Local schools: If it’s inconvenient, then it’s not worth doing

Helicopter-Parents

Summer reading lists have been around for eons, it would seem. Until this year, that is, at least in my neck of the woods.

When my girls, who are going into the 10th, ninth, ninth and seventh grades, finished school last May they told me they didn’t have any required summer reading. Seeing how each of them independently told me the same story, and there was no information about summer reading on their respective schools’ websites, I was forced to accept this as truth.

However, as each had been given reading lists since at least the third grade previously, I found the change perplexing.

I told them, though, that they would be reading at least one book that I would pick out for them. My girls have varying levels of interest in reading: One is an avid bookworm and is never without something to peruse; another is a social butterfly and, while an excellent writer, would rather do just about anything than sit down and read.

The four start school tomorrow and over the summer between them managed to read 18 books. This, however, is not broken down evenly. One of my twins read nine books, including The Scarlet Letter, which I picked out for her. The youngest read six books, including Little Women, which was my choice. The oldest read two books – All Things Bright and Beautiful and Animal Farm – the first of which I chose because of her love of animals, and the second she chose because she thought it was about a farm (I didn’t disabuse her of that notion when she showed it to me initally). My other twin managed to get through one book, To Kill a Mockingbird, which I chose for her.

Obviously I would have preferred for the latter two to have spent more time reading and less time playing on their cell phones, but they only live with me part of the time so I’m glad they accomplished what they did.

What I found rather discouraging was the reason their schools didn’t assign reading lists, which I learned only this past weekend.

My three older girls were told at the end of last year that students weren’t being assigned summer reading “because kids won’t do it.” This was verified by another student who attends a different area school.

As an aside, my children are fortunate enough to attend classes in one of the best public school districts in South Carolina.

This district never misses an opportunity to pat itself on its back for its high ranking, all the new schools it’s building and upgrades it’s adding to existing schools, and all the state-of-the-art gadgets it’s installing in both new and existing structures.

(I was astounded when my children attended a relatively new grammar school to see such things as each and every classroom with its own bathroom, and each classroom with its own electronic smartboard, which apparently can cost from $2,000 to $5,000 apiece, even though some teachers didn’t bother to use them.)

Our district passed a $243 million bond referendum seven years ago and if one wanted to play devil’s advocate one could say that the district has to make sure that all that money is spent, no matter how useful the expenditures.

Yet, the district has decided to forego something as simple and useful as summer reading “because kids won’t do it.”

Sounds more like some whiny parents complained to school and district officials that their little darlings shouldn’t have to start the school year with zeroes because said little darlings hadn’t done their summer assignments.

The district, after all, likes to keep parents happy because they’re the ones footing the bill for all the shiny new baubles.

Of course, the above supposition is just conjecture on my part, but we do seem to live in a time when the squeaky wheel not only gets the grease, but is catered to like royalty.

That said, we’ll see how the spoiled progeny do when they’re in the workforce and fail to get assignments done on time. Whiny mom and dad won’t do much good then, will they?

(Top: New York college student plays on cell phone while her mother makes her dorm room bed.)

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17 thoughts on “Local schools: If it’s inconvenient, then it’s not worth doing

  1. as a teacher, this makes me sad on many levels. thank you for doing your part to pick up the slack and keeping books in front of them –

    • It’s my pleasure, Beth. I know that for a teacher to be able to do their job, parents have to do theirs, which includes prying kids away from television and computers once in a blue moon. Thank you for what you do for children.

  2. Ha. Wondered if that was one of your daughters (couldn’t remember appearance) and thought WTF is mother making the bed? At that age?

    We never had reading assignments over the summer hols though. Just got on with it during the school year. University was different again. We had a vast reading list, and my summers were spent ordering specialist books from the library and studiously reading them every morning. Most of my friends were living it up in Greece, France, Italy, Spain … I doubt they visited the same beautiful,archaeological remains I did from my armchair though.

    • Naw, their mother doesn’t force them to make their beds, from what I gather. But that’s another story …

      Interesting you should mention being able to visit beautiful archaeological remains from your armchair. I just finished Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West and doubt the former Yugoslav republics could possibly live up to the picture West paints in her work. Of course, times have changed and things are different. That world is gone, but it is fun to live vicariously through the works of a great author, isn’t it?

  3. It’s sad but true, I don’t think the students here in the UK would tackle a summer reading list either. We try to get them to at least skim through the books they will be studying the following year (Mockingbird has been on the curriculum here for ages) but come September it’s always a disappointment to discover that none of them have bothered.
    Even more concerning – the conversation I had this week with the mother of a year 1 A level student who just received her English Literature results for this year. She achieved an A grade but had not read any of the books all the way through. When her mother asked her how this was possible the reply was that the students are taught to answer the questions.
    There is no fostering of good practise here, of installing a love of reading and books. Thank goodness for fathers like you. Your daughters will be ahead of the game in every way, and one day, they might even thank you for it!
    The student in your photo could be one of my nieces. She needs a slap!

    • Yes, that photo made my blood pressure rise a tiny bit. Of course, the mother may be happy just to get her out of the house.

      I was no great reader of literature when I was younger, but I did enjoy a variety of books, usually sports related biographies and such.

      I can tell you that many teachers “teach to the test,” meaning the year-end tests administered by the state to measure annual progress. As you stated, there is no real love of reading, books or, by extension, learning. Quite unfortunate.

  4. We had no holiday reading assigned…but considering the amount we were expected to read for ‘reading round’ whatever it was we were studying we certainly had a full load in term time.

    I was lucky in that when I was in the early years of school we were taken on Friday afternoons to the local library where a librarian would read a story and then hep us to choose books to borrow for the week ahead. Those librarians were worth their weight in gold in opening kids’ eyes to the world of books.

    As to not setting work because the kids won’t do it….boy, bring back my head mistress…not only the children but the parents and the education committee would be blown backwards bow legged.
    Mark you, these days she’d probably get the sack for putting learning above number crunching.

  5. Name the schools, mine both attended Crossroads Middle last year and both received a summer reading list. They also received some detailed information on recommended math practice.

    I guess District Five does nothing to promote summer reading…oh..wait…http://www.millmag.org/district-school-launches-bookmobile-bolster-summer-reading/

    Maybe if the district has some of the 12 million dollars your friend Kim Murphy wasted it could do even more – http://www.lexrich5.org/m/content.cfm?subpage=61369

    • Mine also attended Crossroads. She’s my youngest. Tonight, I told her about this post and she said her teacher had told her class at the end of the past school year that she was not assigning a reading list because parents had complained the previous summer. I told her that if I had known that I would have included it in my post.

      I have a co-worker whose children are in entering fifth and nine grade at schools in Chapin. Neither of them were given reading lists for this past summer, and they were told the reason was that kids weren’t going to do the reading.

      Not really sure what a lawsuit from four or five years ago has to do with assigning summer reading in 2015 …

      • I don’t know Kevin, I emailed a friend last night who teaches at Leapheart Elementary and she said all grades at that school assigned summer reading as they have always done.

        So, do we have a case of this being a district problem or a case of a few lazy individuals? I noticed that you did not address the link I posted about the summer reading program that was delivering books to kids all summer.

        Bottom line – there will always be a few bad apples in any organization but district five is the most academically rigorous and challenging district in the midlands an one of the top in this state.

        I mentioned the lawsuit since you and you wife were big Kim Murphy supporters while she wasted 12 million dollars of taxpayer money on her 3 lawsuits, lawsuits in which she failed to win a single verdict in any court all the way to the SC Supreme Court. It was simply to point out that you have long been a critic of the district.

      • When you say a few lazy individuals are you referring to teachers, students or both?

        The second link you sent was about a bookmobile started by two teachers at an area school. While certainly a good program, it appears, from what I can tell, to be a volunteer effort. Given time constraints, it would have a limited reach. I applaud the teachers who undertook this effort. It’s likely that there are teachers such your child’s who gave out reading lists on their own. I wrote about events related to me by my children, however.

        The district is indeed one of the top in the state. However, if, as it appears, there was a decision at some level, be it by the district, various schools or among a large number of teachers, not to assign something as basic as summer reading because kids won’t do it and/or parents complained, that does not reflect well on the district and/or its schools.

        I’m not sure how you qualify the term “big supporter.” I know and respect Kim Murphy but I’ve never made a political contribution to her. My wife has never made a political contribution to her. As to whom my wife represents in her legal practice, that is her business. Of course, the last time I looked folks have the right to secure legal representation as they see fit. In addition, attorneys – and other individuals – have the right to do business with whomever they please.

  6. “When you say a few lazy individuals are you referring to teachers, students or both”

    No idea, you failed to provide any information detailing whether or not you called any of these teachers, schools or the district administration to confirm your kids story or what school / district policy was on the matter.

    “However, if, as it appears, there was a decision at some level, be it by the district, various schools or among a large number of teachers, not to assign something as basic as summer reading because kids won’t do it and/or parents complained, that does not reflect well on the district and/or its schools.”

    Did you contact the district administration or the individual school to verify your information? If not, why not? As I said before, both my kids got a reading list and information for summer math practice. Assuming what your kids said is true, then either my kids teacher went above and beyond or your kids teacher violated school and/or district policy. If you are concerned enough to write a blog post why not take the time to call the teacher, school or district administration?

    Nevermind – looks like your whole post is wrong, please check this link I found on the D5 website

    http://www.lexrich5.org/departments.cfm?subpage=101439

    Item #8 was the list my kids used.

    • You’re the one who made the statement “So, do we have a case of this being a district problem or a case of a few lazy individuals?” Why raise the question if you don’t know what you’re asking.

      From your link, it’s obvious I overlooked the reading list the district placed on its website. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that a few/some/many teachers failed to give out summer reading, or, apparently, from what I’ve learned anecdotally, bothered to inform students of the reading lists on the website. The point of the post was that the teachers my children (and others) had didn’t give out reading lists. If even a handful of teachers don’t give out reading lists under the guise that kids “won’t do the reading” that’s something worthy of writing about.

      Besides, shouldn’t you be off shilling for one or more members of the District 5 board, anyway? I’m sure there’s a board meeting coming up soon and you’ll be needing to spread disinformation. Bread and circuses, and all, right?

  7. “If even a handful of teachers don’t give out reading lists under the guise that kids “won’t do the reading” that’s something worthy of writing about.”

    If it’s worthy to spend 20 minutes writing about it why not spend 10 minutes to verify it with the teacher, school or district office? Clearly there was an effort at the district and school levels to produce summer reading lists and reinforce the importance of reading. IF certain teachers are not making an effort to disseminate this information don’t you think that would be something the district would be interested in knowing?

    “You’re the one who made the statement “So, do we have a case of this being a district problem or a case of a few lazy individuals?” Why raise the question if you don’t know what you’re asking.”

    I knew exactly what I was asking. Since your post contained no information for the reader as to whether you contacted the district, school or teacher to verify what your kids told you how was a reader to determine the scale of the problem or if such a problem actually existed?

    Also, to address this from your original post “and there was no information about summer reading on their respective schools’ websites”. I went to the CRMS website (http://www.lexrich5.org/CrossRoadsMS.cfm) and along the left hand side just below fast facts what was the link? The “Summer Reading Component” link to the district summer reading site. Checked around some more and the link appears at the exact same location on every school website.

    I think it would be safe to say that summer reading is still valued and promoted at the school and district level.

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