Ask a teacher what skills they want their students to have before they leave them for the summer, and more often than not, the list will include more social/emotional skills than content. I've done this exercise in PD sessions before and things like responsibility, respect, citizenship, collaboration, and kindness top the list. Most teachers really just want what is best for kids. I love that about this profession!
Becoming a parent has given me even more of a desire to reach every kid and help them along in their journey to becoming great people. My friend, Jackie, recently blogged about this when she wrote: What Becoming a Mom Taught Me About Teaching. As she says, "everybody is somebody's baby." She says sometimes it makes us softer and sometimes it helps us stand firm ground when we know we are doing something that is best. I agree!
I know that my kids still have a few years before they enter school, my daughter is two and my son is a newborn! However, I've already started thinking about what it will be like to be on the other side of the parent-teacher conference. How will I balance my knowledge of education with a respect for an educator in charge of many of my kids' hours during the day? Will I go into instructional coach mode, asking the teacher, "Tell me more about your philosophy on how kids learn math?" or "what are your professional goals for this year?" What if the teacher is really into memorizing instead of understanding? What if the teacher assigns worksheet upon worksheet? Will I take a stand or make my kid suffer through the busy work?
I came across this article on Facebook recently: My Elementary School Kids Won't Be Doing Their Homework. I read it and found a lot of valid points. It seemed thoughtful and purposeful. Sure, the headline is meant to be a little shocking, but the content of the article revealed a mom that just didn't see the purpose of homework for the sake of homework. Just to see who else agreed, I popped down to the comments to read what other parents or teachers thought of the article. Whoa. Overwhelmingly people were commenting that the article was just garbage.
The comment that I keep thinking about is the one where a teacher sarcastically calls the child a "precious little snowflake." I've seen this term quite a few times on social media lately. In reference to kids being overly coddled, protected, or cared about. I certainly understand the need for kids to handle some things for themselves and to learn responsibility. I also actively work to not be a "helicopter parent," hovering over every move and questioning every other adult that comes in contact with my child.
"Precious Little Snowflake"
The "precious little snowflake" remark, said with sarcasm, of course, makes me uncomfortable for several reasons:
1. It seems to me to be a direct assault at the idea that every kid is unique and special (like a snowflake). How depressing that an educator has come to a decision that, no, in fact every child is not special and how dare their parent think they are. Should every kid be treated as the exact same? Not special, no regard for their own interests or talents, and certainly no room for personalization. Except, that's not the reality. Students have their own personalities, strengths, and interests to bring to your classroom. You can't teach every group of kids the exact same way that you taught the previous years. Ignoring these "specialties" of your students is wasting a great resource in your classroom.
2. The "precious little" part of the name-calling is meant to really drive home the point that the teacher does not find your child precious nor little. Bothersome that this post was about kiddos in kindergarden and second grade. I would argue the epitome of "precious" and "little." But even my middle schoolers are precious and little. They are figuring out the world and looking to adults to be modeling kindness and respect. Do I find every sixth grader I teach "precious" every day? Certainly not, but it's my responsibility to treat kids with empathy and compassion.
3. There is absolutely no room for a teacher to use name-calling. Calling a student that you teach a "precious little snowflake" reveals more about the teacher and their attitude towards teaching than an entitled child. As educators, there is enormous pressure from society, government, administration, parents, etc to do more than there is time to get done in a day. I get that-- I live that! But it is still our job to work with all of those groups and rise above the negativity to foster a culture of kindness. Calling children names is not okay, no matter how frustrated we might feel.
If they dare defy my rules, I'll...
I'm also upset by the comments that threaten the punishments they would give to the child of the author of the post if they don't have their homework completed. Loss of fun activities or loss of recess seem the norm for the non-compliance of the child to do the homework. Other punishments include getting a "0" on the assignment (in second grade?!). I could write a whole other post about if homework should be graded and if we should even be grading at all (#TTOG)!
But the thing that bothers me the most is there is no mention from the teacher about a loss of learning. The teacher mostly feels annoyed, and maybe power is threatened, by the non-compliance. Educators should be focused on the learning. Homework, just for the sake of teaching responsibility, is a thing of the past (read more here). It's not helpful, relevant, or best practice.
I hope that homework practices change in the next few years before my children start school. If they don't, however, I'm hoping a thoughtful, respectful, and sincere talk with the teacher can be productive. No need for punishments or hurt feelings... and certainly no name-calling!