Frequently Asked Questions
My son is sick. He can't do his assignments.
He can make them up later in the week. If he's sick for a while,
we'll figure out which assignments he has to make up and which
he will have to skip.
My son was sick but well enough to do homework, but he didn't
know his assignments
You can get the English assignments from the Middle School
Office. He can call a friend for them. They are also posted
on this website on the Assignments
My son got a homework notice. It wasn't his fault he missed
the assignment--something came up at home.
I don't send homework notices home as a punishment. They are
information. Send in a signed note if he can't do his homework,
and he can make it up later.
Why do you send homework notices home?
I don't want to wait until report cards come out to let you
Why did you give him a detention for three missed assignments?
Boys are trying to be more independent when they get to this
age, and are experimenting with making their own choices. Some
choices work well, others don't. A homework detention is a signal
that the choice to avoid homework or to stay disorganized is
not a good one.
Is it all right if my son types his homework instead of hand-writing
Sure. I like being able to understand what I'm reading! I will
ask him to use an ordinary plain font in standard 10 or 12 point
size and to double space.
Is it all right if my son hand-writes his homework instead
of typing it?
Sure. I can read almost anybody's handwriting. I would prefer
he didn't use odd ink colors, especially yellow. Blue
or black ink or pencil is readable.
My son has a question he would like to ask you, but he doesn't
want to bother you. Can I ask it for him?
Go right ahead. I won't tell. Please don't pretend he's writing
to me himself, though. Oh, go ahead, you can if you like, but
I know the difference between the way a sixth grader writes
and they way his father or his mother writes, and it always
gives me a chuckle. Keep in mind that he will be startled if,
in person, I tell him the answer to a question he didn't know
My son struggles with organization.
In the sixth grade, we ask your son to keep track of his assignments
and to keep his papers organized in binders. We don't expect
you to do it for him. However, it helps if he knows we're all
on the same side. Call me or I'll call you and we'll work on
it. Every child is different.
How can you expect him to read a half an hour every night?
He doesn't have time.
Time spent reading--reading anything--improves the ability
to read. Reading ability is connected with success in school.
He can read anything and he can read anywhere, but he has to
average a half hour a day. If you can't figure out how to help
him do that, talk to me and we'll work it out.
Why don't you correct every error he makes in his writing?
I concentrate on at most three mistakes at a time in homework
assignments, and I ask him to correct those mistakes and hand
the work back in. The research tends to show that marking everything
with a red pen may be gratifying (if time-consuming) for a teacher,
but doesn't teach students to find and correct their persistent
errors. Instead, it overwhelms them.
You don't really give very much homework compared to other
teachers, and it tends to be fairly easy.
1. The research indicates time spent on homework is not closely
correlated with achievement for middle schoolers, although it
is useful for building good habits. 2. Your son also has homework
from their other classes, and I know that. 3. I expect him to
be reading for half an hour a night. 4. My homework is designed
to reinforce concepts learned in class, not to learn new ones.
5. I want him to develop good homework habits, and I hold him
accountable for this very easy homework.
Why do you do so much writing in school instead of sending
1. Projects done at home tend to be easy for some, hard for
others. I want them to be moderately difficult but achievable
for everyone. I can individualize more in the classroom. 2.
It's easier for me than it is for many of you to let your son
feel his way through an assignment. He learns better and is
more independent if he gets to make his own choices and make
his own mistakes. 3. He's learning to peer edit and to take
feedback from others. 4. Middle school boys are very social,
and this way they learn to make their relationships productive.
5. I can give your son individual guidance and feedback when
he's writing in class, instead of marking his work with red
pen and tossing it back with a grade.
Why do you have him memorize and recite a poem every month?
"The sudden accessibility of information deadens memory
and may even make its functions seem obsolete. But to memorize
is to possess something, whether it be a sonnet or a succession
of kings, by making it an almost physical part of you, a kind
of invisible companion." --Billy Collins, "On Slowing
Down," commencement address at Choate Rosemary Hall, 2003.
To memorize a poem is to own it for yourself. Poetry is one
of the richest and oldest forms of literature, and the ability
to recite a poem from memory connects your son to Beowulf
and The Iliad as well as to Eminem and Mos Def. Besides,
it teaches your son to speak loudly and clearly, to be expressive,
and to perform in front of others.
My son will be out of school for more than a few days. Can
you give him his work in advance?
I'll do my best. However, part of why you send your son to
school is so that he can have the benefit of interaction with
his peers and the guidance of a teacher. I can't send that home.
Also, I change assignments and classwork depending on what is
happening with your son, his classmates, the school, and the
world in general, so don't be too surprised if it turns out
he did something unecessary or missed something everyone else
did. Being out of school is being out of school, and it has
consequences. I'll be happy to help him get caught up when he
comes back, though!