Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Guest Post: northTOmom on "Curriculum Night"

I just got back from "curriculum night," at my daughters' school, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The girls' main (grade 6) teacher spoke at some length about having decided to adhere as closely as possible to the Toronto District School Board's homework policy, which I reviewed in a guest post on Sara Bennett's now sadly defunct StopHomework site (see here and here). The teacher explained that his goal this year is to attempt to cover the bulk of the curriculum, especially the overstuffed math curriculum, through in-class work. To that end, he has scheduled double math periods a few times a week. He noted that according to the revised 2008 homework policy, work completed at home cannot be assigned a grade, but is reported on only in the (non-graded) learning skills section of the report card.

In the two weeks since school began I had noticed that the girls were not bringing home much homework, just the occasional math problem that they hadn't managed to finish in class. But I was surprised at the teacher's admission that this was a conscious change of practice on his part. Last spring I interviewed the principal of our school for my post about the homework policy, and she told me that she fully supports the revised policy, and that at the beginning of each year she reviews it with the teaching staff. I'm wondering if our "chat" last spring, had anything to do with the changes I'm seeing this year. If so, it gives me hope that as a parent I can effect change, even by doing something as non-confrontational as writing a blog post about a particular policy. Nonetheless, I have to give credit where credit's due. In a handout the teacher distributed to parents, he further explained his position this way: "I have a young family and believe that spending time with your own children is very important. Spending less time on homework should allow children to do more of their preferred educational activities at home." How refreshing!

(re-posted from Parenting is Political.)


  1. PsychoMom here:

    Our c-night is still looming. Everything that has come home so far this year regarding homework expectations is a replica of what we received last year (my daughter is in a Grade3/4. Our house did barely any homework last year. But the silly sheets still appear randomly on my radar and that's what's so annoying.

    Perhaps my child is the oddity, but "I have to do my math homework" is mumbled as she stuffs a sheet of paper into her backpack at school at 5:15 on a Friday. The sheet makes it out of the pack and onto the floor at home. I pick it up, scan it, mutter something like, "why oh why oh why"....
    Monday morning rolls around. Daughter screeches, "I didn't do my math homework...oh well I can do it tonight, it's due Tuesday" as she shoves the single sheet of paper back in her backpack.
    Monday night at 5:25, I pick her up, we drive home. We finish dinner. "Where's my math sheet, I have to do it tonight. Where did you put it MOM!"
    And you can surely guess the rest of the story. You see, I don't know why that whole nonsense cannot be avoided by simply not sending the stuff home. She's not old enough to keep track of it. She says she doesn't know what to do with it, (which to me explains why it's not done) why do I get pulled into the whole mess???
    I know there are mothers who would say I'm the one who isn't organized and that I should be checking up on these things. The teachers somehow think she's old enough to be sitting herself down and organizing her own work. But clearly she's not old enough, and me, placing my own organizational skills in motion would be a great fix....but why should I do that??

    The truth of the matter is that I'm a very well organized woman with a 9 year old daughter who is NOT mature for her age...she's just her age. And this is the point that I'm going to try to convey at our curriculum night next week.

  2. PsychoMom, true confessions here -- I didn't go to last year's curriculum night, and I doubt I'll go this year. I'm tired of this stuff, and I doubt I'll learn anything which is worth the time commitment. Couldn't they just send out an e-mail? They don't want a real discussion anyway.

  3. PsychMom said:

    I thought about not going, but it is an opportunity to see if there is any support for my ideas from other parents. I figure if I'm not so willing to go along with the homework charade, and other parents see that and agree, but are too shy to say so, then maybe at some point they'll say something too.

    I'm also going to try to point out the audacity of school imposing tasks on my family's the nicest possible way of course. I'm trying to think of a scenario that shows it from our perspective. You know, if we parents were to ask teachers to do things for our kids (that is home related)in the teacher's spare time.

  4. FedUp and PsychMom,

    I thought of not going this year as well. I mean, the entire grade 6 curriculum is available online at the Ministry of Education website. But like you, PyschMom, I decided to go so I could ask questions about the homework policy, and if necessary voice my opposition to homework. As it turned out, the teacher brought up the homework policy, and I didn't need to say anything.

    Unfortunately, though, science is being taught by different teacher this year, and he just assigned (via his "edublog," if you can believe it!) a very complicated, very time-consuming project. It never ends...

  5. PsychMom, tongue firmly planted in cheek, says:

    You know, sometimes I think that we parents should start to come up with lists of our own that get handed out to teachers at the beginning of the year.

    Dear teacher:

    Because I know you have my child's best interests at heart, here's a couple of tasks that I'm expecting will happen this year.
    1) I would like you to ensure that she eats her lunch everyday...all of it. It probably would be best if this is done in a quiet environment,free from distractions, perhaps near your desk at lunchtime while you're preparing for your afternoon's activities. That way you can monitor her progress and offer encouragement if necessary. I do expect her to eat it independently, so if there happens to be any leaks or spills that she can't handle, just send the whole bleeping mess home again. no use crying over spilt milk.

    2) Please keep track of my daughter's clothes. Good clothes are essential for her self esteem. Proper shoes should last at least 3 months, so if you see her wearing her indoor shoes outside, please make sure she changes them. Perhaps a weekly inspection and an quick e-mail to me if you notice any undue wear and tear.

    I'm sure there will be more things that crop up during the year so I'll e-mail further instructions then. Thank you for your cooperation in what I view as a most important partnership.

  6. northTO-- and Psych-- Moms, if you've found a way to accomplish something useful at curriculum night, go for it! Far be it from me to discourage you.

  7. PsychMom: Ha! Good idea. I love the patronizing language.

  8. From PsychMom:

    I just made tons of assumptions and then started to write....and that's the problem. I can't imagine what the teachers are visualizing happens at my home when they write these things. At our school they often see me at many minutes are there between 5:15 and 8pm....and what will I be doing in that time? What do they expect my child will do...and they know my child very that less than 3 hours of time. I mean they think it's actually 3:15 when she leaves the school?