The 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Sweeney, held out the vocabulary assignment that Francie Baker’s mother had seen her daughter do two weeks before. “I found it blowing across the playground,” Mrs. Sweeney said. “Francie said it must have fallen out of her pocket when she was upside down on the jungle gym. It’s one more of those things she never turns in.”
Once again Mrs. Baker decided she’d have to do something about Francie’s homework. But this time, fortunately, she really meant it.
“Good,” I said. “ It’s much easier to get teachers to work on this kind of problem with you in the lower grades. Later on, when she gets more homework, it’ll be too late.”
We worked out a plan, but I warned that the plan alone wasn’t enough. “Demanding something doesn’t make it so. You may have to supervise her homework a hundred times before she can get assignments in on her own.”
Francie’s mom worked hard on this. She took the TV out of Francie’s room and put in a desk and reading lamp. She enforced a rule that there was no screen time—TV, computers, video games—until she had seen each homework assignment completed and in Francie’s backpack in a special homework folder. She met with Mrs. Sweeney and together they agreed to three things.
1. Mrs. Sweeney would check Francie’s assignment notebook at the end of the day then watch Francie put the notebook in her backpack.
2. If an assignment was missing, Mrs. Sweeney would leave a message for Francie’s mom the same day.
3. Mrs. Sweeney would inspect Francie’s desk and locker once a week, and give Francie time to clean them before she went to recess.
And lo and behold! Francie started getting her homework in. In the beginning, she whined, argued, wasted time, and got under the table with the dog. But within a few months, Francie had formed new habits. Her assignments were in and on time.
“Holding Francie to this has been brutal,” her mom confessed. “I’ve had to be really organized to keep Francie organized. But it’s really paying off.”