I guess I should be thankful it was only a poetry project. When my older son Jared was in 2nd grade his assignment was a book float that needed to be attached to wheels so he could pull it around the playground during the "book parade." Cute idea, but how many 2nd graders are capable of crafting something like that on their own? Exactly. It wasn't Jared's homework assignment, it was mine. I hated that project so much that as soon as Jack started kindergarten I began plotting how I could get him to skip 2nd grade just so I wouldn't have to make another book float.
In comparison, Jack's poetry project wasn't nearly as bad. First, he had to find a book of poetry and read ten poems aloud to a parent, recording the titles and author on one of the sheets of paper. No problem. We went to the library and checked out a book of Jack Prelutsky poems. Jack (my Jack, that is) loved them. He read the entire book on his own, then easily selected ten poems to read to me. No complaints, no hassle, just an enjoyable afternoon of poetry reading. Great. So far so good.
Next, he needed to select one of the poems to memorize and present to the class. Again, this was something Jack could easily do. This was the kid, after all, who could sing along to just about every song on Keith Urban's Fuse CD. Memorize one little poem? No sweat. The directions said that the poem had to be at least six lines long. Okay, now it was getting a little trickier. See, all the Prelutsky poems were longer than six lines. Quite a bit longer. In fact, the poem Jack selected was 10 lines longer. I was pretty sure he could do it, but what if on the day of the presentation he blanked, like sometimes happens? Would he be marked down for bungling the recitation, even though it was ten lines longer than the requirement? Further complicating the situation was the fact that he's too smart for his own good and read for himself that the poem only had to be six lines long. No way was he going to do 16 lines. I explained that the directions said at least 6 lines; it could be more. Nope. Still not going to memorize 16 lines. (Did I say "smart"? Maybe obstinate would be a better word.) What if, I suggested, he just memorized the first stanza? It was still two extra lines, but he agreed to the compromise. Nervously, I said a little prayer that his teacher would agree to this compromise as well.
It was the third requirement of this lovely project that sent me over the edge. Jack had to create a poster for his poem. Now we were in trouble. Neither one of my boys is particularly artistic. They really have no interest in being artistic. I envisioned a cute poster with colorful pictures of candy surrounding his poem. But it was not my project. It was his. I would offer suggestions and help when he needed it, but basically it was up to him to complete his assignment.
This is the point at which I end up feeling like a lousy parent. I've been a teacher for almost 20 years, and I know that a good number of Jack's classmates are going to walk into class tomorrow morning with the most beautiful, creative posters you have ever seen. Some will be borderline professional. Jack is going to walk in with a poster that looks like it was made by. . .well, an 8-year-old boy actually. One who likes to read poems, doesn't mind memorizing one, but sure as hell doesn't want to spend hours making a poster for one. I can't say that I blame him. Still, doubt continues to nag at me because, unlike some parents, I didn't spend hours working on his poster with him, making his decisions for him and directing his every move. All I did was give some suggestions, hand him a package of colored pencils, and then leave him to do his thing. When I checked on him a few minutes ago, he was already finished. He proudly pointed to one drawing, saying, "I made a large Hershey's to show how much I like Hershey's." There were a couple more hastily drawn scribbles of candy, but a whole lot of white space was left. I tried gently persuading him to add more drawings. "No, I like it the way it is," he said.
And this is why I hate projects assigned as homework. It turns into a showcase of parent control and creativity rather than a showcase of genuine learning. Not only does it set my son up to look bad because his poster isn't as good as the adult-created ones, but I feel like it reflects poorly on me as well. Because I didn't run to Michael's to buy art supplies. Because I didn't color, cut, and paste. Because I put my child in charge of his own assignment.
But isn't that the way it should be?
|See the big Hershey bar?|