Monday, September 26, 2011

What I Learned at Back to School Night...

Happy Monday! Are you awake yet?

I'm a routine kind of girl...always have been. Autumn is my favorite time of year. I think it's the schedule. I know where we have to be every second of the week. I may not always like having to run from point "A" to point "B", but there are hardly any surprises when it comes to where me and the kids need to be.

With the beginning of each new school year our district has their annual "Back To School" nights. This year I have a 3rd grader and a 6th grader (I know, feel my pain, I have a middle schooler!), so that meant I had to attend two different nights for two different schools.

I had a wonderful time meeting the teachers, seeing my kids artwork and poems, and meeting up with parents I hadn't seen in a few months. While I was there I learned a few things. Things that shocked me just a bit. Perhaps its because I'm a newly published writer having gone through the editing process several times with my four novels, but what I heard had me shaking my head. I thought I'd share some of the philosophies I picked up at these two particular nights with my fellow writers/readers.

First, I want to say my children attend a really good school system and I'm in no way trying to diminish what they're learning or what the teachers are teaching, but as a writer these two topics jumped out at me.

Cole's 3rd grade teacher said they would receive 20 words per week and would be tested on them. This is basically your traditional spelling test. But, those test scores only count as 10% of their overall Language Arts grade, so don't stress yourself out. Nowadays we have spellcheck, so the kids will be fine.


Jake's 6th grade English teacher said although this is an English class it should be called Writing because that's all we do. My ears perked right up. By the end of the year they will have several "published" pieces completed. We love to write in my house, so I was stoked. Then she went on to say that because all they do is write, they won't be covering any grammar.


How can you write if you don't learn what the function of a verb, noun or adjective is? I learned all of that and I still want to cry when my editor returns the first round of edits to me.

I left both of these schools feeling a bit confused. Who are the authors of the future going to be? Will they be able to spell? Will they know the meaning of tenses? And, what about those pesky commas?

Maybe I'm old fashioned. I'm sure these points stuck with me because I'm in the middle of edits for three books, but I'm going to tell you right now aspiring writers...learn your grammar!!! lol

I won't lie, I'm constantly googling things and using spellcheck, but at least I know, in most cases, I'm making a mistake or I know something doesn't sound right. I wonder if that will be the case for these students if they've never been taught it in the first place.

What are your thoughts?



Kimber An said...

Good morning, Ella!

What I think is it's good to have options. Here in Alaska, we can

Homeschool (huge support for that here)

Private School

Charter School (we seem to have a lot of those here)

Walk down to the Public School and raise Holy Heck.

In some parts of the country, the only option is the last one. And if the teachers and principals won't work with you, then you're out of luck or

You can


What's that? Maybe you already know, but others might not.

'Afterschooling' means you suppliment your child's education after school. So, Ella would take a half hour on the weekends to do spelling with her child, for example.

With the Internet, it's not difficult. Here's my favorite resource-

Also, if you're a teen stuck in a place which isn't providing you with the education you believe you need or you're an adult who didn't get what you needed, you can educate yourself between the public library and the Internet.

The point is, unlike when I was a teen, we have a lot more options now!

For the record, we've homeschooled all our children from the beginning, but once they get too smart for me in math (about 3rd grade) they go to the best regular school we can find in the area.

ella jade said...

Thanks Kimber An. It is great we have all of those options these days.

As I said, my kids go to a great school and they're doing really well. I think as a writer, currently going through edits, those two topics struck me as odd.

But, I do supplement my kids education. Nothing wrong with learning extra;)


Rebecca Royce said...

Its so hard to know what to do. I appreciate your perspective. My oldest is in 1st grade.

J.A. Campbell said...

When I went through school I learned the basics. When my sister went through school (same system) 6 years later, she got taught things she needed to know to pass standardized testing.
I think this is a sad progression... How can you write if you don't know grammar? I will admit, spell checker is my friend, but we didn't have it when I was in school.
It is good that there are options.

Thanks for sharing!

Kimber An said...

Ha! Just this morning, J.A., I was remarking to my husband that at least one of our older children will be taking at least three standardized tests this year! I was like, 'Huh?' I'm confident in their school and feel respected there, but these are state and national tests, so... (((shrugs)))

Kimber An said...

Sometimes, I think young people are victims of 'too many cooks spoil the soup.' In other words, so many have tried to fix education in America that it's all a confused mess now.

I do feel sorry for those who have to deal with it, because I know it really depends on the district you live as to how messy it is.

I can't complain too loudly, because I have no idea how to fix it.

I'm thankful we have options here in Alaska. We might not always live here though.

Seleste deLaney said...

As a former teacher this disgusts me. Our kids are becoming too reliant on spell check and calculators and even computers in general. Don't get me wrong, they're all great tools, but if you don't know how to do the basics, you aren't going to make the most effective use of said tools.

When I was little and we'd go grocery shopping, mom always paid in cash. It was a game to see if I could figure out her change quicker than the checkout lady could type it into the register and tell her. By the time I was in like 3rd grade, I never lost (unless I was sick or totally not paying attention). I don't expect my kids to do that (plus I rarely carry cash), but I do expect them to be able to do basic math in their heads. I do expect them to pass their spelling tests.

Grammar... as long as it's taught at some point in the school, I'm not overly concerned with when. I honestly learned more about punctuation during my pre-ACT class than I did in school (because it was so focused).

One of the biggest issues (in my opinion) with US education is that it's so focused on testing. Yes, tests are important. However, they don't foster a love of learning. They don't spark creative drive. They don't nurture all those things that make innovators. We are, in essence, educating everyone to be the modern day equivalent of serfs. Without those things, our children won't have the knowledge to rise above being underlings.

The other issue is the simple fact that we've moved away from "tracking". People thought it was a good thing because tracking put kids on a certain path, blah blah blah. And now we're wondering why other countries are out-performing us. Most places I know outside the US track kids. You plan to go to college/university? You take these classes (and you bust your ass to earn your spot there every year). You want to go to a trade school? You take these classes (and you might not even be in the same school as the college-bound kids). Tracking allows every kid to be challenged at their level. Putting everyone together in the hopes that it'll "pull up" the struggling kids doesn't really work. For every struggling kid that improves, you have two really smart kids who aren't challenged and don't grow.

Okay, I'm all fired up now and if I don't stop, I'll keep ranting....

Julie Particka