Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Times They Are a Changing

I remember being a kid at school. Teachers assigned homework and, after complaining about how homework should be banned, I did it. When they assigned projects, I did them. I may not have liked it, but I did it. I remember all of the work it took to earn a good grade.

What I don't remember is my parents helping me with any of it.

Back then, parents didn't hover over us making sure we completed all of our work. They didn't call our teachers to complain about a bad grade. They simply went on with their daily lives while we were left to fend for ourselves. It's not that they didn't care about us. Quite the opposite. They just felt that school was our responsibility, not theirs.

If we couldn't figure something out, we were told to look it up (in books at the library, not by asking Siri). If we failed a test, we were punished and, depending on our parent's punishment of choice, we learned pretty quickly that failure was unacceptable.

Things seem so different now.  Parents are involved in everything their child does, from play dates to homework to sports teams. They do so much for their children that the kids are at risk of never learning about something as simple as accomplishing a goal. 

But, unlike many of the opinions I've heard on the matter, I don't entirely blame the parents.

I remember when my daughter was in the third grade. One of her assignments was to write down every combination of coins possible to make one dollar. Now, think about that for a moment. Every combination of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. There is no way her teacher thought that this was an appropriate task for eight year olds. 

In fifth grade, one of my son's assignments was to make a Powerpoint presentation for some geography project. Did that teacher really think a ten year old could find his way around software like that?

Let's be realistic for a moment. I could have spent hours teaching my son how to use Powerpoint, or emptied a piggy bank full of coins and put together hundreds of combinations totaling one dollar while my daughter wrote each down. Or, I could spend fifteen minutes doing it for them, and then get back to what I was doing before. I chose the latter. Not because I don't love my children, but because those assignments were ridiculous and virtually impossible for a child to accomplish. In short, they were what I call "Parent Homework." If a teacher is going to assign Parent Homework, they better darn well understand when the parents are the ones doing it.

Yes, some parents shelter their children from far too much and while trying to help them end up hurting them more. I do believe that parents need to take a step back and allow their children to succeed or fail on their own. But, I also think that schools need to make that possible.

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