So last week the school hosted Back to School night, a night for parents to meet teachers, see the classroom and get “trained”. Ella was a little snotty, so Bart stayed home (no parent wants to see a sick kid), and off I went to learn.
Good news? Zoe LOVES her teacher, which of course made me believe that: a) The teacher praises her a lot, or b) She lets her do whatever she wants. Turns out both are slightly true.
Here’s what I learned at school:
- “Flexible” Seating. In an attempt to create more space in the classroom, the teacher has varied seating that includes “standing desks”, exercise balls, small chairs or on the rug. Kids can choose where they sit – unless they are disruptive, in which case she walks by and says “Banana Split!” and they have to split up.
- Praise Galore. She uses an app called ClassDojo, where she can give kids points (or I guess take them away? it’s early still) for good behavior. So far, Zoe has a 100% score, with points for being on task, listening, participating and standing in line. You can also message the teacher directly and she can post things “Facebook style” to us.
- Digital Portfolio. She uses another app called Seesaw a student-driven portfolio app where they can upload images and video. There’s nothing in there yet, but I’m excited to see how this one works!
- NO HOMEWORK. What the what?! Now I know this is a movement in education because “there is no evidence that homework improves academic performance”, but I have to say, I don’t think it’s all about academics. Our teacher confronted the “builds responsibility” argument by saying she’d “rather they were responsible for bringing their backpack to school everyday.” She also said there’s a belief that kids are not learning life skills, like cooking, because they are saddled with homework and can’t help in the kitchen. I am not sold. She said there will be “fun projects” with “plenty of time to complete”. My take? This teacher did NOT like having to do homework.
Regardless, as you may expect, my kid is going to do homework. In fact, during the first 2 weeks of school when there has been no homework coming home, I have “made up” things for her to do: Read a specific book to me, do 3 pages in a math activity book, do one exercise in an online reading app. In a matter of weeks of NOT practicing writing enough over the summer, Zoe was back to b/d confusion and a sometimes backwards S.
If there’s something I agree with, it’s all about practice. What you do, you become.
One thing the teacher said is that this system gives freedom to find something your child enjoys and do that together. And honestly, that’s a concept I CAN get behind. Yes, this will be more work on our part, but maybe homework is singing a song, learning something on the piano, or (for goodness’ sake) cooking with Dad. Apparently my overwork with homework destroyed my ability to cook.
The teacher assured us that (and this is a quote from a handout) “Please know that your child is working hard at school each day and has earned their evening time.” First concern: That sentence isn’t even grammatically correct. Should be his/her vs. their. But then, I DID MY HOMEWORK. Second concern: After Back to School night, I asked Zoe some questions to confirm:
- Me: So, Zoe, do you write a lot at school?
- Zoe: Not really.
- Me: Oh, so do you READ a lot at school?
- Zoe: No. Well, we read magazines. We can’t actually read them, but we look through them. They’re the ones that have stickers in them that you can’t use.
- Me: Ok, so do you do a lot of math then?
- Zoe: Sometimes. That’s what the board is for, mom.
Now, I know it’s early in the year. But as my wise sister once said, “Begin as you mean to continue.” And when the teacher starts like this (with LOW expectations), then it’s going to be a while before I buy that they are “working hard” enough at school to “earn evening time”. Yes, I would have made a terrible teacher (and yes, in case you forgot, I actually have an education degree from UGA).
Because I clearly have strong opinion here (and I was certain she would agree), I told my mother about this No Homework thing. She was an educator of children for 30 years. Know what she said when I told her there was no homework? “Hallelujah!” So maybe I’m wrong about this one. We shall see.
Anyway, enough about that. Well, one more point. I do believe in learning outside the classroom, and our trip to the San Diego Zoo last weekend was not only fun BUT also educational. So maybe she’s onto something there. Though that education in particular (especially when you buy panda hats) could get quite expensive…