October 12, 2011

Teachers who don't teach

One of the most often heard phrases that comes out of my house in regard to homework is, "I've already done _______ grade and I don't want to do it again."

I don't mind helping my kids with homework, but this crap is out of control.  When did elementary school kids start having homework?  I know I never did.  When Boom started school some 13 years ago, she had reading to do at home, which is simply the nanny state trying to make good, engaged parents out of bad, lazy ones.

The Princess has a weekly homework packet to be done Monday through Thursday.  It is mostly math.  The past two weeks she has been plotting points on a coordinate plane and taking surveys to turn into various types of graphs, which have to be done via a website. She also has spelling words to study.  Oh, and spelling bee words for the contest next month. And she is supposed to log 60 minutes per week on Rosetta Stone for the Spanish teacher.  Oh, and don't forget that a kid should be reading at least 15-20 minutes each night.  She is supposed to practice her cello at least 4 times per week and do her music theory homework for the music teacher.  THIS IS THIRD FREAKIN' GRADE!

While I think her homework is excessive, at least it is just homework.  The older kids seem to be doing more and more independent learning, which isn't always a bad thing, and I understand that if you can teach something that it shows mastery of the subject, but...some teachers' lesson plans seem, to be, 'get the kids to teach it'.  Teachers will take a unit or chapter and assign it to groups of kids to make a presentation and teach the class.  Again, that wouldn't be so bad if the teachers were first teaching the material to them, or guiding them along the way.  It would even be occasionally acceptable if the kids-only lessons were presented, critiqued and corrected before any incorrect material was presented as fact to the other students.  Ever tried to unlearn something?   

Last night I struggled through a vocabulary quiz from 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.  Yes, I have done eighth grade before, but am reliving it with Bang.  This was the most convoluted piece of crap vocabulary quiz I have ever seen.  It wasn't over words from the text.  It was SAT words plugged into statements about the book.   When was the last time you used the word 'interdict'?  Exactly.  Could we teach these kids something actually useful?  We were correcting the quiz for extra credit, which was offered because NOBODY passed the damn thing.  Shouldn't that be a clue that something is missing from their learning cycle?

Over the weekend I helped Bang write a literary analysis about the importance of setting in the book.  It's been a few years since I read 'TKAM', so I was skimming through it as he mentioned certain passages.  At one point, Lee writes, 'The remains of a picket fence drunkenly guarded the front yard'.  I mentioned how much I liked that description of a crooked fence.  Bang replied, 'Yeah, that is kinda cool.  We never talk about the book in class, she just assigns chapters and gives us quizzes.'  WTF?  

Bang's English grade isn't too hot, so he went to this teacher's tutoring session to have her look over his rough draft.  I will remind you that his essay was about the setting of the book.  The teacher struck through his paragraph about the town of Maycomb and street that the family lived on, noting that she didn't need background information.  Huh?  Bang, bless his heart, never clarifies stuff like that, he is much too literal.  He never stopped to think that maybe the teacher forgot that he was writing about the setting.  So now I am left to argue with him about it, because he thinks the paragraph must be removed from his essay.   

Bang's science teacher is notorious for losing things.  Her reputation precedes her to the point that students know to photocopy their work before turning it in, because she will inevitably lose something and try to give them a zero for it.  At some point, like, I don't know, let's say, the 50 or 51st time that a parent signs a declaration that the photocopied work that a student showed you was, in fact, done and turned in on time, wouldn't you cop to having a bit of an organizational problem? 

There are many wonderful teachers and my kids have been fortunate to learn from them.  While I hate to give my kids the impression that some of their teachers aren't always as smart as they should be, in many cases it can't be avoided.  I guess that is a lesson for life, that just because they are 'in charge' doesn't mean they know what to do. 

1 comment:

InsomniacSeeker said...

I don't remember doing homework in grade school either. Even when we had science projects, we did them in the classroom and the teacher guided us. I don't remember anything special about 3rd grade except our teacher was Tia Juana Earnest...i'm not kidding you. We may have started long division, but hell I didn't care even back then.