By Pepa Wenrich
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I attended our first Back-to-School-Night where our daughter's new first -grade teacher delivered a very clear and direct message:
"Tomorrow I will be sending homework for the first time. I haven´t done it until now because before, I need to ask something important of you. Every day students will bring home a folder with a few sheets of paper to work on. Every day I will explain in class what they have to do, they will prepare the folder and will put it in their backpacks before they go home. Please, allow them to complete their work by themselves and to put them back in their folder and backpack. Even if it feels very tempting to sit and help them with this just to make sure that they make it perfect and fast, this will create some problems:
1) If they don´t do it by themselves, I won´t be able to see how much the students are learning in class.
2) If tomorrow you sit with your child to do homework, you will still be sitting with your child doing homework in 6th grade... and believe me... it won´t be fun any more.
So please, unless they specifically ask for help, let them be responsible for the work that I send home".
I am not sure how many parents paid attention that night. But I did. And over the years, slowly but surely my children' work load grew. But along with the amount of work, their sense of responsibility and autonomy grew too. Today, our daughter is a senior in college and our son is about to leave home for his freshmen year. So for the first time in fifteen years I won't be attending a back-to-school-night. As I watch my son getting ready to go off to college, the advice of that first back-to-school-night came back to me, because it had a tremendous impact on the role that I decided to play in my children's schooling.
Since I know that the advice that most of you will hear as you visit your children's schools this fall will be to "get involved," I wanted to share with you the best piece of advice that I have ever received.
Thank you Ms. VanderStoel!