Making the grade

I enjoy the company of young people – they like to think. They have cool ideas, they’re off the wall, and down right hilarious. As I’m getting closer to the age of wanting to have a family of my own I find myself looking at the homework of my friend’s children and often times helping with it. In one particular case – my neighbor’s oldest son (who shall be called J) is in the second grade. J is a kind boy who listens well and has a real respect for people who show him respect. I often help J with his homework (which always seems to be freakin’ math) after school because his home situation is less than ideal. The first time we did his homework together he remarked, “Wow, it takes a lot longer to do the assignment with you.” I wasn’t sure what that was. Sure, we usually ended up doing most of the assignment twice – I would let him work through the whole thing on his own, we’d go over the problems that were incorrect, but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I make him re-write numbers that were difficult to read and his half-hearted attempts as erasing. In spite of those things I still didn’t think us doing his homework together took much longer than it would take than if he did it with him mom, granny, or CW.

One Monday morning J was outside visibly upset – so I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “I don’t want to do my homework.” Now, the fact that a second grader has homework over the weekend is kind of tripping me out a little bit already, but I can roll with that. So his mom asks me to come in and explain a logic problem to her because she didn’t understand it. While I’m looking at the assignment I notice something strange. None of the handwriting on the assignment is J’s. His mother was doing his homework and her response when I asked, “Why in the world are you doing your child’s homework?” was “So he will get a good grade, but now he will just have to get a bad one.”  – Now you can imagine the look on my face sort of went like this…


Grading systems are dated. We live in a competitive society where getting into colleges, scholarships and fellowships, and getting a job is contingent on a number associated with your grades (GPA is an entirely separate issue which I’m sure I will rant about at some point this semester).  Things are getting competitive earlier and earlier to the point where we’re having parent’s doing children’s homework. Depriving them of the very thing that they are going to school for, an education. And while given our current academic structure grades might be important now, a student’s worth, particularly a child’s should not be so heavily impacted by it. I shouldn’t have to listen to J say he’s stupid because he didn’t get a “check-plus” or a “doggy stamp” on his homework. J is a kind boy who struggles with certain things in school just like any child. J will make it in this world if people continue to build him up, work with him, and teach him. I hope in the future we can reform education so that it isn’t a system of segregation and a bringer of emotional distress. Learning should be fun – not anxiety inducing.

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1 Response to Making the grade

  1. fdelamota says:

    Having children myself in similar grades as “J”, I can relate to a lot of the thoughts you express here. While good grades have become the goal in our education system at any level, it is perhaps in elementary school where standarized education hurts students the most. It amazes me how, at age 6 or 7, reading and writting skills, as well as math, get the same treatment as medical conditions: “standard test X tells us that your student is at a Y level compared to other students…”. Of course, this does not take into account at all the specific circumstances of that child: perhaps he/she is bilingual (therfore not as proficient -yet- in either language compared to a child who only speaks either one). I understand resources are limited, but we need to figure out a way to better aproach the different learning styles children (and students in general) have.

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