Monday, January 19, 2009

I have a gripe

I know that I am not a teacher; I never have been. But, I went to college and got the degree needed to be a teacher; therefore, I feel a kinship with the educators I encounter in my day to day life. Due in part to my educational background, I have always supported Kaylea's teachers and tried to back them in their efforts to educate my daughter. I have always been a very "involved" parent. You know the kind. I was a full-time volunteer in Kaylea's classroom; the first to put my name on the party sign-up sheet (heck, most of the time I was the one that made the party sign-up sheet); always present at class parties; never missed an opportunity to chaperon a field trip; and basically, rallied all the other parents together for various classroom projects and causes.

This year, however, things have been different. Basically, I am a lot less involved than in years past. I began the year by volunteering one afternoon a week, but I just got the feeling that I was not wanted/needed/welcome. For whatever reason, Kaylea's teacher and I just haven't warmed up to each other.

Now that you know a little history, I will explain my gripe. And yes, I felt giving a little history lesson was important so that you wouldn't think I was "one of THOSE parents." (The kind of parent that is never happy with their child's teacher.)

First, all of the students in 4th grade are required to become 4-H members. I don't have anything against 4-H as a club. But I think it should be treated as that, "a club" and all participation should be voluntary. I don't understand, however, how membership and participation in a club can be mandatory. If participation is mandatory, it is no longer a club; it is a class. Which brings me to my second gripe, there are many 4-H activities that Kaylea has been required to do, for which she was graded on. The most current activity (assignment) from 4-H is to write a 200-400 word essay on the 75th Anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. When this activity (assignment) was sent home, Kaylea's teacher notified us that the students would be graded on their essay. Then she asked us to help them with this paper. Well, naturally, I asked Kaylea if she had been told how to write an essay? Guess what? NO! The kids had not been given any direction on how to even begin to write an essay. Oh, and let me remind you, these are 4TH GRADERS. (I don't think I learned how to write an essay until I was in 8th or 9th grade.) So, here I sat trying to explain the mere basics of essay writing to my daughter and "helping" her organize her thoughts so that she can turn them into a somewhat coherent 200-400 word essay. Well, we Kaylea finished the thing today, and I must say I am proud of her for the effort she put into the assignment. But, if Kaylea's teacher thinks that all of these children produced these great literary pieces as a result of what they have learned in school, then she is sadly mistaken. I just hope that we she gets a good grade on the damn thing!

Don't get me wrong; I expect to help my child with various assignments. I am very involved in her education. I just feel that I should not be expected to teach my child how to complete a task for which she is receiving a grade. That is the teachers' responsibility. What if I were a parent that didn't go to college, or didn't even finish high school. Odds are I probably couldn't give the best guidance to my child when it comes to constructing an essay. Should the child be punished for that? I think not!