I had and experience tonight that really impressed me as a parent and reminded me of what is truly important as a teacher. I attended the Country Fair Night at my son’s elementary school. Students in his class and another fifth grade class were broken up in groups of three and researched a region of the U.S. They created poster displays, wore costumes, and memorized speeches they wrote to share with parents visiting. Done wax museum style, parents traveled from group to group signaled by the turning on and off of lights to listen to these well prepared presentations. With the exception of helping my son put together a costume and buying him some duct tape, I had no part in this project. What a wonderful thing.
For the past several weeks my son came home with stories of his group, their research, and what they were working on. I had no real idea of what to expect going to the presentation tonight. After all, he got no help from me, nor did any other child from their parents. As a helicopter mom when it comes to homework and projects, I was both relieved and a little worried when I knew he was not able to work on it at home.
What I saw tonight was nothing short of impressive.
The expectation from his teacher was that his group would research, collaborate, create, and present. By themselves. So many times in the past, the dreaded project directions have come home, and I’ve compulsively wanted to micromanage my son’s thought process. I do not do this as a teacher, but as a parent it is different. This lead me to think about my students and their parents. How often do we assign work to be done at home and how often is the student actually doing it independently? Are their parents like me? This is not a post about homework and whether or not we should assign it (That’s another argument for a different day), but it is one about expectations and making sure we keep them high.
Although the concept of students doing all of the work is not new, tonight was a reminder to me of how important this truly is and how we as teachers need to be aware of the expectations we set for our students. The project was academically rigorous and challenging. The teacher expected students to do it by themselves and created time for them to do it in class. My son came home excited about sharing his hard work. He was happy to share with me and other parents what HE had accomplished. He showed me what he was capable of.