On the second day of school, I received this email from a reader who describes herself as “a civic leader, a parent and an educator.” She has penned a contract for teachers to sign, so they can start the year on some common ground with parents. I thought it was funny. Hope you enjoy:
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After signing several contracts with each of our six children, I have found it to be such a good and effective idea, that we have developed a little contract of our own. Please have your Principal and School Counselor sign one for each child and make sure it is delivered back to me, via the child’s backpack, within two days after the start of school.
I understand that signing contracts under duress at the start of a relationship is a signal of distrust, and since it probably does little to actually alter the child’s behavior in the long run, I agree we are signing a list of expectations, rather than a pledge of future behavior.
I understand that the majority of parents are doing the very best they can, and most of the time, they are simply overwhelmed by life. I also understand, that as the child’s first teacher, parents are busy nurturing the creative, spiritual, athletic, civic and domestic lives of the child, not to mention, responsible for making dinner every single night.
I understand that not every child has a “pit crew” who can spontaneously dash out to buy a lunch box, music book, white shirt, piece of poster board, blue two pocket folder with center brads, jump drive, printer cartridge, gym shoes, and magic eraser by the next day.
I understand that children need to run and play, and I will not punish them by taking away their recess, any more than I would punish them by taking away their sandwich.
I understand that every parent is a working parent, and I will not give homework to parents. This includes keeping the internet connection going at all times, keeping printers in good working order, and stocking ink cartridges as well as paper supplies at all times. I will not give parent involvement homework that creates power struggles between parents and children, or between spouses, or reduces the parent or child to tears.
I understand that children will sometimes get sick, and rather than sending a sick child to school, a responsible parent might keep the child home, and not find time between doctor appointments to dash over to the school to pick up homework. I also understand that even the least-scheduled child is already over-scheduled, and to squeeze three sick days of schoolwork into the future schedule, means sacrificing sleep for the recovering child.
I understand that even the most responsible child can’t possibly keep track of the required list of school supplies and can no longer even fit them into their locker. I understand that school supplies are becoming a financial burden, a source of environmental waste, and a nice way for big box retailers to fleece our harried, time-strapped and well-meaning parents who are just trying to follow the rules and do the right thing.
I understand that heavy backpacks cause skeletal and soft tissue damage, and that it is difficult or impossible for even an adult to ride a bike, or walk more than two blocks, while carrying a violin, a 20-pound backpack, and lunch box. I will not burden the child’s backpack with any more weight than absolutely necessary.
I am aware that even children in the most loving families are under tremendous pressure these days, and when the parent returns homework with a red line through it, it is because something is going on at home that is far more important than writing down vocabulary words in different colors twenty different times.
I understand that it takes about eight solid hours, PER child, to fill out the required forms for emergency information, contact information, PTO clubs, band membership, field trips, information sheets, immunization and physical exam reports, picture day, permission slips, lunch requests, insurance cards, behavior contracts, photo releases, etc. I understand that parents are the child’s most precious resource, and I will not squander the parent’s time or energy by sending home endless unnecessary pieces of paper, over and over and over again.
I am aware that when schools send home friendly pointers about how to feed children, or discipline them, that parents will be holding the school to those same high standards, and that sometimes, parents might even have a few friendly pointers of their own.