A Job I Didn’t Want

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thanksgiving sign (photo by Wendy Kennar)

Every Friday morning I volunteer in my son’s second grade classroom.  For the most part, it’s an hour to an hour-and-a-half of paperwork.  I help his teacher by stapling together homework packets for the coming week.  I cut patterns.  I staple language arts packets.  I put papers inside sheet protectors.  I rip out pages from math books.  It’s not particularly challenging work, but it can be time-consuming for a teacher, and I’m happy to help.  I’m in a corner of the room, doing my work, while my son is at his desk doing his work.

Last week, Ryan’s teacher also asked me to “check” the homework packets the students had just turned in.  She told me not to worry about checking if each question was correct or not.  I was mainly checking to see if the worksheets were complete.  And I get it, — homework isn’t supposed to be the primary way a child learns a skill or demonstrates mastery of that skill.  Hopefully, a child has completed homework under an adult’s supervision (or at the very least, an older sibling), so any errors or misunderstandings have already been caught, explained, and corrected.

But last week the kids were also supposed to write a paragraph about what they were thankful for.  This paragraph was to include a topic sentence, at least three supporting-detail sentences, and a concluding paragraph.  Ryan wrote about being thankful for our planet Earth. 

Asking a second-grader to write a paragraph is a big deal because it’s a relatively new skill.  And a teacher shouldn’t just be reading for structure but for content.  What a child chooses to write about can really provide glimpses into their personalities.  And with twenty-four children in the class, it isn’t always easy to get to know your students the way you’d like to.  Those paragraphs should have been checked and edited and not just given a cursory once-over by me.  

Almost a week later, I’m still bothered by the fact that I most likely will be the only set of eyes looking at those paragraphs.  It made me very uncomfortable that my son’s teacher (a woman who I think is a fine teacher) so carelessly passed over this important task to me, a parent volunteer (who just happens to be a former teacher). 

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