “no homework plan” for my son. Maybe I could get it added to his IEP. I also fantasize about a nation-wide homework strike. Kids are stressed, pushed beyond their developmental limits, rushed out of childhood, and primed for mid-life heart attacks. However I’m afraid that many parents push their kids exceed expectations which just fuels the homework insanity. Maybe my son’s classification is a blessing because I had to readjust my expectations a long time ago. Look out “Your Baby Can Read” because “Your Baby Can Read in The Womb” is on the horizon.

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  12. Dear All, So many interesting and provocative comments to respond to, so little time — hey, I need some help with my time management! 😉 Especially since I’m enjoying my spring break with my daughter (having taken her out of school for two days to be with me).

    So, to respond very quickly to just a few:

    – My wife and I both work. Options are limited. There are private schools but that is hard for us to afford, or geographically difficult, and there is no guarantee they are any less conventional. In fact, at the nearest private middle school, which has 3/4 boarding students, I’ve heard it said that they’re all way stressed out and all on various meds!!

    – I may have overstated a bit; I’m not sure my daughter’s miserable, but she is certainly bored. She does get some enjoyment from school, just the non-academic side: she is in the school musical, plays the saxophone, enjoys art and sports, has friends, etc.

    – I don’t think I’d get very far if I walked in and said, just get rid of homework. I am maintaining a positive attitude and a deliberative approach. Why does the school do what it does and take the “default” route, as Alfie calls it? I don’t know for sure, but I believe ultimately that it is driven by fear of the standardized tests and curriculum standards and how the school will be judged and funded. I think the teachers have done things one way for a long time. I think the principal is probably right that she needs their buy-in.

    – I have mixed feelings about opt-out. Maybe I’m being hypocritical here, but I feel as if it’s making my daughter the guinea pig. We have already won some concessions, such as the “right” to do an abbreviated, timed math assignment, and when I feel the need, I write notes to the teacher explaining why my daughter was excused from an assignment. (Although, as I discuss on my blog, that triggers the “homework slip.”) I would rather work for systemic change.

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  13. So…a post-script — and feel free to roll your eyes here 😉 but while enjoying breakfast with my daughter at a hotel yesterday, she casually said, “Hmm. Right now I’d be in science class.” Me: “What would you be doing?” She: “We’re coloring in parts of a model of the ear.” Me: “I thought that was what you were doing at home, coloring in a diagram of parts of the ear.” She: “Yes, and in school we’re making a model.” Me: “You mean a cool, 3-dimensional model, right?” She: “No, a paper model.” Me: “So, you’re doing the same thing in class as you’re doing for homework?” She: “Dad, you look like you’re fuming.”

    I got up from the table at that instant and at 8:30 in the morning called the principal and got her voicemail. I left her a long message basically saying that what I’d just been told was so beyond the pale that I was outraged. Where is the real science? Why is school wasting my time and my daughter’s time?

    Well, I haven’t heard back from the principal yet, and I don’t know what this is going to do to my slow-and-steady attempt to change the homework situation. Somehow I can accept that the homework problem can be gradually addressed, but not if it’s the same BS my children get in school. I really am going to raise the roof if this isn’t addressed yesterday. I think I’ve joined the ranks of the FedUp.

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  14. Fred, I think we all have a certain point where we just can’t take it any more.

    You know how homework advocates say “it gives the parents useful insight into what their kids do at school”? How very right they are. Yes, the garbage your kid brings home is the same garbage they do at school.

    “Science” in public school seems to be mostly about memorizing vocabulary. I remember a test my daughter brought home from public 5th grade — it was all about correctly labeling the parts of a microscope. She got a high score. Could she correctly label the microscope today, 2 years later? Almost certainly not. So what was the point?

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  15. From Kerry, above comment #50

    “I’d like to know from read­ers who post com­ments on Sara’s web­site what, in your opin­ion, would an ideal 6th-12th grade school look like”.

    Personally, I don’t think “the ideal school” can possibly exist. What would be the ideal school for one set of kids would NOT be ideal for another set. Just take the examples of (a) single-sex vs. coeducational (b) school size (c) relative emphasis on arts vs. STEM vs. some other emphasis.

    That’s one of the reasons for the charter movement– more school choice, rather than the one-size-serves all traditional high school.

    Now that said, as an “old private school hand” I have a very strong preference for schools that have articulated, and lived, sets of values –as to pedagogy, as to character traits of students, faculty and staff, and as to program elements.

    The Athenian School, which is in your neck of the woods, is an example of such a school. It’s part of the Round Square consortium.

    Round Square schools are founded on a philosophy which embraces a series of six pillars or precepts which can be summed up in the word IDEALS. They are Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service.

    Another is Woodside Priory (across San Francisco Bay in Portola Valley) which takes the Rule of St. Benedict as its inspirational model

    We believe in these Benedictine values:

    Spirituality–God works in us, through us, and for us.
    Hospitality–All are welcomed with honor and respect.
    Integrity–Learning flourishes in an environment of honesty, trust, and personal responsibility.
    Individuality–Every student has gifts to be discovered, nurtured, and treasured.
    Community–Together we find strength and purpose in supporting one another.

    We believe these values are made real in a community in which every student is known and loved.

    Another very interesting school is Lick-Wilmerding:

    As a private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding encourages participation in community service and is committed to developing innovative educational programs that will benefit students and teachers throughout the Bay Area.

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  16. Fred, for me it was a slow progression too. But as a parent of a 12th grader, I saw the BS a long time ago and got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. And that’s when I pulled her out.

    You can do your slow and steady approach. In my case, the time I spent working the system was time I could be designing our own program. We need to be at Step 2 now. I’d like to see a nationwide boycott. I think it’s time for all parents to stop playing nicey nice and soft peddling. I’m not knocking you for your reasoned rational diplomatic approach. You sound like a great guy and I’m glad you joined this forum. But given the massive research and anecdotal evidence, it’s time for some anger. Anger moves people.

    I’m a rabid feminist. I’m not suggesting you or your wife quit work. I worked part time and was able to homeschool. Maybe look into a homeschool co-op. Can one of you take one day off? Co-ops are springing up where all the parents teach the kids and you need not be there every day.

    You didn’t overstate. I understand your child likes aspects of the school. If our kids hated every drop, we would have yanked them years ago. There’s always a tug. My daughter wrote an essay her homeschooled year about what she loved and missed about her school. And it wasn’t the academics! What does that say?

    We are all afraid of becoming shrill. Of going off the deep end. Worried we’ll appear rabid and reactionary.

    I’m a normal person. I’m pretty sane. All I wanted for my daughter was a good education. I’d settle for decent. I just wrote a friend, I would have been happy if school did school and we could homeschool on the side. It’s when school crept into every corner of our lives. When I began to feel school had settled into my living room in some bizarre hostile takeover. I just wanted to take back our lives.

    My daughter loves to learn. She loves to read. I got fed up with taking her books away (she was reading Wuthering Heights in 5th grade) and forcing her to stop writing a novel so she could spend hours on meaningless dribble. I got fed up with all the museums we could no longer go to, the parks, the walks, the talks. What is this, prison? She’s a child! I just got fed up.

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  17. Great post HWB (as usual). As parents (adults), why are we all so worried about what the schools think? They certainly don’t have the same consideration for parents. As Fred Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) says; “Maturity is the balance between courage and consideration.” I feel the culture of our public school system is essentially immature (no consideration for the parents). Ironically, the same people who gravitate towards these positions are trying to teach our children about character.

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  18. I chose to opt my son out of homework this year, not because the amount was all that excessive, but because the assignments had no value–they’re just busywork. I still have him do some of the bigger projects that are truly educational (in my view), and we work together to break those longer assignments down into “bite-size chunks”, but we never do the reading logs or the mindless worksheets.

    My son reads and writes for pleasure all the time now, as well as exploring the outdoors, engaging in imaginative play, or just vegging out after a long day at school. Best decision I ever made!

    Public school parents have more power than they think (remember who works for whom, after all). My son’s teacher looked a bit stunned when I politely but firmly stated that, no, thank you, we would not be participating in the homework assignments this year.because I don’t believe in it. He’s a fairly new teacher (only his 3rd year, I think, but not young–a second-career kind of teacher) and he didn’t seem to know quite how to respond (which I think worked to my advantage).

    I did this at the first class meeting of the year (at our school we have parent meetings for just our class once a month, on a weeknight, with childcare provided), as soon as he announced the homework policy. Seriously, what can they do if you simply refuse? Kick you out? They don’t want to lose the money. You could claim it was on religious grounds, and they’d pretty much have to comply, but I chose to just tell him that I had done the research and I did not see that it would benefit my son’s education, so we would not be doing it. I offered to share my research with him and any other parent who would like to see it. After that, quite a number of other parents decided to do a full or partial opt-out for their children, too, and it had become the de facto homework “policy” for our class now, that homework is at the parent’s discretion.

    So far there has been no downside. I know at some schools you would have to fight to keep your kid from being kept in at recess, but I was willing to fight that all the way to the state board of education if necessary–research is on my side. But in this case, the teacher just went along as the path of least resistance. Parents in other classes who hear about this sometimes are aghast–“you can do that?” I just had “hit the wall” on the homework battles and wasn’t going to play their game anymore (if you are reading this website, you probably have, too).

    One pro-homework argument is that they have to be ready for middle school, where there will be lots of homework! This is the “BGUTI trap”–“Better Get Used To It”. When they get to [middle school, high school, college, their first job], things will be hard, so lets make sure they are prepared! So, your life is going to suck when you get to the next stage, so we are going to make sure it sucks now, so you are properly beaten down by the time you get there. Wouldn’t our time be better spent making the next level not suck, rather than making the present suck more? We may not be able to do much about reforming the workplace (where homework is rarely assigned…), but if we need to reform homework in middle school or high school, let’s work on that, too. Let’s work for a reasonable amount, and meaningful, thoughtful assignments at every level, and an end to busywork.

    Just my experience, YMMV.

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  19. Sharona says:

    ***
    Wouldn’t our time be bet­ter spent mak­ing the next level not suck, rather than mak­ing the present suck more?
    ***

    Words to live by, Sharona.

    Your school sounds really unusual. I’ve never heard of a school that held once-monthly parent meetings with child care provided. Wow!

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  20. Well, I agree with your statement. Students should be prompted to do more AT school (where they are supervised) rather than at home. You would be surprised to see how many ways kids think of to ‘outsource’ their homework. Then, what is the purpose of homework? On the internet, you have tons of sits such as http://www.drspss.blogspot.com that cater to a new generation that simply does not want to trade a little bit of pleasure now for knowledge that will help them in the future.

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  21. I followed a chain of links from Ivy League Insecurities to Underground Moms to you… and I think we’re on the same page at least about the homework. My two cents on it echoes the more extensive work you’ve done, but the more of us who speak out, the more we realize we’re not alone in our view of things.

    For my take on it see: Put… the… homework… down… (http://tiny.cc/kgia3)

    Namaste

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  22. Thrilled to read the end of last week’s “dialogue”. Such intelligent discussion. I was amazed by Fred’s principal saying that the teacher’s had to “buy in”..when many of the teachers who write in to complain about us, (provocative parents) say they have no choice in the matter. They HAVE to assign homework.
    Sounds like buck passing to me.

    Another facet of all this, which has been a concern to me is this: What happens to our kids? Aside from any backlash they might get from teachers..do the kids feel caught or confused by our behaviour as parents. I ask my child if she gets kept in for recess on certain days when I’ve put my foot down about homework, and she sometimes gets defensive. She likes her teacher…heck, I like her teacher….but I don’t like the subversion.

    So do our kids suffer because they feel trapped?

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  23. From Sharona:

    “This is the “BGUTI trap”?–?“Better Get Used To It”. When they get to [mid­dle school, high school, col­lege, their first job], things will be hard, so lets make sure they are pre­pared! So, your life is going to suck when you get to the next stage, so we are going to make sure it sucks now, so you are prop­erly beaten down by the time you get there. Wouldn’t our time be bet­ter spent mak­ing the next level not suck, rather than mak­ing the present suck more? We may not be able to do much about reform­ing the work­place (where home­work is rarely assigned…), but if we need to reform home­work in mid­dle school or high school, let’s work on that, too.”

    This is the best comment I’ve seen in a long time. Could not agree more!

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  24. Yes, I agree, Mary. Isn’t that a remarkable comment? We send the message to children loud and clear that life sucks. It sucks pretty bad in college and work, we tell them, so start being miserable now to get used to it.

    What kind of role modeling is this anyway? Do adults who interact with our kids every day at school hold such a dim view of adulthood? Deep down, do they despise their jobs and value endurance over joy and accomplishment?Are they securing a place in heaven with all this “redemption through suffering?” Shouldn’t we be up in arms that the grownups in our children’s midst are sending sending them such bleak dreary messages?

    Admittedly my next example comes from the mouth of a substitute teacher, not the regular one but there’s still no excuse. In 7th grade, a substitute teacher handed out a flyer for an upcoming event. Yes, they still handed out hard copies back then (five years ago). One boy lamented that he couldn’t go, he had too much homework. In fact, he added, I ALWAYS have too much homework and miss out on a lot.

    To which the teacher responded, “Oh, you’d better get used to it. It’s only going to get worse. Just wait until you get to high school!” Gee, that oughta get the kid excited about high school. We tell our kids that if you think things are bad now, you ain’t see nuthin’ yet, and then we wonder why they approach school work the way I do when I’m climbing into the dentist’s chair? I don’t ever want an educator to position education and worse in the same sentence.

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  25. “It’s only going to get worse.” As if kids aren’t already nervous enough about middle school, high school, college. For any kid who gives it more than a passing thought, growing up is kind of scary. But it’s also supposed to be exciting. What is exciting about “It’s only going to get worse”? And we wonder why there are so many depressed kids.

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  26. That’s why I see school refusal as such big indicator in little kids, and by little I mean anyone under twelve. Kids should love school. They should always want to go to school because that’s where they are excited and happy to be. When that isn’t the case…it’s very serious because it means that there is something wrong. Though it’sdeveloping, kids don’t have many ways to truly express themselves but through their emotions. A happy kid means all is right with the world. A sad kid or stressed out kid can’t be much else but sad or stressed.

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  27. Yes, Mary, we wring our hands. Go to any major metropolitan area in this countyr and be a fly on the wall. Follow all the high achieving kids and see where they go. Ask your friends how it went when they tried to make appointments for their children for that top ___________________ (fill in the blank. Psychiatrist for anti-anxiety meds, psychologist, social worker, homework coach, organizational coach, diagnostician) and what will they tell you? Oh, he’s completely booked. Told me to check back in a year. Someone’s getting very rich off all that misery and it sure ain’t the parents.

    “We have seen the enemy and it is us” — Pogo

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  28. Have I ever mentioned that my first job was in teaching…fifth grade? I wasn’t even a particularly good teacher; I was young and immature; but I was enthusiastic. And what I remember about fifth grade more than anything else is that 10- and 11-year-olds are awakening to the world and the life of the mind as never before; their curiosity is a beautiful thing to see.

    That’s what makes this dreary year for my fifth grade daughter so unbearable and so sad. It’s everything that fifth grade should not be. And all it would take would be a little enthusiasm and vitality from just one of her teachers — a little, from just one! But instead, fifth grade is like a forced march through the swamps to an even drearier next year, and year after that, and after that….

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  29. A thought just occurred to me. Perhaps we don’t like to admit we watch American Idol, but if we could for a moment, I’d like to acknowledge something that we could maybe use from that pop icon in our arguement against homework and the uselessness of it.

    I’ve watched almost every season of American Idol and some of Canadian Idol (just as talented, but without the glitter of American Idol)….so after hearing hundreds of kids sing, I now understand what Simon Cowell is saying. A sweet young thing will get up there and be perfectly fine..he or she will be in tune, it’ll be an OK performance. And Simon will say just that, plus, “it was utterly boring.” He gets booed but he’s right.
    In the world of school, that’s an A student, who does all the things that are expected, all the homework, and pulls it all off. That’s fine, but totally fogettable. But that’s what the education system wants.

    On American Idol, the ones that grab attention (they don’t even have to be perfectly in tune each time) have to be “interesting”. The winners usually have good voices, but they also have “something” special. And so it should be with all kids in school too. They are not all singers, dancers and actors, but they are also not all college-bound academics. As parents and educators, we need to draw out the uniqueness in each child. Yes, they have to have the life skills necessary to grow into viable adults but more than that, they need to be encouraged to find their inner “idol.” Why is it that many actors, singers and artists in general have bad educational histories? They drop out, they often don’t even have high school educations because they couldn’t conform. They had things to do that were more interesting and had the strength of character to fight the forces that would keep them bored, or they had support to follow their heart’s desire.

    I’m just saying, that school should be about the kids and making them shine….not rubbing so hard that the shine comes off.

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