I’m not sure what to make of the response. It was what I expected, that this whole thing is about neatness. I hate, hate, hate the focus on neatness in grade and middle school. I mean, really, what is the point here? Okay, so neater writers do better on the SAT. That is not right. They should be graded on content and structure and sophisticated argument.
She claims that she brought up that she would be going over penmanship (specifically “how to make letters”) at back to school night. I do not remember this. I remember her saying she wanted the notebooks to be neat. What’s interesting is that in the email she sent me, she said that the notebooks were there to demonstrate their knowledge of the topics covered. I find this contradictory. Do perfectly shaped letters demonstrate knowledge? I can understand if the writing is illegible that maybe that would be a problem? And I can see neatness being, say, 10 points of the whole assignment, but I just have an issue with this focus on the insignificant details.
The thing is, this is a pattern in our lives. Maybe it’s just my kid, but I have battled neatness issues with my son for his entire school career. He just not neat. He’s not going to be neat and in five years, he’ll be typing everything anyway. And I have to say that this focus on the minute details is something I struggle with in my teaching too. Students very often have been trained to focus on these things–the commas, the correct citation method, etc. It’s not that the details aren’t important. Certainly when you’re ready to submit something for a grade or for publication, you want to cross every t and dot every i, but first you must focus on the bigger picture. And I guess I see this misplaced focus in the schools.
I sent a fairly pleasant response back, thanking her for her explanation and explaining that neither Geeky Boy nor I knew the intention behind the assignment, which I hope was a nice way of saying, “Be more clear about why you’re asking students to do things.” So, for now, I’m laying off, but I’m still keeping my eye on this one.