A mother in Arizona was recently featured on ABC News for taking a stand against her child’s teacher for giving the girl a “Catastrophe Award.” The award was given to the 8-year-old for allegedly having the most excuses for not having homework.
“I think it's cruel and no child should be given an award like this. It’s disturbing,” she told ABC TV affiliate KGUN-TV in Tucson. The mother claimed she wasn’t aware of her daughter’s problem with homework, and that the girl attended an afterschool homework assistance program.
While it’s understandable for a parent to defend a child who has been humiliated, what is most concerning is that the girl’s mother decided to fight the school over the award rather than dealing with the primary issue of her daughter skipping out on homework.
I should know. Been there, done that.
As a kid, I never wanted to do my homework. There was always something better to do. When my parents asked me whether I finished my homework, my inner voice replied “No!” but my head nodded an affirmative answer. They bought it until my teacher informed them that I hadn’t turned in my homework for weeks.
It was a terrible weekend that followed, complete with my father locking me in my room until I finished the back work.
I learned that day to keep up with my homework, if only to avoid forsaking my invaluable weekends and angering my parents.
Although I never got the Catastrophe Award, I received awards that weren’t exactly the kind you frame for eternity. In sixth grade, I was pronounced “Weirdest” by my classmates in a mock election. While my fellow classmates accepted “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Cutest Smile” and “Smartest,” I sheepishly walked up to take my certificate featuring “Weirdest” in big, bold letters.
Did my mom call the school to complain about how humiliated I was? No, she patted me on the shoulder and said, “Well, you are pretty weird.” I couldn’t exactly argue with that. I was a huge fan of Weird Al Yankovic – the King of Weird – and had a twisted sense of humor, even in grade school. Rather than model myself after Tiffany or Debbie Gibson, I lied on my grade school vision test so I could get glasses like the protagonists in “Revenge of the Nerds.”
I think what is most significant about all of this is the fact that my mom didn’t leap to my defense in either circumstance. She didn’t blame the teacher and school system for my lack of effort in getting my homework done, nor did she file a formal complaint over her daughter being declared the Weirdest at Lunalilo Elementary School.
Instead, she taught me to take responsibility for not having my homework and for being, well, more eccentric than my classmates, a quality she assured me would pay off someday.
If I had been that mom in Arizona, I would have first had a sit-down with my daughter. Why wasn’t she turning in her homework? What was she doing instead? I would have also taken a good look at the afterschool program that allegedly helps them complete their homework.
Finally, I would have evaluated my own parenting methods. She claimed she never knew that her daughter wasn’t submitting her homework. Instead of spending time with the media over an award that could have been used to teach her daughter a lesson, she should have been figuring out how she could help hold her young learner accountable.
After all, it takes all of five minutes a night to review a kid’s homework. I’m sure it would be a more worthy expenditure of her time rather than drawing attention to her daughter’s alleged humiliation on primetime news.