As my kids move up in grades (5th and 4th, currently) it seems that more and more the things that they struggle with most are related to organization or time management, not the actual content they are learning. I find this particularly frustrating for several reasons:
- The consequences seem inconsistent. Often it seems that there are no real consequences but then on occasion the consequences seem fairly severe. Just yesterday one of my daughters came home with an assignment that was turned in 8 days late at a penalty of 10 points per day, so 80 points off out of 100. But even with this item, I really have no idea how heavily this one assignment impacts her overall grade, so I’m not sure how severe this is. Oh, and just to be clear, she completed the assignment on time but then could not find it to turn in. After the graded assignment came home (the first time I knew anything about it at all), I discussed with her how she needs to follow through better in this situation, up to and including redoing the assignment.
- It never seems very clear to me that any action is taken at school other than penalizing the grade and perhaps notifying the parents. Of course, I’m not there so perhaps there is action happening that I just don’t see. If so, it certainly doesn’t seem to be very effective for my kids.
- Regarding notifying the parents, this touches on a larger problem I have. I feel that communications to the parents — at least impromptu negative communications — should fall into two categories: disciplinary or constructive. Disciplinary covers situations where unacceptable behavior is observed at school and there likely needs to be some sort of punishment from the parent. Generally, I would expect these to be social issues rather than educational ones. Constructive is where we seem to be having a failure. When I get a note home from the teacher that simply states that an assignment was turned in 8 days late, I have no idea what action to take. I don’t know if the teacher already discussed the situation with my daughter or has any plan moving forward. It is entirely possible that the teacher sees this as an isolated incident and is just giving me a heads-up so I won’t be shocked by the impact to her overall grade. This is the situation where I need a constructive communication. I need a clear statement of the problem, what actions have been taken already, what the plan is for moving forward, and what action I need to take. If the plan and my action are to work with the teacher (and student) to come up with a specific plan, that is fine.
- Perhaps my biggest problem with the whole topic is it seems like the parents are expected to play a large part in getting their kids to be organized. But this presupposes that I have any idea how to do that and ignores completely the fact that I’ve never been organized myself and it is only through technology that I’ve achieved an acceptable level of organization. I’d be perfectly happy to pass on everything I’ve learned, but the school does not allow the kids to have electronic devices, so that obviously won’t help.
I’m expecting too much, aren’t I?
Also, it’s possible that I’m making too much of this entirely, as it isn’t like my kids have poor grades. Certainly my lack of organization didn’t cost me very much in school (or out of school, for that matter).