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How is My Child Doing at School - A Checklist for Parents

The talk was in a Q&A format and an adaptaptation based on the following checklist given in Frank Smith's Book "Insult to Intelligence" :


A CHECKLIST FOR PARENTS
(Extract from Frank Smith's Insult to Intelligence: Bureaucratic Invasion of Classrooms)

Your Child 

Is your child interested in school?

Good Signs: Your child is keen to get to school and sometimes to spend extra timethere; uses library 
and school facilities independently; brings home books; telephones friends about school activities. 

Bad Signs: Your child is apprehensive about school; feigns reasons to avoid school; skips classes; 
"forgets" to do homework. 

Does your child talk about school? 

Good Signs: Your child wants to involve you in school activities; is proud of class and school; makes 
positive comments about the teacher. 

Bad Signs: Your child talks only negatively of school or not at all; talksof "falling behind" or 
"keeping up." 

What does your child bring home?

Good Signs: Your child brings home materials that interests you -- stories, maps, models, projects 
(including un-graded ones), newsletters, collaborative efforts -and homeworkthat your child wants to 
do because it is interesting. 

Bad Signs: Your child brings home workbook and duplicated worksheets with exercises that the 
teacher will mark right or wrong; repetitive activities; multiplechoice exercises or tests. 

What does your child like to do? 

Good Signs: Your child likes to read, write, figure, and plan; is interested in science and social affairs; 
plays productively, has a hobby, engages in imaginative pastimes and hates to miss school, watches 
television selectively and critically. 

Bad Signs Your child indiscriminately watches television; is bored; doesn't read; gives indications of 
frustration-is rude, or commits acts of vandalism. 

Your Child 's Classroom 

What kinds of materials are in the room?

Good Signs: The classroom is full of book (not all in class sets), magazines, models, specimens, maps 
and chats, art materials, musical equipment, games-for casual daily use and reflecting the interests of 
both the children and the teacher. There is an up to-date notice board of messages, reminders, and 
community events. 

Bad Signs: The classroom is bare of all materials except what thechildren happen to be working on at 
the time. There are unchanging wall displays; a predominance of workbooks and duplicated materials; a 
teacher's desk that displays only workbook and class records. 

Are there computer facilities? 

Good Signs: The teacher understands and uses the technology creatively. Children help each other on 
the computer. 

Bad Signs: Computers are used for drills. Computers are used only for "computer literacy" courses. 
Children's work is marked by computers.
 

Your Child 's Teacher 

Does the teacher encourage visitors in the classroom?

Good Sign: Parents and other visitors participate in the life of theclassroom. 

Bad Signs: The teacher has no time for visitors or believes they disrupt the classroom. 

How does the teacher talk to the children?


Good Signs: The teacher finds time to talk informally to children individually or in small groups. The 
teacher and children share interests.
 
Bad Sign: The teacher's conversation with children is mainly questions. 

How does the teacher maintain "order" in the classroom? 


Good Signs There are always interesting activities for individuals and self-selected groups. Children 
are encouraged to help each other. 

Bad Signs: Children are allocated to permanent groups. Groups have discriminatory labels (like 
"bluebirds" and "blackbirds"); have fixed amounts of work to do. Children can say "where they are" in 
their work. 

How does the teacher talk to you? 

Good Signs: The teacher wants to hear your observations about your child and the school; talks of 
children's achievements and interests; can talk intelligently about howchildren learn. 

Bad Signs: The teacher refers continually to records; discusses whether your child is "keeping up" or 
"falling behind"; evaluates your child on the basis of test scores; saysyour child has "needs" or 
"problems" if your child is bored, anxious, or confused. 

Your Child 's School 

How do you feel on entering the school? 

Good Signs: You feel welcome and comfortable. You meet children and adults who seemcheerful and 
busy. You could be visiting a club house or a popular museum. 

Bad Signs: You feel isolated and unsure. There is an unnatural quiet and absence of people. You could 
be visiting a hospital - or a jail. 

Are visitors made welcome in the school?

Good Signs: Parents are invited to school regularly and have open invitations to drop in casually. Staff 
and students have a warm helpful attitude to visitors. 

Bad Signs: Parents are received formally in the school -- they are isolated in an outside office until 
they can be seen by a teacher or principal. 

Are libraries and workshops generally open for student use? 

Good Sign: Parent volunteers are encouraged to help out in these and other schoolfacilities. 

Bad Sign: Children only use the library during "library period." 

Do teachers and parents collaborate?

Good Sign: Parents are invited to school professional days, or to hear presentations at staff meetings. 

Bad Sign: School staff regards parents as outsiders. 

Do teachers collaborate with each other?

Good Signs: Teachers are aware of what goes on in each other's classrooms. Yourchild feels 
continuity from one year to another. 

Bad Sign: Teachers can only refer to written records to trace your child's progress through the school. 

Not all of the good signs listed here will be found even in better classrooms and schools, and bad 
signs, which are not always the fault of teachers, sometimes cannot be easily changed. School board 
regulations, union restrictions, or local conditions, for example, may severely constrain the involvement 
of parents and other volunteers in school activities during and outside the schoolday. But whatever the 
reason for the good and bad signs, they indicate the kind of classroom and school yourchild is in. 

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