At the end of the school year, obnoxious amount of stuff come home. The lockers are emptied, the desks are cleaned, supplies are collected and schoolwork is shoved into bags to be brought home. The stacks of notebooks, graded worksheet and journals, that come in fill the entire counter space and tabletops. I sift through it all.  Amongst that stuff this year I found two things written by my son. One was a letter in his creative writing journal, the other was his final exit poem from his 5th-6th grade middle school.

        The first, prompt was Write the note you’d most like to receive from a teacher. Be sure to include the parts of a friendly letter: date, greeting, body closing, and signature.

        My son’s letter



Dear Matthew,

Matthew you are like the best student since the history of school. You have phenomenal scores, and are very creative. Just so you know, the homework for the rest of the year is OPTIONAL or for extra credit. You are always thinking and a great help. Plus, I see that you are very respectful, and funny. Your imagination is beyond wild. I’d say your best subject is math. However, you are also good at other things like science, reading, and language arts (LA), Matthew, keep up the excellent behavior and work.

Your awesome teacher,


        The second, prompt at the end of the year was Write an exit poem for Frederick school in Cinquain format.

My son’s poem


Worthless, Pathetic

Boring, Learning, Beating

The worst thing ever


        Lets compare the two. The letter sounds upbeat and written by someone with self-confidence. It was written on the third of September, which is the second week of school in our area. The contrast of that letter to the poem, which was written in the middle of May, is heart wrenching. In eight short months one student went from happy, healthy excited learner to a self-defeated, under-confident, anxiety ridden boy that believes he is stupid and that school is worthless. The word that bothers me the most is Beating. Really, beating is not an acceptable word for any child to use in a descriptive form of a school. This makes me so very sad—sad for my son that lived this horrible school year slowly getting beaten down by the system. I am sad that we are allowing such defective non- progressive formats of education in this country to continue. My son is not the only student experiencing the beat down effects of a broken system. I was so saddened that I decided to change the system for my children, and let them choose how to learn in a non-conformist democratic school. I am happy with my choice.