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Dear Teachers... About That "Parent Folder."

I love having one for my preschooler. The staff member throws in a pre-printed sheet with, say, speech or drawing or potty (and a number 1 2 3 for number of times) circled. It helps me to know what my non-verbal kiddo is up to during the day because, "HI! What did you do in school today?" gets me the response of, "da-day?" because he likes to echo what is spoken to him.

But I'm thinking that if we're talking about a verbal child, by second or third grade, we realllly don't need the updates at all. Just call or email me if there is a problem. Why do I have to sign folders indicating that I got stupid paperwork each week (join Cub Scouts, next week is our 100th day of school party, whatever). If it's REALLY important, send an email or mail it to me directly. Do not make my child a carrier, because I'm not interested in his being the middle man and getting flak from you or ME for not delivering papers and messages that, in the scheme of life, are not that stinkin' important.

It's not that I don't want to teach my children responsibility. *I* just don't want more responsibility than I already have, and let's face it: the parent folders are really yet another job I have to do at the end of the day when I'm tired and crabby. I'm happy to help you if you need something, and if you have something to say to me, I'd sure like you to call or email me directly so that there are no "he said/she said" situations or unnecessary dramas. If I want to talk about a problem at school, I will not relay a message through my child. I'll call you, or better yet, I can email you at 3 a.m. knowing I'm not disturbing you, and you can check the message when you are ready.

I get that permission slips for field trips are sent home and excuse notes to the nurse at school will need to be relayed through my children because you need a hard copy. Otherwise, I would rather assume that from 8 to 3, my child is doing just fine and the "education" is in your corner. I will provide a nice area for homework and a little time if I am asked by my child. I don't want a letter home stating what the homework is going to be for me to sign! Please don't do that. Let the CHILD do the work and learn responsibility. I refuse to mother-hen. I am not signing the folders for verbal children. Sorry.

The trouble is, often teachers don't like that sort of attitude. Believe it or not, often public school teachers will see me as the UNINVOLVED parent who won't bother to come to parent-teacher conferences even though we all know they're a waste of time... but somehow, they're the measure of whether a child has a caring parent at home.

Yet apparently, based on my perusal of some blogs, other teachers would see me as the OVERINVOLVED parent because I homeschool some of my children. It's actually undemocratic of me to do so and somehow? My homeschooling is keeping inner-city kids down. (Ha... but I don't see those people putting THEIR kids in the drug-ridden, violent schools. The people spouting off this way are almost invariably suburban public-schoolers or teachers without school-age children in bad districts.)

I just don't understand this "sign the folder" thing for the elementary school set, or why so many papers need to be sent home on a weekly basis. This teacher, for instance, takes the folder thing so seriously that he's kinda glad when kids start to cry when they don't have it signed. I guess I wonder why it's so important to him that it's worth it, but then again, I don't have to teach 20-odd kids all day. It's enough to get my two homeschoolers educated while preventing the little ones from causing havoc. Maybe I'm being too judgmental, but I remember that the few times I did cry in school were emotionally scarring events... and try as I might, I can't say I learned anything from them.

My children have a sort of cousin (it's complicated) that I call "Mitchell" on this blog. He has a ton of homework to do almost every single day and if he doesn't wrangle the folks at home into signing his folder, HE gets into trouble and gets a bad mark. I think you have to be free from these Xes to get a prize, and three Xes gets you sent to the bad-kid seat during recess, which REALLY stinks if that's pretty much the only good part of school for you.

The thing about silly parent folders, parent-teacher conferences and the like is that you almost need a coordinated parental strike for them to become ineffective teacher tools. The children don't want to miss recess and get a bad mark. They want the extra credit or recognition when their parents come in for conferences. Teachers can manipulate entire family schedules with a promise of a few stickers and ten minutes of playground time.

But to my mind, folders and scheduled conferences (in the gym, with 50 other parents waiting behind you and able to overhear) are a BIG WASTE OF TIME and actually hinder the parent-teacher communication process that is essential to a true spirit of cooperation. Because guess what? I don't like to hear bad things about my children in front of others and having to walk past all the tables where they're hawking junk and asking for my signature on stupid things. Or passing out lawn signs proclaiming that we're not gonna booze up our 14-year-olds. You need a yard sign for that, you know.

Instead, could you just email me? I promise I'll write back. I'd rather not have all my "communication" with the school happen on a timetable. Maybe sometimes, you need to talk with me three times in a given day because we need to work together on a problem. Perhaps during other school semesters, I may not need to chat with you at all. I'm guessing you have other things to do with your time than to deal with parents like me anyway.

Thanks for listening.


  1. Me too! Sign me up for that spare hour of excruiatingly listening to your grade 7ers wade through their grade 2 readers & I'll be there every single day. Need parents to cheer kids on at sports day? I'm your woman. Want someone to shelve library books or supervise the water play? Need volunteers to peg up the kinders art work? I'll put my hand up but paperwork? Parent/teacher conferences? Nope! No way! Waste of all our time. After all this time how come they don't get it?

  2. This brought back awful memories of the ONE year that I had a child in public school. Well it wasn't a whole year.

    About half way through the school year, I was sent a request to attend a specially scheduled parent teacher conference. ( Not that this was the first time we had some issue to work out. )

    When I arrived at the appointed time, my sons teacher handed me 42 pages of busy work that my son had not completed on his own time in class.

    WHAT ?!?!? Ugh, shouldn't things like this be brought to my attention, or sent home with a note as homework. This was 12 weeks of unfinished work.

    WAKE UP !!! I do not have time to sit down and do 42 pages of busy work. It is not my job. I already make sure he gets his 4- 8 pages of homework in K done every day.

    Done ! Done ! Done ! I was done.

  3. This is why we homeschool the only person I have to conference with is my husband.

    I'm awarding you the Beautiful Blogger award. I love your blog. You can get details over at my blog.

  4. From a teacher's point-of-view, our school did not have email access for years. The school finally collected parents' emails, but not all parents had emails, or provided them. Those who did, when the school tried emailing them, sometimes they didn't get the emails (or didn't check regularly).

    Teachers who emailed from home were later advised NOT to email (for legal reasons).

    When teachers finally got email access at school, the room to email from took ten minutes to walk to, and often was LOCKED! So ten minutes there, ten minutes back, for NOTHING! (and we only had one free period a day of about 45 minutes).

    I finally made colored folders for students to take messages home in. Sometimes the parents still didn't get the messages (child didn't give them the folder, or parents didn't check the child's bag), but unless it was something like a field-trip permission, or a student needing something signed regularly for regular academic or behavior problems, the only reason I could see for a needing a folder signed would be to make sure that parents do LOOK for the folder once a week.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher

  5. Ganeida, I wish you'd volunteer at my school! :)

    Jana, I can't imagine homework like that. In kindergarten, Patrick had half days and kids were expected one sheet of homework along the lines of "find something that starts with B. write the name of it and draw a picture" and you'd have to help spell.

    Rana, I always wonder how those decisions get made in families. Does your husband help choose curriculum?

    Wow, Eileen... that makes *sense*! They probably send folders to everyone instead of routing out who has an accurate email, etc.

    G would never remember to tell me about folders and it would be another job for *me.* Even now, he will have important papers he really WANTS looked at, but he will forget. The school and I simply MUST get it together by email or phone calls. I need to know when to expect those field trip forms, etc. or they will never get filled out. Add to that the fact that G won't let me just go through his backpack any more, and you see why actual parent-teacher communication is important. :)

  6. He pretty much let's me choose. I let him know what's going on and if he has anything he would like to input. Right now he is doing so much studying of his own(going to Law school)he doesn't really have time to look deeply into curriculum ideas.



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