by Mikey Keating Smith, M. Ed
“So, how was school today?” Remember when your student was younger, and he or she would respond to this question with breathless excitement, regaling you with every detail of every day, from who got in trouble (never your child, of course!) to what was for lunch? Even if your student skipped important details like spelling tests or field trip forms, you more than likely had a backup – the weekly homework folder and/or the trusty planner. Early elementary teachers spend great amounts of time writing copious notes in students’ planners, stuffing homework folders, and making sure students remember assignments and events.
Ask the parents of an older student about what sort of response they typically get when asking their child about their school day, and you most likely will get an answer along the lines of, “I have no idea – they don’t ever tell me anything about it!” Couple this with the shift in responsibility for remembering homework and assignments and copying information into a student planner from teacher to student, and you might have a recipe for disaster.
It’s not that teachers of older students don’t WANT their students to succeed or are less concerned about parent communication; to the contrary, many upper-elementary, middle and high school teachers use more sophisticated methods such as websites, blogs, wikis and weekly email blasts for publicizing events because they simply don’t have the time to customize communications. While most lower elementary school teachers typically have only one class of students to keep track of during any given year, upper elementary, middle and high school teachers can have upwards of 150 students per semester in a content area class, plus 30 or so more in an elective. It’s just not possible for teachers to personally monitor every student’s planner usage, organizational skills, and homework habits. Additionally, students at this level are expected to take more responsibility for their own learning in order to prepare them for ‘the real world.’