Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sign on the Dotted Line

My second graders came home from school with contracts yesterday.

The contracts outlined their teachers’ expectations and guidelines for a three-week project (a report with a bibliography and a complementary craft project of the kids’ design). “There will be no regular homework assignments over the next three weeks,” the contract said, adding however that the child “will be responsible for preparing the weekly spelling and math facts test.”

Included in the packet was a set of instructions with suggestions on how the students can study for their spelling tests each week, given that they wouldn’t have their regular homework assignments designed to help them master their vocabulary words. There were 16 suggestions ranging from making their own flash cards and using Scrabble tiles to spell out the words, to writing a secret code using some of the words and seeing if a family member can decipher it (how very Sydney Bristow of them).

There was yet another set of instructions in their school papers that said, in addition to preparing for the spelling and math tests, the students should continue to read for 20 minutes each day. Like they do every school night. Only the kids don’t have to have parents sign their daily homework sheets because there will be no regular homework while the kids are working on researching their topic and making their craft.

Huh? My head’s gonna explode. So the kids are going to do everything they always do — study for the tests and read — but they won’t have the busy-work assignments. So they can fill their time by completing this project?

There was a place on the contract for their 8-year-old signatures and for a parent’s signature. If I’m a bit unclear about what exactly they’re expecting from my 8-year-olds, how are they supposed to figure it out?

And, as for this annotated report and craft that the students have to come up with to represent their respective topics, I see harried runs to craft stores, modeling clay mashed into the kitchen floor and battles over shoe boxes in my future, regardless of how well we try to plan ahead. (Do we even have any shoe boxes in the house? Do I have to go out and buy shoes in order for them to do these projects? Can they just use an old Cheerios box?)

But, unlike in the recent Garrison Keillor story, my two grade schoolers are going to do their projects on their own, regardless of whether, in comparison to other kids’ projects, theirs likely won’t meet Bree Van De Kamp standards.

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