Posted on September 18, 2011
This past Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting with a dozen or more parents new to Mid-Pacific Institute at an informal coffee hour. Expect another coffee hour this semester, an opportunity to meet other parents and to learn more about MPI. At this first session, the parents' questions suggested to me that some things seemingly routine are worth mentioning again in this week's letter. So consider this entry a quick review --
• Our assessment methods at the preschool and elementary are considered fairly progressive. Teachers work from a set of criteria based on a performance continua, which charts learning in various content areas. These continua span kindergarten through second grade, then third through fifth grades. In order to determine a student's placement on the continua, teachers collect evidence of learning from many sources: daily classroom performance (including art, music, physical education, and character education), journals, writing drafts, math activities, "think" sheets, small and large group discussions, class presentations, drawings, etc. Though formal conferences are scheduled at the end of the semester in December and May, you are always welcome to contact your child's teachers to inquire about your child's progress. The best mode of communication is email. You may ask for a face-to-face meeting, schedule a phone meeting, or discuss matters over email. Teachers WILL contact you if there are any academic, social, or emotional concerns.
• Homework should never feel like drudgery to the student -- and parent! Challenging, yes, and maybe even fun. Your children are given an adequate amount of homework according to your child's grade level. I think the one piece of homework common to all classrooms is reading. If the homework disintegrates into a crying bout or angry exchange between you and your child, put it away, send an email to the teacher or append a note to the homework, and allow the teacher to handle it in school.
• Sometimes the teachers might provide time in class to complete an assignment. If your child does announce, "I don't have homework!" or "I did it in school already," consider the spare time at home a blessing. This means your child has time to attend to other interests or more time to spend with you. Quiet reading. Board games. Drawing. Piano practice. Perhaps visiting a family-friendly website. Homework is not a babysitter nor does it inherently teach your child responsibility or discipline. These values and attitudes, not surprisingly, are learned from you in the way you handle situations, interact with others, and approach your own work. And your children also learn these values in the school setting when they interact with adults and peers. Let's not give homework credit it doesn't deserve.
• By now all of you have picked up on the parking/driving tips:
-- Preschool parents, enter campus after 7:40am. You'll have a better chance of parking your car and walking your child to the classroom. (The Hawaii Department of Human Services requires parents of preschool-aged children to sign their children in.)
-- There is no parking at the turnaround area closest to the office from 7:00-7:40am because K-5 parents are still dropping of their children.
-- Please do not speed onto campus. You never know when one of our children may inadvertently dart out between cars.
-- Please be respectful towards the security guards and heed their directions. They are trying to maintain safety for all.
-- Do not allow your child to disembark from the car without one of the students with the green safety vests.
-- And please be patient at drop-offs and pick-ups. We're going as fast and as carefully as we can with our precious children.
Every weekend I read every teacher's blog. What a treat! I don't know if there's any other elementary school in Hawaii where every classroom teacher posts weekly blog updates consistently. After you've read your child's classroom teacher's blog, check into a few others. You won't be disappointed. Though the specialists don't post as often, they do have a wealth to share. Let the teachers know how you're responding to their blogs. Makes you wish you could go to elementary school again!
For our children,
Edna L. Hussey