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Q: This will be my son's second year with his teacher. He's going into second grade. My husband and I feel that he is not doing his best work in class, but his teacher has continued to let whatever he does be okay. When we work with him at home, we require him to do his best, but are disappointed by the sloppy, incomplete work he does in class. We have communicated with his teacher our desire that she request that he do his best, but she seems to feel that if the work gets done, that's enough. How do we make it clearer to her that this is not acceptable to us, especially since we know that he is capable of doing better? We are not trying to be too hard on him, but just feel that her standard is too low.
A: You are right about some teachers not expecting quality work from their students. And you definitely do not want your son to get into the habit of doing sloppy work. However, he is only in the second grade. Have you visited the classroom and seen the work of the other second-graders? How does your son's work compare? You might also like to look at some of his papers from last year and compare them to his present work. If you did not save any papers, check and see if his school has a portfolio of his work.
Something else that you should consider about your son's efforts is that working at home with you either beside him or close by is a totally different environment than working at school sitting next to his peers. You are working one-on-one with him while the teacher is dealing with many other students. Plus, there are more distractions in his classroom.
Have you shared with the teacher what his work is like at home? But more importantly, instead of communicating with the teacher your desires and expectations for your son, have you talked to your son? Sit down with him and show him two pieces of his work: one piece that he completed at home and one that he did in school. Then have him compare the two pieces of work by asking him some of the following questions:
Which paper is neater?
Why is it neater?
What did you do differently on it?
Which paper took you longer to finish?
Which paper are you prouder of?
Share with your son which paper you like best, and tell him your expectations for his work. Point out that it is always important for him to try to do his best work on any paper he does.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.