I owe you guys a HUGE update – a LOT has happened since I last wrote and I promise I’ll get you details soon.
For now, suffice to say that I’m working as a long term substitute for a woman on maternity leave and I’m teaching… get this… FIFTH AND SIXTH GRADERS!
I KNOW! It’s freaking ME out, too!
So far, the gig is good, though I’m insanely glad that I’m only doing this until the Christmas break; I’m sure that I COULD finish out the year, but I’m also sure that I wouldn’t WANT to. More on that later.
I was inspired to write this, though, because I got a note from a parent this morning asking me to give her daughter an extension on the homework she wasn’t able to do because the math homework took up too much of her kid’s energy. This is the response I wrote:
Thank you for your note concerning Sweet Girl’s homework. I wish I could speak to you in person so you could hear the tone of my voice when I tell you that absolutely, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES, is your child to stress out about not being able to finish language arts homework while I am her teacher.
I do my best NOT to give homework beyond asking the kids to read whenever they can, but sometimes, we run out of time and I ask the students to finish at home the work we started in class. I come to this long-term substitute position from teaching high school and college, and I have been horrified to see how stressed out *fifth and sixth graders* are about academics; I have had 11-year-olds come to me in tears because they couldn’t find three main ideas in a chapter, and it breaks my heart. I flatly refuse to participate in the stressing out of these kids.
I understand that part of our job as teachers is to give our students opportunities to learn and practice time management and responsibility. I also understand that putting too much on them at once – and holding them to inflexible standards at this stage in their development – has the potential to do far more harm than good.
I spoke with Sweet Girl this morning and told her that, for as long as I’m her teacher, she should certainly try to get everything done but she is not – EVER – to be frightened if she can’t manage once in a while. I want the kids to leave their time with me actually enjoying reading and writing and thinking in the ways that language arts classes ask them to; that is going to be much more valuable to them going forward than making sure they finish their homework every single night.