Saturday, September 27, 2008

The 1,000,000 Word Assignment

I spent my weekend reviewing an assignment that I gave to the parent’s of my students:

1,000,000-word assignment

I have read over 100 responses from parents who grasp the importance of introducing their child to me. The writings I received were as diverse as those writing them. I acquired compositions, poems, lists and even one 1200-word essay. Each response I read revealed the best qualities of their children, some that I may never have been aware of had I not had this “heads-up” from a parent. Often I found my eyes tear up at the beautiful words written by loving parents.

As I read each essay, it reinforced my belief that every child deserves to be perceived as their parents perceive them. Through these essays, I gained immeasurable insights into the children who visit my classroom each day. I know that I have always had my student’s best interest at heart, but it wasn’t until I had children of my own go through the education process that I “got” how important it is to reach those unreachable students. Many times these are difficult students who are often treated with disdain because of learning or behavior challenges. It was through parenting my own children and having to personally deal with educators who were inflexible, seemingly callous, and downright an obstacle to the learning process, that I realized how detrimental this type of teacher is to the profession. If your goal as a teacher is to engage students, how is it possible to do that without taking the whole child into consideration?

It is funny how when an idea or value comes to mind, it is often reinforced with something you are reading. While reading Brenda Dyck’s book “Rebooting of a Teacher’s Mind”, I was reminded of the times in my own life when home and school collided. It is because I have personally experienced these dilemmas that my classroom practices have been modified over the years. Life experiences like…,
¸ coming home late from work to a house that needs cleaning, laundry that needs to be tended to and a son with two hours of homework.
¸ helping my child with assignments or projects that had little to no direction from the teacher.
¸ the inability to help my child study for a test because I was just too exhausted to do so..
¸ single parenting….this is a huge one. I never understood how difficult this alone can be until I was one.
¸ rushing to get out the door in the morning and forgetting to sign something the kids needed for school.

There is no “child-mold” or a one-size-fits-all template for children. As I teach, I try to remember that each child in my classroom is someone’s prized possession. If naughty Nick were my child, how would I want a teacher respond to him, teach him or prepare him for life? All I know is that my role as a parent requires me to not only be the disciplinarian, but more often I am the encourager, organizer, manager, listener, and cheerleader for my children. It seems these are also perfect roles of a teacher. Who wouldn’t want this type of person interacting with their child every day?


TigereyeSal said...

This is so beautiful, Marsha. I'm going to write a letter to my children's teachers and caregivers, too, in the hopes of inspiring them as you have just inspired me.

Ali said...

As part of my children's orientation to high school (this happens in Grade 7 here, 12/13 year olds), parents are asked to write this 1,000,000 Assignment. It's surprisingly hard to do - and writing is something I enjoy, yet I was thrilled to have the chance to tell my children's future teachers my children's fragilities as well as their strengths, for it is the fragile parts of us which require so much more thought and effort from teachers.

I know that not all teachers give much regard to these writings received from parents, but some do, and for that I am truly grateful.

I love your way of looking at student's from a parent's perspective: what would I want if this were my child.

It's teachers like you who get our children through the institution of school with a sense of self that is healthy. Thank you.

Ali - who's in a whole other country, but thinks good teaching should be recognised by all.

Shelly said...

This has been a rough year so far for my fourth grade son. There is no "connection" between teacher and student in his classroom. Reading your blog only further solidified what I perceive as something that is missing in his teacher....she is more focused on her academic agenda than on "connecting" with her students....

I think it is going to be a long year....

Cheers to you for being the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have...