How many of you have children coming home from school completely defeated, stressed, and overwhelmed? Chances are, if you have children in public school from grades 3-12, my guess would be ALL OF YOU. We can thank the Louisiana Student Standards (our “revamped” Common Core) for this. This monstrosity of a curriculum has the expectations of our children being able to perform at a level WAY above their age and capabilities. High stakes testing starts in third grade and they are asked to do things like read four sources and write large paragraphs being able to synthesize the information they read and include evidence in their writing … THIRD GRADE. Can they even retain all the information read from four sources and analyze them at a level to where they can pull information from all sources on a common topic to develop a well-written paragraph? Why do they need to do that in THIRD GRADE? If that is the expectation of a third grader, you can only imagine the great heights the children have to reach when they get into higher grade levels.
This is becoming a HUGE problem.
Teachers are extremely burnt out and stressed due to the amount of pressure put on them from higher ups (I know because I am one). The expectations are given to us, and we are expected to meet them. But how when they’re so UNREALISTIC? The stress amongst teachers inevitably bleeds down into the students and THAT, parents, is why your child is coming home cranky, moody, exhausted with dark circles under their eyes as if they have been possessed by the devil himself. The teachers feel defeated, the kids feel like failures, and parents are now, too, becoming highly concerned about the well-being of their kids.
We are officially going off the deep end.
Parents want to know what we can do to change this. Well here’s what we can’t change at this very moment- the Louisiana Student Standards. They are here to stay (for now) and there is nothing anyone can do about it in the state of Louisiana. Unless we get an army of people to push back (which could happen over time), but for NOW they’re here, it’s real, and complaining is going to do nothing.
So we’re stuck. What can we do to alleviate the stress?
MAKE them play: If your child comes home with homework, do not make them complete it right away. They have been pushed to perform at really high levels ALL DAY and the LAST thing they need to do is come home and work more. Make them go outside and play, do arts and crafts, watch their favorite TV show, play a video game, whatever they need to do to decompress for a bit – MAKE THEM. As adults, the last thing we want to do when we come home from work is to do more work; we shouldn’t have that expectation on our kids. Have the understanding that your child is being pushed beyond their limits (plus some) and help them find ways to alleviate that stress when they get home.
Support teachers: Also, support your child’s poor teacher. Lord knows we need it! Not only are we given these crazy high expectations, but we also have to deal with discipline. Because the expectations are so high, the pressure is on. This causes students to act out and behavior gets worse. It’s a downward spiral from there. Don’t point fingers at the teacher; we’re just trying to do our jobs. Teach your child how to manage emotions in a way that isn’t disrespectful or disruptive to the class.
Give rewards: When my third grader comes home with homework, I let her do it when she’s ready and we get after it. Usually she likes freshly baked cookies as her reward, so I throw some in the oven and they bake while she works. When she’s done, she gets to eat her cookies. Give your child an end goal or something to work towards that will give them positive motivation to finish. If they get frustrated, let them take a break and come back to it with a clear head.
Encourage them to try their best: You know what your child is capable of. If you believe they are A students, then hold them up to that standard. If your child struggles constantly, let them know that all you want from them is to try their best. My daughter is typically an A student, but she will make herself physically ill and breakdown into tears if she isn’t making an A … in third grade. That’s not good. We’ve had numerous talks about her trying her best and not worrying about making perfect grades. I do want her to learn resilience, but not to the point of having meltdowns. Balance.
Manage your own emotions: You are the ones in the classroom. You are the ones teaching the standards in a way that pushes the rigor and you are striving to reach an unrealistic goal. You have to understand that the expectations are UNREALISTIC for each grade level. Now, some students will perform at that level, but MOST of them will not. You, also, have to learn how to manage emotions in a way that isn’t disrespectful to the class. Students do not deserve to be yelled at or casted down upon because they did not do well on the test. Of COURSE they didn’t, look at what they’re expected to do. Teachers need to develop more of a growth mentality than a “I must meet the expectations” mentality. Not all students will meet the goal or even come close, but is it right for us to get angry, and frustrated, and work them even harder that will send everyone into a tailspin? No. That’s not the answer. Change the way you teach and / or encourage them to do the best they can. Shoot for individual GROWTH, not for every single student to meet the standards. This mentality will alleviate pressure on yourself, as well as the students.
Homework: If you have any say so, do not give homework. Let them go home and spend time with family and friends. Teach what you can in the classroom and pick it back up the next day. Don’t take precious time away from their families and their time to do what makes them happy. I know some schools require teachers to give homework. If so, send them with something they can easily conquer that won’t send the whole family into WWIII. My child comes home with homework and oftentimes gets frustrated with it … after she just left school being frustrated. And all the parents say … ”not cool!”
Include brain breaks into your lesson: Some teachers have a little more freedom to teach how they want with the standards. I’m lucky enough to be at a school where that freedom is given (to a degree). I do my best to balance the hard stuff with the fun / less challenging stuff. If I’m creating a lesson, I always try to include a mixture of both and it helps to not overwhelm everyone. However, some schools require teachers to follow a scripted curriculum that they cannot stray from. They have no freedom, they have no say so, they are forced to teach in a way they may not agree with. In this case, brain breaks are a MUST. There are tons of brain break ideas on Pinterest and YouTube such as getting up to stretch, coloring, journaling, sing a song together as a class, SOMETHING. Those poor kids are sitting in a desk all day being worked to the bone, they need brain breaks.