While I’m regaling one and all (well, you, yeah, YOU! Over there! I see you!) with tales of the school “system”, there is the tale of Allen, Number One Son, and his transition into North Schools and their second grade.
So, in his first grade year, we had lived in another small town, several counties away. I had heard of an opening for an ICU nurse at this hospital, and had applied for, and been accepted for that position. We moved, and the children moved schools, unsurprisingly.
In the previous school, Allen had been in first grade in a Catholic school. He had brought home homework, and his mother and I had worked with him thereon. Therefore, foolishly, once we had moved and he had started second grade, I assumed that there would be homework, again.
He came home each day, and I asked him about his homework. “No homework, Dad.”
Was he certain? “Yep, no homework, Dad.”
Did the teacher send anything home with him? “Nope.”
Had there been anything written on the board, such as, oh, I don’t know, HOMEWORK?
This little bonding moment repeated itself day after day, until, a couple of weeks into the school year, there was parent-teacher conferences. Aha! Now was my opportunity to resolve the no-homework dilemma!
So, I arrived at the appointed hour, and introduced myself to the teacher. “I’m Allen’s father. He tells me that he is not getting any homework assigned.”
Cute, young, blond, she smiled, and nodded. “Um-hmm!”
I paused, and, no additional verbal reply forthcoming, I plowed on. “Now, Allen did get homework in first grade, at his previous school.”
Another smile, another “Um-hmm!”
I paused, again. No verbal riposte was forthcoming, and again I plowed forward. “And, I had been of the understanding that homework was important to the teaching process. It seems to me that it provides feedback to the teacher regarding how well the students in general, and each student in particular, is grasping the material.”
Another head nod, another smile, another “Um-hmm!”
I continued. “In addition, I had thought that homework also had the benefit of helping the student generalize the material away from the classroom, promoting retention as well as helping the student incorporate the material into his or her daily life.”
Another nod, another smile, another “Um-hmmm!” I was beginning to suspect that this college graduate teacher was suffering from a poverty of conversational themes. (Sigh!). I wound up my presentation, and went for my closer.
“Therefore, I’m puzzled. Allen is telling me that he is not getting homework assignments, and you appear to be confirming that. I have to confess that I’m puzzled. Can you explain the pedagogical principles that led to this particular plan of instruction, omitting homework?”
Her blonde grin widened, and she tossed her head as if she was still in the sorority house back at Wherever State Teacher’s College. “(giggle) That’s just the way we do it here!”
I imagined myself, back in Nursing school, answering my clinical instructor, Dr. Smith’s, inquiry, “So, Mr. Stretcher Ape, why did you administer lasix to this patient?”, with the following:
“(giggle!) The Doctor ordered it! (giggle)”
Yeah, about that. Had THAT been my answer, and not revelations about optimizing fluid balance, and the salutary effects of diuresis upon the patient with heart failure, well, I’d still be repeating my FAVORITE! greeting in The Whole World!, which is “(knock, knock, knock!) Fire Department!”
All night long.