Today’s School System – a conversation

This is capturing a recent email conversation I had with the school my grandson attends. I found out they were having students read from any book they chose three times a week and during the school hours. Nicky is an at risk student so I assumed life skills training duties in February. Our goal is to go from all F’s to C’s & D’s this year. Right now we are at 2 C’s, 1 D, and 2 F’s. I bolded the text below as an indication of what I’m looking into next.


From: me
To: Teacher

<teacher>, this is very frustrating to <us>. I didn’t realize the teachers were using student time to grade papers and such. We as a family talked about it last night in detail. We never did reading in school unless it was from a school text book and even then it was a group event with a student reading and questions being allowed.

Seems like a major waste of students’ time compared to using the time for structured learning. How times have changed.

From: Teacher, Copy: school official
To: me

You are misunderstanding the silent reading sessions a bit.  I’m sorry if I didn’t explain it very well.

Silent Reading is a school-wide commitment to promoting reading.  Teachers and students alike read during this time; no make-up work, no grading papers, no e-mail, no phone calls, no trips to the restroom.  Just reading.  Everyone in contact with students reads at that time.  Even staff that does not have contact with students are encouraged to read.  No instructional time is lost; this is time that is homeroom, so for three days they read, and two days are time for club meetings, ASB, student organizational work, students getting help with homework, etc.

I hope this clarifies the reading time a bit.  If you have any questions about it, please feel free to call either myself or <school official>.  Thanks.

        Picture by Allie Proff – 2009

From: me
To: School Official Copy: Teacher

Thanks <teacher>.

<school official>, back in the day the homeroom time was ten minutes and the club time was *after* school. Why do we take up dedicated school time with extended homeroom and club time? And then we use some of that time for reading by the student.

Don’t get me wrong, I luv reading and think is valuable. But there is precious little time in a school day for all the things a student needs help with. Nicky can’t tell me the capital of Washington state, the vice president’s name, or what the word maintenance means. But he has time to read on his own wherein he selects books about fighting and wars which he is intensely interested in. With coaching he will listen to conversations outside his areas of interest like music, Germany, politics. But not on his own time.

I would really like to understand this reading program.

From: school official
To: me


Here is some information about that time that may help understand some of its value. 

Not all clubs are allowed to meet during this time on Tuesday and Thursday.  The clubs that do meet do so only periodically and they must have a curricular connection or instructional value to them.  For example, the Environmental Club may meet because of its link to environmental sciences but the “Games” club may not meet during this time. 

Tuesday and Thursday homeroom time also serves as an academic support time or advisory time for students.  Most schools have an advisory time in their schedules.  Not all students have supportive home environments that value education.  This time is critical for their success.  Students get help from teachers, make up tests, gather notes and also complete homework during this time.  This time is  a total of forty minutes a week.

Our reading program encourages everyone to read during this time.  Research shows that if students are allowed to select their own reading material, their reading productivity rises dramatically over prescribed reading assignments.  Our goal is to promote the reading. 

As students begin to identify their passion and fields of study for professional career options, they begin to sharpen their knowledge base and expertise through selecting their own reading.  In the busy day of today’s students many may not encounter reading for fun and casual “mental imaginary vacations” except during this reading time.  I firmly believe that most of our students do not read enough and that busy working parents often find themselves with a lack of energy to be the reading role model for our students.

I do agree with you that every instructional minute should “count”.  It is critical that our teacher’s maximize their classroom time to truly teach each subject.  Many students read texts or material that is required for their other classes during this time.   I am always a bit surprised that student and parents do not utilize the before and afterschool time with teachers for assistance.  The thirty minutes before and afterschool could benefit many.

Is this time perfectly supportive for all?  Perhaps not, but in short, I believe that no time spent reading is counted as a loss and the forty minutes a week to support academics and a few selected clubs is important for many.

I appreciate the time you have taken to email us.  I like your passion about this!


<school official>

Sigh… does this make sense to anyone else? BTW, Nicky has observed that teachers routinely use this time to work on their grade books and grade papers.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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4 Responses to Today’s School System – a conversation

  1. Deb says:

    This is one reason why my sister-in-law home schooled her kids.

  2. Maria says:

    I am forever in discussion with teachers who constantly avoid answering the questions asked…To me it make no sense at all. I always thought home work was as it describes…work to be completed at home and that academic support was suppposed to be given at all times…not just in the home room. Nice that they like your passion regarding this though…shame they don’t seem to have the same passion for educating..The best of good luck to you

  3. Mike d. says:

    We teachers sometimes have trouble justifying homework as a practice in some subjects. There is a also body of research evidence that doing homework makes no difference to grades in external exams, but head-teachers in schools usually insist on a school-wide policy of setting regular homework tasks. It may be that you have been communicating with teachers who are "towing the party line" without genuinely believing in its value: hence their rather vague and unconvincing communications.

  4. Bertie says:

    In Kindergarten, children are give a bit of time to put their heads on the desk or table for a bit of quiet time and rest. I think a time out to read can be a wonderful time to read, rest, and think. Nicki needs to learn the joy of reading real stories. When I was in the 5th grade, some fifty years ago, we had a teacher who read a bit of Tom Sawyer to the class every day. We loved hearing the story and we learned that good things can be found in books. I believe children need time to think and absorb what they are learning. Perhaps Nick needs some help in selecting exciting stories that make you want to read more. How about the Hardy Boys by Fred Dixon? Mysteries keep you wanting to know what happens next.

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