School Project Syndrome


One would think that amid the tumultuous clutter my family saves, we could find needed materials when school projects roll around. So many times, the night before an assignment is due, we are hunting for that extra poster board we swear we picked up so we wouldn’t have to shop at the last minute.
I’m always buying something for a school project. As I lean wearily against my shopping cart, I wonder what it would be like for my child to get an education without ransacking my wallet every other week. If these materials I’m springing for are truly essential to my daughter’s curriculum, if some “projects” are so critical that a concept cannot be taught without them, then why doesn’t the school buy the materials in bulk at low cost, add our share to our yearly school fees and save me all this hassle?
Since my kid has proven her integrity about completing assignments, look out for group projects! She gets stuck making the plans and securing the materials (there I am in the checkout line, again). Naturally, the one holding the materials is “carrying the ball” for the project. With the busy schedules of most kids today, it is difficult to find a suitable time out of school for everyone to get together. My daughter, though she doesn’t want to do the work for the other kids, cares about her own grade. Homework is a long, drawn-out affair when you’re doing the work of four. I take pity and help.
Another joint project we got saddled with was supposed to help demonstrate how to figure angles in math class. I made a copy of my store receipt, hoping the more than $20 I spent could be divided evenly. I sent it to school, telling my daughter to ask each student in her group for $5, and never heard of the matter again. So much for bothering about a receipt. Need I be aggressive enough to check on phone numbers of parents I don’t know, so I can ask them to pay up?
I expect to reinforce at home what my child is learning at school in any way that I can, but blowing twenty bucks when three out of four kids may not have gotten a thing out of it, except a free grade from my family’s efforts, is not the just dessert I’d had in mind. To ice that cake, I learned that the project (all that stuff I’d paid for) was tossed out of the crowded classroom a week later and trashed. The outstanding lesson here, not quite the one they were going for, seems instead one of wastefulness and ways to take advantage of others.
I’m scrutinizing school projects, believing they are developing into more of a hassle for students (and parents) than a learning experience. Even individual projects fall short when they involve researching something on the Internet, printing reams of material, and sticking them on a board or into a report holder — some lesson.
I’m seeing teachers passing the buck, literally, to me. Let me suggest a group project for teachers. Rethink those lesson plans using so-called “group projects” and, if they’re really vital to your topic, figure out a way to get the materials, complete the project in school so students get equal exposure, and give me a pass to get to recess.

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