Do you explicitly talk to your students about this in advance? Are you specific with them as to what kind of help they can accept and what kind of help would be cheating?
I go back and forth with this. I used to be adamant about the students not having anyone edit their papers before they turn them into me. But, it did become clear that not everyone followed that guideline, so that seemed unfair to the kids who did. But, some kids have more resources - parents who are good writers, tutors, etc. - and that is also unfair.
As a parent, I have always been hands-off with my daughter's papers. She accuses me of not offering her the help that ALL of her classmates have.
I'm thinking maybe I need to be really clear with what they can get help with and what they can't, but am curious what other teachers are doing. Do you have guidelines written down that you share with students and parents?
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As long as parents are not writing the essays for their child, I'm all for parental help and editing. I actively encourage my students to have someone else read their papers (it's even written on their assignment handouts) to catch the mistakes that they don't realize they are making.
One of the struggles within my high school is that many parents do not speak English or it is at least their second language, and they are not really able to help their children edit their work. Often because of this students turn to the internet and essays they find online. At least with some help from parents, students are involved and hopefully they're learning something from the experience.
When I was a student I always had help from my parents. Not in the sense of them doing the work for me, but they were there as support and for discussion. My mother was a teacher and was always asking the questions that would pry the answer out of me, rather than providing the answer herself. In the end I think I learned more about writing and the writing process from her than I ever did in my English classes at school.
While I'm delighted that parents are concerned with their children's education, I'm not crazy about some students having that sort of advantage over other students.
To remedy this, I have resorted to having students do as much of their writing as possible in class. If the writing assignment comes in a non-testing scenario, then I encourage them to do peer-review on each other's papers (an exhortation which they usually ignore).
I teach my students to use all resources available before turning in an assignment. A parents offering editing services is no different than asking a peer or another adult to do the same. The issue becomes when the parents crosses the line, and the "editing" turns into the "writing." I want to know what the students knows - not what the parent knows.
Many teachers that I know use peer editing in class. This would mean that they are teaching future parents to edit papers. I have seen many aspects of this in previous posts. I encourage students to let the ideas flow and not worry about spelling and punctuation. Then read their writing aloud to someone. That person should give feedback about clarity and interest. After rewriting, the process is repeated until the student is satisfied.
Next the student should self-edit for spelling and grammar. Only then should someone else read the paper and mark errors. Important papers should be read by someone else before submitting them for publication or a grade.
I would give parents these guidelines and test new learning with writing completed in class with peer editing on clarity only (no suggestions).
The final goal is the quality of writing the student can produce, not the amount of work.
I think that the term "editing" needs to be defined. Schools do not teach parents how to help students "edit' their work. Therefore, parents rewrite what the student has written. If parents were taught that they need to point out the errors in an essay and help/allow the students to correct those errors, I have no problem with it. If the parent is rewriting the paper for a student, I have a definite problem with it. I have had friends give me their son's/daughter's papers and ask me to "edit" it with the intention that I would rewrite it. That will not happen! Writing is a continual process. Students need to improve. I always have my students write their first draft, then I edit it. Afterward, the student has an opportunity to correct any errors for a higher grade. This makes the student aware of his/her particular problems and allows him/her to grow as a writer.
Most of my writing is done in the classroom. Because of this, I get a strong feel for the student's voice and style. Even though the students and parents know this I still have experienced students' parents who "help" their child write an essay for my class. Often, the parents come to me upset because the child's paper did not meet the requirements for the class. It creates an awkward conversation when the parents' writing isn't the A they think it is. We spend a great deal of class time talking about how to write our essays, that parents often miss critical instructions. When parents have questions I show them the in class writing versus the home assignments and show them the, usually blatant, differences.
At the same time, true parent help is always important. Students grow through their writing, and it's important for parents to be a part of this process.
This is a tough call. Parents helping students is very much like teachers helping students, but they are better able to provide the one-on-one that teachers often don't have the time to give because of class sizes and varying levels of skills in the students of the class. The distinction, however, it that parents should not do the student's work—but offering another set of eyes for editing and proofreading is helpful for the student, as it is for adults. Sometimes we just get too close to our work to see it with clarity. Like everything else, it is about balance.
I agree with post #10 about doing an in class essay once in a while so that students can show you their own self-edited paper. Since I am now retired, this may no longer work, but I would send a letter home to parents with the first essay, asking them to be part of the parent teacher collaboration for their student to succeed in English. I would ask them to listen to the student read the paper to them which often eliminated mistakes. Then I would ask them to help edit one half of the paper while the student did all the editing in the second half of the paper. When the first draft was done, I would have the students edit each others' papers for one period. Then, the next period I would edit ONE paragraph for each student in class. The student had to select the paragraph for me, explain why they wanted that paragraph edited, and then read it aloud to me. Often they would catch their own grammar mistakes, missing words, the wrong words, unclear phrasing, unclear paragraph unity even after having read it to the parents. Then we could discuss complexity in their ideas, sentence structure, and unity in the whole essay. I found it easier than fighting the parent issue with the hope that parents would be satisfied with half the paper. So I never really had a set of rules but more like a parent/student/teacher collaboration which parents seemed to like.
I did discuss this with the students in advance and the reasoning behind it. The final edition of the paper was done by the student in class.
Hmmmm, it sounds like you have parents who are truly willing to help their sons/daughters do well in school! Your question put me into a reverie about the students I have taught (both in public and private school), and how I absolutely NEVER had that problem. I guess I prefer to think of this as a "glass half-full" type of scenario. You know what? How wonderful would it be if a parent would edit a bit, sit down with his/her child, and explain what's wrong?!? I would be thrilled if parents did that!
I see your point, though, ... if the parent is simply grabbing a paper and correcting it in private only to throw it back to the student who makes the corrections and hands it back in to the teacher, yes that definitely has a negative connotation. How can we differentiate between the two different types of help? We can't.
In short, I agree with many of the posters above. I don't have any problem with parents helping students with corrections. However, my suggestion to you would be, if you want to really test them on form, simply give them an essay once in a while in class. You will certainly see the disparity if the parents are helping too much.
As a recent student, I can say that I never had writing help on any of my papers. In fact, I helped other students with theirs, in an editorial and idea sense. I often had my Dad listen to and suggest edits, but I always wrote every word myself.
In the sense of help -- which is to say, coming up with ideas, outlining, editing -- I have no problem with parental assistance. It's a good way to reinforce grammar rules, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling... all the things that children pay little attention to in school because it's so darn boring. I should know; I got most of my writing knowledge from reading, not schoolwork.
However, in any case where a teacher can prove beyond a doubt that the student did not write the paper him/herself -- for example, if the teacher quizzes the student about the paper's content and the student cannot answer specifics -- the paper should be rejected and the parent called in for a conference. Teaching children that someone else will do their work for them is a bad, bad lesson, and it leads to helpess adults with no sense of responsibility.
It's my opinion that judicious help at home--may I emphasize judicious (and doing student work for the student is not judicious)--is critical to the development of students' cognitive powers and skills. Of all the valedictorians in my children's graduating classes (and having graduated in California, each class had around 23 or 24 valedictorians--gone the days when valedictorian meant the top student!), every one had heavily but judiciously involved parents helping and guiding behind the scenes. The students' skills were authentic though because no parent was at hand when they took their SATs or when they qualified for their $20,000 and $40,000 scholarships in mathematics and sciences etc. Experience shows that students need more than a distanced teacher to develop their mental powers fully, and equally gone are the days when teachers had leisure to educate with more direct participation.
I don't have any guidelines because I don't see how we can possibly write any guidelines that are effective and yet clear. Obviously, parents ought to give their kids some help, but not too much. So how do you quantify that and state it in clear terms? So, I don't bother because I don't have anything useful to say.
I love at least one other adult reading a paper before it is turned in to me. If a student is going to have multiple grammatical errors and they are already 16 or 17, then they need more help than just me. Now, I don't want to read mom or dad's work, but I think even the suggestions moms and dads can make lead to students often thinking about using a new word or sentence construction. The exposure to one more idea might stick with them and that is worth it to me. After a couple of writing pieces, I feel very familiar with my students' writing and trust my ability to pick out work that is not their own.
My biggest problem comes when parents write to our district's Senior Project paper. After using turnitin.com, hiring the paper out or having a parent write is the last way to cheat. Parents that write their kids' road to graduation scares me for future generations. What do we teach them when we get in the way and say we will do work for them? How long does the apron string last?
I don't have a problem with parents "editing" the work of their sons and daughters. I think its great when any student bothers to have someone else review their work before turning it in, and proofreading and such is perfectly acceptable. I HATE it when parents actually do their children's work, however, and the student turns it in with his/her name on it. I had one student who turned in A+ work on home-written essays, and barely passable work in class. On every class assignment, she made some excuse about wanting to finish at home, and I finally caught on: Her mother was writing her essays for her. I never actually accused the student or parent of this type of plagiarism, but I was very strict about seeing that this particular student completed her in-class work without taking it home anymore. Of course, her mother continued writing her homework assignments for her, but it was obvious that the work was being done by two different people.
I would say kids cheating off of other kids or from the internet is the much more prevalent problem, at least at my school and in the high school grades. There have been times when I suspected the student was getting too much "help" from a parent, but I'll admit, the energy and aggravation it would take to confront the parent about it usually isn't worth my while. Sad, but true.
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