Q. My kindergartener brought home a questionnaire that asks: Do you like your class? Do you have friends in your class? Does your teacher treat you like you want to be treated? Does your teacher help you learn and do new things? I'm supposed to read him the questions, which he then answers by coloring in a face with a smile, a neutral expression (straight line), or a frown. I think that exercises of this sort only serve to undermine respect for the teacher. Am I right to refuse to let him complete this?
I think you're spot on. This is the sort of silliness that defines the new “therapeutic school,” which is what all too many public schools are striving to become these days (and increasing numbers of independent schools are rushing to “catch up”).
I'm all for nonacademic kindergarten, by the way, but exercises of this sort are patently counterproductive. Effective teaching, like effective parenting, is not a popularity contest, but letting students rate teachers has the effect of undermining teacher authority and as you point out, student respect.
As for what to do about it, first find out from the teacher where the questionnaire came from. Once the source is identified, go straight to that person. If your complaint falls on deaf ears, then go see if the local newspaper might be interested in how schools waste time and money.
Along the same lines: A mother relates that her daughter's sixth-grade science teacher assigned the class to watch “American Idol.” The mother writes, “We told our daughter to forget it, it wasn't happening, and she expressed anxiety over getting into trouble. So I e-mailed the teacher and copied the principal, telling them that we did not watch television on school nights and would not, in any case, allow silliness of that sort into our home. The teacher's response was that the class was studying how voice travels.”
Folks, I am aware that stories like these do not characterize all or even most public schools, but the sad fact is that parents across the country frequently share such tales with me.