Dear Parents of 5th Graders

The other day I was sitting with my niece while she worked on a big project for school (5th grade- ugh!).   Occasionally she’d ask me for help or ideas, but I tried desperately to hold to my conviction that children need to do it themselves.  Encourage?  Yes.  Guide if they’re stumped?  Yes.  But do it for them or help them with every little step?  Negative.  Grandma sent her kids to their room to do homework.  And I guarantee you, she was not in there with them.

I confess that there were a few times my niece would ask me questions and I would pretend that I didn’t hear her.  A minute later… you guessed it.  She was answering the question herself.  I didn’t want to be a crutch, even though it’s SO tempting to design that brochure for her or to tell her all the answers.  Maybe because it made me feel good that I knew how to do it.  Yeah… 5th grade.  I got this!

But the academic world came into question when this funny, but sad event occurred.


I asked her how much more she had to do.  She told me her notecards were done.  She had to make an outline.  And make a brochure.

So I picked up her assignment sheet and read it.  It said something like this: “Student will give a 2-3 minute oral presentation using one visual aid.  Students WILL NOT be able to just read their report.”

I asked her again, “Will you need to prepare a speech?  It says here you have to give an oral presentation.”

She looked at the paper quickly.  “Oh.  We are probably just supposed to read our paper.”

“No, ” I said.  “It specifically says here you WILL NOT be able to read it.”

“Ugh!” she said, flustered. “I wish they would have told us!”

“Um… (I held up the paper in her face) they wrote it right here.”

“Oh.  I didn’t read that,” she said, nonchalantly.  My suspicions were confirmed that she had not really paid attention to the assignment when suddenly she dropped this bomb on me:

“It says “To Fifth Grade Parents!”

5th Grade Parents

My jaw dropped.

Sure enough.  There it was.  Right at the top of the first page.  This very descriptive assignment was written out in clear paragraph form to the parents.

I’m not sure if it was just assumed that my niece would know the instructions.  I’m not sure if the teacher gave a very clear explanation in class and she just didn’t pay attention.  (likely)  But… the fact is.  My clever 5th grader was very aware that this paragraph was not written to her.  Somewhere along the way this teacher was trained to write homework assignments to the parents.  They were the ones who were to pass on the information to their child.  They were the ones who were instructed to guide their children on this assignment.  The parents were responsible for getting this assignment done.

Um… not sure how I feel about that.

All she had to do was leave that line out.  Or direct it to the student.  Then, perhaps, my niece would have read it herself and known firsthand exactly what the assignment was.  But instead she dismissed it altogether…

Because 5th graders aren’t stupid.  5th graders are completely capable of reading and carrying out an assignment all on their own without ANY help from their parents.  5th graders are budding teenagers and need to be given some responsibility.  They don’t need their parents to do everything for them.

Dear Parents of 5th Graders… next time you receive an assignment that is instructed to you, scratch that part out, hand it to your kid, send them to their room…

and watch the magic happen!


NOTE: I’m hesitant to post this.  Please understand, I have nothing against this teacher or my niece’s parents.  I am pretty sure that this misunderstanding was a result of my niece just not paying attention in class.  But the fact is, there is a lot of overinvolved parenting happening out there.  Too many students are having their lives lived for them for the sake of getting a good grade.  And I’m so afraid that teachers are coming to expect it.  As a former high school teacher, I do want my parents to know what is going on.  But more than that, I want my students to take responsibility for their own lives.  In ten years it won’t matter if my niece got an A on her project, but it will very much matter that she learned to take responsibility for herself & learned to follow instructions.


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