Monday, July 19, 2010

Letters to Parents, from Hell

As long as we're on the Soul Murder (aka "Whole Brain") program, I'll post some letters to parents that I found on their site. How would you like to receive one of these letters from your child's kindergarten teacher? I'd be yanking my kid out of that school so fast they'd see nothing but dust.

Here's the first, from Andrea Schindler of video fame:

August 25, 2009
Dear Parents,
I hope you had an enjoyable summer break and are anticipating this school year as much as I am! I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you and your child to my classroom. In order to begin our year together successfully, I would like to explain some of the basic principles and guidelines in our classroom:

My goal as a teacher is to provide a safe and stimulating learning environment. In order to do this, there is a reliable and consistent discipline system enforced in our classroom. I feel that a good discipline system reinforces positive behaviors and discourages behaviors that are negative to your child and his/her classmates. In our classroom we have the following rules:

The Big Rule: Listen when your teacher is talking.
Rule 1: Follow Directions Quickly
Rule 2: Raise your hand for permission to speak.
Rule 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
Rule 4: Make Smart Choices.
Rule 5: Keep your dear teacher happy.

Students will receive the opportunity to practice following our rules during class time. If, however, your child is having difficulty following the rules, he/she will be given extra time to practice during recess. If your child loses part of their recess as a result of breaking a classroom rule, you will receive a note that will indicate what rule was broken, and if necessary~ how it was broken. Please take the time to review the note and the rule with your child, sign the note and return the next day. Parent support is a valuable asset that contributes to student success, and by working together we will help your child learn to be a positive contributor in the classroom.

Homework is a valuable part of your child’s learning experience. It reinforces what is being taught in class, encourages the development of responsibility, and helps students to develop good study habits. Homework will be assigned on a weekly basis, and the expectation is that all homework assignments will be completed and turned in every Friday. If your child fails to turn in his/her homework, he/she will be sent to the office to have a conference with Mrs. King. Also, parents will need to attend an after school homework help session with their child so they parents can learn how to help their children with the homework. This after school help session is mandatory and will be held the following Monday at 3:45.

Research has proven that students are more successful when there is a strong parent--teacher communication system in place. In order to communicate regularly, your child will come home every Friday with a Weekly Report. The Weekly Report will keep you informed of classroom news, your child’s behavior, any missing assignments, and your child’s progress. Please read the report and return the bottom portion, signed, on the following Monday. Attached is your first Weekly Report !

I welcome and strongly encourage parent involvement in our classroom. I realize that many of you like to participate in classroom activities and volunteer in whatever way best fits your schedule. Please let me know if any of the following would interest you:
___Volunteering regularly in the classroom.
___Volunteering in the classroom to help with special activities on an “as needed” basis.
___Doing clerical work at home (cutting, coloring,etc).

This year promises to be a very fun and rewarding year. I am truly looking forward to working with your child! If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to contact me either at school (XXX-XXXX), or on my cell phone (XXX-XXXX).


and here's a lovely little example from a teacher who uses the site:

Date Sent:____________
Mrs. Hufstedler’s Class Rules

1 Listen to the Teacher.
2 Follow directions quickly!
3 Wait your turn.
4 Respect others, Respect yourself, Respect your school
5 Be safe, Be honest!
6 Keep your teacher happy!

Ways you can discuss this with your child:
Which rules do you still need to practice?
What did you do? What should you have done?
How will you follow these rules every day?
Please say these rules for me until I say stop.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Help!!!!!!!! I need practice. Today at school I broke the circled
rule(s). I agreed that all of these rules are fair and I am fully
capable of following them. I would never do anything to spite my
teacher or break one of the rules on purpose; therefore, I need you to help me practice.

Student Signature:____________________________

Please have your child practice the rule at home for as long as you
feel necessary. We have practiced at school already, but
Sign and return this paper tomorrow.

If you have any questions, please give me a call or email
My son/daughter practiced for _____________ minutes at home.

Student Signature_____________________
Parent Signature______________________



  1. OK, I'll take first at-bat. Let's look at the Schindler letter. What's wrong with it? We can start here:

    1.) What's missing? There's nothing here about what Ms. Schindler hopes to teach the kids in the coming year. It's all discipline, all the time.

    2.) You don't hear "Keep your dear teacher happy!" in the video, but it's all over the web site. Did somebody realize how obnoxious that sounds?

    3.) Homework. As we all know, homework in kindergarten is all about Mom. It is a rare 5 year old who can remember to fill out and turn in his homework every week. The child who is punished for incomplete homework is really being punished for having a nonconformist Mom.

    3.) Once again, "parent participation" means "parents follow orders given by the teacher." Thanks, but no thanks.

    From the second letter, notice the child has to sign a document saying that he agrees that the rules are fair. What if he doesn't agree?

    "Homework is a valuable part of your child’s learning experience."

    [b]According to you, kindergarten teacher of five years and probably your principal's school policy. Not according to many, many experts in education and child development. And not according to me, the parent.[/b]

    "It reinforces what is being taught in class,"

    [b]maybe so, doesn't class reinforce what's taught in class enough? We're talking about five year olds, right?[/b]

    encourages the development of responsibility,

    [b]My child has enough responsibilities at home already.[/b]

    and helps students to develop good study habits.

    [b]or It helps develop ill-will, self-shame and mistrust of his parents.[/b]

    Homework will be assigned on a weekly basis, and the expectation is that all homework assignments will be completed and turned in every Friday. If your child fails to turn in his/her homework, he/she will be sent to the office to have a conference with Mrs. King. Also, parents will need to attend an after school homework help session with their child so they parents can learn how to help their children with the homework. This after school help session is mandatory and will be held the following Monday at 3:45.

    [b]This sounds unlawful to me. Mandatory homework session without due process[/b]

    This is one Schindler's List I'd hate to be one. Sadly, she teaches at one of the poorest, highest percentage of undocumented immigrant/children of undocumented immigrants school, Urbita Elementary. It is so easy to push around people who don't know their rights or know how to access the law, or are fearful of being reported to La Migra. So even parents, who know how immoral it is for schools to interfere with what was once considered sacred in our society, home life and parent child relationships, will choose the lesser evil and comply.

  3. Good heavens, if a lot of the parents are immigrants, how are they supposed to make head or tail of this letter? They might not speak English. They might not be able to read in any language.

    I was wondering about the mandatory afterschool "help" (calling George Orwell!) session myself. What if both parents are working? What if they have other children in the household? What the hell?

  4. It drives me nuts how inconsistent the capital/lowercase letters are in the rules list. Did anyone else notice this? She apparently needs to "practice" some basic punctuation skills. Why should I trust her to teach my child if she can't use proper cases (something I learned in first grade) or proofread (fifth grade)?

    When I first began reading this, I thought, "oh, it's not so bad." Then I saw, "keep your dear teacher happy" and thought it was a joke. And what exactly does it mean to make a "smart choice?" Let me guess, a smart choice is doing what your teacher tells you to do without question?

    Practicing the rules at home? Does that mean the parents are supposed to make the kid raise his hand before speaking at dinnertime and ask permission to use the restroom?

    I'm generally a strong defender of public schools, but there's no way I would keep my child at this school.

  5. Oh man, I'd love to prank Ms. Hudsucker (Proxy) and return the note "My son/daughter practiced for 127 minutes... and if it got no response double down the amount on the next notes home. Heh.

    How about her rule 5, "Be Safe. Be Honest" Firstly, that's two often incongruent rules. Sometimes the most dangerous thing a kid can do is be honest.

  6. There is so much wrong with this "Schindler's List" (good one!), I hardly know where to begin.

    Shudder. Very Orwellian. Very very scary. Keep dear teacher happy. Imagine putting that kind of guilt and responsibility on a five year old? Practice and practice a rule until you get it righ? What is this, Hitler yugent? Oh, my, we keep this up and democracy is at real risk here. We became a great nation not by blindly following someone else's rules but by telling England where it could go.

    This is school reform? This is new? This is a breakthrough? I see the same old same old times a thousand. This makes my elementary school of the 1960s (dating myself here) look like Montessori if the Alps.

  7. ***
    Practicing the rules at home?

    Megan, that's a good point, Ms. Schindler doesn't say what she means by that. I presume she meant they should practice their reciting-with-gestures, which WBT types mistake for understanding. (Again, if the kids don't speak English as a first language, do they even know what they're reciting?)

    I'm generally a strong defender of public schools

    Megan, I was a strong defender of the public schools when my older dd started 1st grade at our local nominally high-performing public school. By the time she got to the end of 5th grade, I was bitterly opposed to the public schools. Neither of my kids has set foot in a public school since.

    But that could be another post ...

  8. PsychMom said: I snooped a bit on the Whole Brain website, pulling down some of the headings...the entire premise seems to be control. It's bad for a teacher to not be in TOTAL control of his/her classroom, and every step is geared to getting every duck in the room to line up behind the TEACHER. So this whole thing has nothing to really do with's a delivery method. It's the "new and improved" route to classroom control. That's why I couldn't get any answers about learning effectiveness. This isn't about the students, it's about the teachers.
    Many of those teachers who wrote in on StopHomework who said they "had no choice" about whether to give homework, the ones who feel they have no control....they would flock to this method because it would give them a sense of control over things. Now the whole thing is becoming clearer to me. It's just another symptom of a system that's severely injured.

    Don't look at the content of what your teaching. Don't consider the current state of children's lives.
    Don't do any research into the best way to motivate children.
    Don't learn how to motivate teachers.
    That's just hard work.
    Don't do any of that...just find the quick way to relief from unbearable circumstances.

  9. God Almighty, if "Whole Brain" is the cure, give me the disease.

    PsychMom, you're absolutely right that it's about the teachers, not the students. Their website is full of testimonials from teachers, but not a word from kids or parents.

    There's a Guy Strickland passage about classroom management being mistaken for teaching. I'll rummage it up ...

  10. Another gem from the WBT forum, about Rule #5, "Keep your dear teacher happy!". This is a WBT teacher describing her problem:

    I had an observation the other day and my kindergarten class and I went over the rules.My principal informed me today that Rule # 5 was awful , not student or child centered and there was nothing positive about it . She wanted to know where I got it, and said we are 100% positive sooooo don't ever use that again!

    <A HREF=">Rule #5 Principal Hates!</A>