Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How To Proceed?

Olivia came home about two weeks ago with her first 5th grade writing assignment.  She was asked to write an I Am From poem.  I was pretty psyched for her because I often use the same as a writing prompt in the workshops I facilitate with young people.

The assignment included three components:

1. completing a graphic organizer                       due Sept. 18

2. rough draft                                                      due  Sept. 23

3.  final draft                                                       due Sept. 25

Olivia dove headfirst into meeting the requirements and crafting a poem, which represents how she sees herself and our family.  She met all of the deadlines and was looking forward to sharing her creation with her class when I dropped her off at school last Friday. But, when she got in the car at dismissal time later Friday afternoon, I could tell something was wrong.  Olivia explained that everyone enjoyed her poem, but her teacher would be taking 10 points off her grade, because she hadn’t submitted her graphic organizer with her final draft.  I listened, and assumed maybe she hadn’t read the assignment directions thoroughly and thus, was forced to deal with the consequences.  I repeated the mantra Loverman and I had heard just days before at Back-to-School Night… “Your 5th grader is growing up and will face new responsibilities as a middle school student.”  I went on to preach the importance of reading and re-reading the assignments to make sure she has a full understanding of what’s expected.  Olivia listened, but was still obviously disgusted with the hand she’d been dealt.

When we got home, Olivia headed right for her homework box and grabbed the assignment and after checking the fine print, she victoriously announced that nowhere did it state that she was supposed to attach the graphic organizer.  I reviewed the assignment and my girl was absolutely right.  Loverman and I suggested letting it go for the weekend, but once she returned to school on Tuesday, she could present her case to her teacher. 

Once again, my daughter got out of the car this morning confident of her position, and yet again when I picked her up this afternoon; I knew all had not gone well.  She jumped in the car hoppin’ mad because her teacher refused to change her grade.  I explained that even though I disagreed with the teacher’s decision, it really isn’t much more she can do, but my internal dialogue was singing another tune and I’ve been debating whether or not I should contact the teacher myself?  Fair is fair and girlfriend followed the directions, how was she to know that all of the elements should be submitted with the final draft? In spite of his not budging on the grade change, maybe this exchange with Olivia will encourage him to provide more detailed instructions next time? Overall, she’s been really enjoying the new rhythms of being a middle school student and I do want her to know how to address issues that pop up on her own… not every situation requires my mama bear routine.  To be honest I really don’t want to start the new year off on a cantankerous note with this teacher, but fair is fair, right?


LaNeshe said...

Mhmmm. I don't know. You don't want to have to make a mama bear call so early in the year.

Angella Lister said...

It is possible that the teacher told the kids in class that the organizer needed to be included with the final draft, and Olivia missed it. It happens. I think there's no harm in calling the teacher, not in Mama Bear mode, but in a friendly way to express Olivia's disappointment with her final grade on a project she so enjoyed and worked so hard on (in a sneaky way you're also letting the teacher know that this child cares about her work and wants very much to do well). You can take the position of a mother calling to figure out with the teacher how this happened (since it wasn't on the assignment sheet, did she tell the kids in class?) so you can work together to help Olivia be on top of it the next time. Be friendly, though. That's key. Don't accuse her of being unfair and don't ask for a grade change. Get the teacher on your side. Make her an ally for the year ahead. She'll also know you're paying attention.

If you have any teacher friends, it could be useful to hear what they think, but this approach seemed to work when my girl was in middle school. Would love to hear how this plays out if you do decide to call the teacher.

Mango Mama said...

Hi All, Thanks for the feedback. I did shoot a friendly email to the teacher and he responded promptly, not necessarily admitting he made a mistake, but at least acknowledging that he'll try to be more explicit next time. He also gave Olivia 5 additional points for bringing the graphic organizer in yesterday, so her final grade was a 95. She's a but disappointed, but I do feel she learned a larger lesson and her teacher understands we're actively involved in what's happening with our girl.

Angella Lister said...

I thought, when I was saying "she" for the teacher, that it just might be a "he!" So glad it worked out well. And, girl, 95 as a grade isn't half bad! Go, Olivia!