She did not get her word study homework done last week (her teacher requires three word study assignments each week from a list of many options). She was working on this tonight while I did dishes. She was illustrating her words and was stuck on one. She asked me for help and I had trouble understanding the word. I told her to spell it for me. She looked down at her paper and I said, "No, YOU spell it for me." She said, "But I already took this test!"
I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. How is it that in third grade she is learning something solely for the test? What happened to the joy in learning for the sake of learning? I know she still does plenty of that, at least outside of school. Is it simply (as my husband suggested) that she doesn't understand why learning these words might be important or useful?
Once I finished the dishes we got started on her fractions homework. She had to take mixed numbers and make them improper fractions. For the first few we drew a picture and she could figure it out. That became a bit cumbersome by about the third mixed number because the numbers got too big. She wanted to just use the strategy she learned at school: multiply the whole number by the denominator and add the numerator. I wanted her to be able to figure these out because she understood what she was doing, not because she had memorized an algorithm.
I pushed on this and, I think, by the end she did understand what she was doing and, therefore, how to do it. But, again, I was astounded by how little interest she had in understanding what she was doing. She was working these out to jump through the hoop of homework. She wants to please her teacher, who is an amazingly wonderful, fabulous teacher. That's not a bad thing but I want her to want to understand.
We'll keep doing all the things we do outside of school to learn and grow but I want those things to work hand in hand with school. In previous years I felt like that was happening.
When I taught fourth graders I was often pained to hear the question, "Is this for a grade?" When I moved from the upper grades down to first grade I was thrilled to never hear that question. First graders love learning and doing new things. I wondered where it was that we managed to beat that out of kids. For my daughter at least it appears to be by third grade.
I don't blame her teachers. She has had fantastic teachers. I think this is a much bigger societal issue and goes far beyond our school. The conversations with my daughter tonight simply pushed me down this path.