An Open Letter to The Principal

As Queen of the Strongly Worded Emails, I recently wrote the following letter to my son’s principal regarding the excessive amount of homework he has been getting. Anybody want to give a ‘hell-yeah’?

Hello Mr. Principal

My son, Jesse Bergen has started his first year in (school) starting in August. First of all, I would like to say that I appreciate Miller’s friendly attitude and all the attention they give to their 6th graders. Because of that, Jesse’s transition into junior high has been an easy one in that respect.
What I do want to discuss with you, is the incredible amount of homework my son has been getting.
Last Thursday, I had the misfortune of receiving a phone call from Jesse’s counselor letting me know that Jesse did not do several of his homework assignments. Jesse’s actions, in this capacity, were dishonest and irresponsible and I am in no way condoning or excusing his behavior and he was appropriately punished and made to make up these assignments.
However, when I saw the amount of homework Jesse would in fact be getting, a lot of my anger turned to sympathy.
After a 7 hour day at school, Jesse is doing 2-4 hours of homework (not counting the make up assignments) more than most full time jobs! This hardly gives him time to pursue his extracurricular activities (Jesse has been studying music for about 3 years now and is a multi-instrumentalist), much less play outdoors, or quite frankly, have any time to be a kid. Jesse definitely understands his work, and though he does lose focus at times, he does not do so excessively.
I, as a mother, as well as Jesse’s family, are definitely feeling the effects of this excessive work load. After working at a part time job, I come home and spend much of my time on the internet trying to figure out which assignments are due and missing, and emailing the teachers about this, as well as helping Jesse with his homework. I am depressed and anxious, and this puts a strain on my ability to take care of my 6 year old daughter. Furthermore, it is impossible for us to do anything as a family, like even something so simple as eat out for dinner, since my husband works weekends.
I have done some research on this topic before emailing you, and experts recommend that children get 10 minutes of homework for every grade year (Jesse gets a minimum of twice that much). They also have found no correlation between children who do more homework getting better grades or being any more intelligent. There is evidence that teacher’s often underestimate the length of the homework assignments. On a personal note, I find some of the homework thought provoking and educational, if lengthy, but some is simply busy work with an excessive amount of writing.
I do not blame (school) for this specifically, nor any of it’s staff or teachers. I have spoken to several parents who have children who attend schools all over the L.A. area and many of them have children who are constantly doing homework, and many of them share my opinion. However, since (school) is my son’s school, I think it’s a pretty good place to start.
I am looking forward to hearing your opinions and feedback on this matter and would love to go into more detail on this topic if you wish. I hope you can help me out please. I miss my son.
-Marissa Bergen

14 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The Principal

  1. Unfortunately it’s doubtful that anything will change. School hours are being reduced while lessons to be learned are being increased. Teachers must ensure the kids know enough to pass STAR testing or the schools funds are stripped away. So each class loads the kids down with homework, and it adds up quickly. We’re feeling the pinch in my family, definitely. My 7th grader, who never had that much homework in elementary, is suddenly stuck at the table for 3+ hours every day after school. I had to take his video games away during the week to ensure that his homework can first (and this rule helped immensely). But I, too, sympathize with him. After work, my brain is fried from constant problem solving. I know he feels the same way. But we just keep trucking along, and I encourage him to do his best with what he has. After all, that’s all he can do. Good luck to you!

    • Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for this comment. I had to take his video games away too. I am doubtful that my letter will solve anything as well and I know that often children have to do a lot of homework to make up for curriculum the teachers can not get to in class. Still it is nice to hear from someone who sympathizes.

  2. Hell yeah 🙂
    I am currently a student…homework sucks :). About a week ago The Student Council had a massive vote about the homework we get because we are meant to get 20-30 minutes a night but if you complete it to a good standard, it takes about an hour a piece. I miss my life XD

    • Thank you Katie. I am hoping things will change. Last night my son was doing homework since the minute he got home until the minute he went to bed… frowny face.

  3. Pingback: Open Letter to The Principal Pt II: The Saga Continues | marissabergen602

  4. Pingback: So Then This Happened… | marissabergen602

  5. You are absolutely correct about the dysfunctional work flow going on in our schools and the often unreasonable demands upon their personal time. Our schools emphasis secretarial skills and not necessarily learning. Hopefully, learning is happening, but often times the work kids are given are rote and they are being graded, essentially, on assignment fulfillment and not learning.

    Homework can and should be an integral part of learning. As a teacher I always tried to make my homework assignments meaningful and to tie them carefully into our daily class time. The problem for teachers is that when kids don’t do their homework, the teacher can’t progress in the classroom, and thus begins a downward spiral. Somewhere, there’s a balance, and few teachers have it.

    I left teaching to support students and families in situations like yours. As a parent I had trouble following what teachers expected of my kids, and so as a teacher I strove to communicate expectations as clearly and consistently as possible. My program assists in this process. We update students and familiies daily with assignments posted by teachers, and then we give kids tools to track the rest of their workflow on their own. Please take a look at what we do, if only to get some ideas on how you can better help your own children to manage, and hopfulliy own, their homeowork and independent assignments. We are

    Good luck to you and all others! I’d be glad to help out anyway I can.

  6. Your letter was written with a respectful tone while also explaining the predicament that it has placed on your son and your entire family. It sounds as though there are criterias the teaching staff have to meet and yet, if it impacts on the student’s welfare (stress, lack of down time) and also the parent, then the education system needs an overhaul.
    This post was suggested reading by WordPress but I just realised it is a few years old. Can you tell me what happened post-letter?

    • thanks for your interest, Wendy…and sorry for the delayed response. I actually ended up taking my son out of a brick and mortar school and homeschooling him since the workload is a lot smaller. I did try to ‘fight the system’ a bit but you know…i fought the law and the law won. I do hear that now measures are being taken to lesson the homework load now but I think it differs for depending on the child, school and teacher. My daughter is still in a brick and mortar and not getting much homework this semester but it’s hard to judge from elementary schools.

  7. Haha – ‘I fought the law and the law won’ (did you know Green Day has an edgier version of the song?).
    Re: schools – a few friends took their kids out of the schooling system and home-schooled them in frustration. Not all children are a fit for the system and vice-versa.
    It means more work for the parents in the long run but if the child is happier, it is more-beneficial for the child’s total welfare. You’re no doubt right – elementary schools do differ and it is dependent on the principal, staff and teachers. Thanks for the update Marissa.

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