My son's school sent home a parent survey. They wanted suggestions. Here were mine.
1. Consider more recognition for students beyond the Student of the Month award.
I happened to be at an assembly where my son was earning a medal for reading. It also happened to be the student of the month assembly. Without fail, it seemed that all of the students of the month were described as if they were part of the brainwashed hoi polloi in a dystopian novel. Don't get me wrong. I understand the need for compliance in an educational setting, but I also understand perhaps the greater need to celebrate and reward innovation and creativity and IDEAS that may leap unexpectedly from the mouths of seven and eight year old children.
2. Consider a shift in the school's use of praise to motivate CST scores. Shift praise from intelligence to effort.
Praise is one of those tricky things. It doesn't always have positives outcomes. As an undergrad, I was first introduced to the concept of locus of control in a psych class. Around CST time, the faculty spent a lot of time at my son's school praising the students for being such "smart Tigers"! This is possibly one of the WORST things that you can do to a student. I realize the hyperbole, but follow me. If students believe that their intelligence is what is responsible for their successes and failures, they have NO control over it. Once faced with something difficult, the child will believe that he/she is simply not intelligent enough to complete the task. These students often shut down when faced with something difficult or (even worse) won't challenge themselves in the future. On the other hand, we can all control the amount of effort that we put forth. Praise effort! I've read or heard of studies in which students who had their effort praised were more likely to take on challenging tasks. This is what we want. We want our children to not shrink from the difficult; we want our children to feel empowered to take on anything.
3. Consider a year focused on learning more about boys as learners.
I wrote something on the survey about ensuring that boys not be seen as deficient girls, blah, blah, blah. Our current educational climate is not the most nurturing for our male learners. There aren't enough books that appeal to boys when compared with books that appeal to girls. Things that boys are interested in (farts, fights, gore) are often frowned upon by overly motherly female faculty. Science, history, and PE are often regulated to the bottom of the priority list.
It is my hope that my concerns are not summarily dismissed, but that they are actually considered. I believe that the school has simply misstepped in the desire to help more students. I think that they have the best of intentions, but need to sort of take a step back and consider the unintended consequences of their decisions.
I just have to figure out a way to turn in the survey so that it isn't connected back to my son. I'm don't want my son to be labeled as the kid with "that mom."