Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The perils of doing your homework on time

Now, here's the kind of thing that drives me crazy. When my daughter started 7th grade this year, she brought home an assignment from her language arts class for a reading log. The instructions firmly stated that students would be required to read 12 books in addition to whatever they were reading in class. For each book, they had to write a one page summary and turn it in with a cover page, for which there were specific instructions. And on the one hand, since neither reading comprehension nor composition are my girl's strong suits, it sounded like an awfully tall order. But on the other hand, since we have a routine of reading every night, 12 books was not out of the question; and since graphic organizers are plentiful on the Web, finding something to help her make a coherent summary was not out of the question, either. At Back to School Night, the teacher again went through the assignment, stated unequivocally that all the 7th grades were doing this, gave us a handout with the dates each book report was due, and announced that each one would be worth a test grade. And now you've got my attention, because although writing's not the easiest thing for her, something she can write at home with calm deliberation and assistance is indeed easier than taking a test in the classroom. Twelve test grades under those circumstances sounded pretty good to me. The first report was to be due tomorrow. She finished her first book last week and wrote the report over the weekend. I was so proud of her -- she did a great job on it. I suggested that since she was done early, she should show it to her inclusion teacher so if there was anything that wasn't right, she'd have time to fix it.

So when she came home yesterday, I asked if she'd shown the teacher her report. And her response dumbfounded me: She hadn't showed it because they were changing the reading log, nothing was due on Wednesday anymore, there was a whole different format, they only had to read eight books, and the first one was due on November 15.

And again -- on the one hand, the new format might be a little easier, and writing fewer and shorter reports will be easier ... and on the other hand, I want those four extra test grades, and I absolutely want her to get recognition and credit for the report she did as assigned, on time, and in good faith. How dare they make such sweeping changes in a project two days before it's due? Talk about penalizing kids for being conscientious and organized. I fired off a very grumpy note expressing astonishment and demanding extra credit for the now-uneeded report. I huffed and puffed around the house for a while. Then I threw that note away and wrote another one, kinder and gentler, asking for them to please consider giving her extra credit for it. Maybe it still wasn't kind and gentle enough, because my daughter reports that her inclusion teacher looked a little annoyed when she read it. Probably because she'd spent a week fielding complaints from parents who were astonished and upset about the original 12-book format of the project.

That's the only reason I can come up with for this sudden change in plans -- massive parental complaint. It ticks me off that they would make such a firm, "they're in 7th grade now, suck it up" presentation at Back to School night and then all of a sudden waffle. Just like it ticks me off that the summer reading journal that was supposed to be due the first week of school, and that my daughter did well in advance of that date and turned in promptly, is now suddenly due October 1 instead. If my child's particular learning problems caused her to be unable to do work in a timely fashion, I suppose I would be storming the gates demanding changes in policy, too. But as it happens, doing work in a timely fashion is my child's greatest strength. Coddle the others if you will, but give her credit when it's due.

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