Monday, September 22, 2008

Back to School

Now summer fun is over and my son has started middle school. It's a new school popular for its academic focus. We were thrilled he was able to get into the school, but we didn't know how much studying he'd face since we'd become used to his "fun-filled" elementary school.

Now it's been three weeks, and I am totally surprised by the study load my son has been given and how many school rules he has to follow. Every day he comes home with a lot of homework. He has so many notebooks, folders and dividers from his classes and for his homework. They make his backpack so heavy that one day he wanted me to call the AP and ask if he could let students carry fewer books! The school is also very strict compared to his old school. Students can't be late for class and they must wear the school uniform. If they're late or don't wear their uniform, parents must meet with the AP. One day after he talked in class without raising his hand, his teacher asked him to write a 500-word essay about it. (This reminds me of how we used to write self-criticism essays when we were in school.) After only three weeks, they've taken tests for their subjects and parents were asked to sign on each test!

I'm not used to this at all. In the past five years, he just had too much fun at his elementary school. He didn't have much homework and never had to write so neatly. When he talked in class without raising his hand, he either got time-out or his behavior was ignored. He had no tests except the state-wide ones. I thought that was the standard of American education - fun, fun, and more fun, plus creativity! But now I see a totally different picture of American education, and this is in a public school in New York City!

I know it sounds a little bit like he's in school in China - study, study, and study! But I really feel that's how he can learn and grow. Today I asked him how he feels about his not-so-great grades on the tests. He said he thinks it's good to know where he stands and why he made those mistakes, and that he'll learn more and try his best to improve his grades next time. Wow, that's what I was looking for all these years in his education! I feel so relieved to know he understands the importance of learning and appreciates it. I'm also glad to see a public school like his focusing on teaching and learning!



Anonymous said...

I almost could not believe your description of his elementary years in public school. Like you I have children in the public school system in Staten Island, NY and there are always math tests, spelling tests(in the early years) and numerous tests to perpare them for their city wides. I did not know a school was allowed to exist with the focus just being fun, fun, fun. I was under the impression when people said the New York public school system was the worse they were mistaken, now I am not so sure if schools like that exist. Glad he is getting more work in middle school. Lots of luck