Monday, October 1, 2018

It starts at home

A couple of years ago, after a big house clean out, my mom brought over my baby book and other childhood memorabilia, like my Strawberry Shortcake toys and frog stuffed animals.  Tucked inside the front cover of my baby book along with random report cards and paperwork was a science quiz from junior high.  A quiz that I almost failed.  I had no recollection as to how that quiz ended up in my baby book.  Who thought to place it in there amongst elementary school photos and growth charts?  And why?

But I guess that's the point.

I'm sure a quiz with a D grade for a student who had never received a D grade caused turmoil and grief at the time, but I really don't remember it.  I can remember the room for that particular class and I can imagine the horror and embarrassment of such a grade, but I cannot recall the events related to that particular quiz in any sort of detail.  It's all fuzzy and, at my age, any memories I think I have of this are most likely reconstructed.

What I do know is that years and years later, that quiz held zero significance in my life.  It didn't impact where I went to college.  There were no implications with respect to my college degree.  That grade had absolutely no relevance to my career.  Maybe that was the point in finding it all those years later.  One bad grade will not change your life, no matter how difficult it is to accept at the time.

I'm at the age where I tell the girls stories from my childhood that start with "when I was your age."  They roll their eyes and tell me everything was old fashioned back then.  Our current school system has made the transition from elementary school to middle school fairly seamless.  It is a big change, but most kids should be able to handle it.  The teachers and administrators have done a lot of hand holding these past few weeks.

I've told the girls many times about my junior high experience, how I attended a small, private Catholic school for 5th and 6th grades before starting junior high in a completely new town, where my father had became part of the school system.  Not only did I not know anyone, but the transition to a stronger school was difficult.  When I think back to St. Mary's, I remember quite a bit - the uniforms (it's actually scary how much detail I can recall of the uniforms), my penny loafers, my friends, Katie and Maleka, recess watching the boys break dance on cardboard they kept hidden in the woods behind the school, attending church.  I don't remember anything at all about actual schoolwork.  I don't remember anything I learned, I don't remember any tests, I don't remember any homework.  Nothing.

Schoolwork is a big memory from junior high.  There was a lot of it.  Homework, quizzes, tests, projects.  I seem to have a part of my brain that holds memories related to clothing because I can certainly bring up all the Benetton, Esprit and Reebok that was being worn by everyone but me it seemed.

In talking to parents of older kids at dance, I've learned that sometimes kids need to learn how to study for tests in middle school.  I can see how that happened to me and I'm watching it with the girls now.  They never really had to study for tests in elementary school.  Either you knew it or you didn't.  Their report cards would reflect whether they met the expectations of the state or how they stood in the learning process.  Now their report cards will have actual grades.

It starts at home.

When school started, I reinstated our rule of no television Monday through Thursday. (Yes, there are exceptions.)  Honestly, there is just no need for them to be zoning out in front of the TV.  Between dance, after school activities and homework, there is enough to do.  They are allowed to use electronics (their kindles or chrome books) but they aren't the type of kids who really do much on those so it's not a concern.  I don't want to say, "Hey, you can watch TV after you finish your homework," because I can guarantee someone will rush through her homework.

The school has a policy of approximately 20 minutes per class of homework each night.  Not every class has homework every night and no one should be spending more than 90 minutes in total on homework.  It seems like math is the most time consuming and their teacher has told us that after 30 minutes, a parent can sign it and she will count it as completed.

Their final grade in each class is based on a variety of items.  Depending on the class, 15-25% of your grade is based on homework, participation, etc.  As far as I can tell, when they refer to participation, it's more a matter of being mentally present in class and working with classmates, not always raising your hand.  The homework thing is a no brainer to me.  Do your homework and you get 100%.  Easy.  Except the girls tell me there are kids who don't do their homework.  Ever.

Communication with the parents has been good thus far.  There's a weekly email outlining upcoming tests and work due back to the school.  All homework is posted online so at any given time, I can go online and see if they have homework to do.  I'm not going to sit here and judge all the parents of the kids who don't complete their homework.  I don't know their situations.  What I'm hear to say is that I fully believe parents need to be involved at this point.

All of the girls' teachers stay after school Monday through Thursday in order to assist kids with their homework.  If you don't need help but you want to stay at school to complete your homework - that's okay too.  The girls can't do this every day because of some early dance classes, but I do encourage it when possible.  They are still in school mode and there's a teacher there to help with any subject if they have questions.  At first Emily said it was for kids who didn't have a parent at home.  Ha ha.  I try my best, but I'm not a teacher.

Not every kid is going to earn 100% on every test.  I expect to see 100% effort though.  I have to catch myself sometimes when I say I'm proud of them.  What am I proud of?  It's the effort, which leads to the high grade or beautiful dancing.  In my mind, you shouldn't be proud of someone simply for being born smart or born with natural talent.  There should always be some sort of effort behind it.  There are plenty of people out there who are smart or hold some sort of talent but without the effort, pfffft, there's nothing.


Melanie said...

School was a struggle for me. I hated it so I remember all sorts of details about homework struggles, grades etc.... I was far from an A student in high school or college nor was my husband but we both went on to be very successful. I try to keep that in mind as we navigate school with our own children.

90 minutes of homework per night seems like a lot to me when you add in the amount of time they spend in school and extra curriculars. My kids are still really little so we haven't gotten to that yet.

Sarah said...

I keep the grades thing in mind too. Everyone is good at something - you just need to figure that out. The max amount of time on homework should be 80-90 mins - the girls spend about an hour each afternoon/night. Since school has started, there has only been one night where they've spent 90 minutes. If it was 90 mins each and every night, I would think that would be too much. Some teachers in the elementary school have moved towards no or very limited homework. I've heard of some middle schoolers in other areas with 2+ hours of homework a night, which I think is out of control.