Did This Problem Solving Sign Go Too Far?

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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This sign strikes a nerve not just for parents but also for teachers.

problem solving sign

This is a more extended reply LP received from Tim Brzezinski, a mathematics teacher at Berlin High School in Connecticut.


Are parents forbidden to drop off anything at the office?

What if a Type 1 diabetic accidentally leaves his blood-glucose test kit (and insulin) at home? I’ve been a Type-1 diabetic for the last 31 years and still, to this day, accidentally leave my blood-testing kit at home about once every six months or so. Well, if Mommy or Daddy can’t drop it off, that kid won’t have the ability to problem solve due to the fact that his/her blood glucose levels will soar sky-high!

There’s a parent lawsuit right there (and a rightful one too!)

How far does the “..etc..”  in the sign go?

I could go on with scenarios like this (ex: asthmatic forgetting inhaler), but don’t need to.

I can understand HW grade earned = 0 if left at home. Forgotten sports equipment results in doing ten extra laps around the track or100 extra push-ups? Fine by me. But lunch? Really? How can a 1st or 2nd grade boy be expected to “problem-solve” in the afternoon when his brain’s ability to function is impaired because some school administrator (with a stick up his/her a–) has a policy that prohibits a concerned parent from dropping off his lunch that could have empowered that brain to function at its fullest ability?

Our news headlines are filled with sad stories of men who are vicious and merciless towards other men, women, children, etc. If showing a child mercy (not to the point of unnecessary enablement) is an environmental quality in which he/she is raised, there’s a strong chance that character trait may stick with them the rest of their lives.

Plus, compassionate people have a much easier time seeing the “gray” areas in life.  Many people with major control issues (co-dependents, really–and that phrase applies to way more  than just alcohol or relationships) often see the world through a “black-and-white” lens.  This is unhealthy for one’s social, emotional, and physical development.

My Response

problem solving sign
My son, Cuda, has Type 1 diabetes.

The intention of the poster is well founded. Everyone wants to create self-reliant, independent students that can handle planning and time management and who, if they forget or make mistakes, can deal with the consequences.

Within reason.

As the mom of a Type 1 diabetic child myself, we care about self-reliance and independence, too, but we also care about the health and safety of the child. Period.

To me, the real issue is figuring out a balanced policy where parents are not rescuing their kids from poor planning or doing the work on a student’s behalf. As educators we also need to be mindful of what our own policies are for missed expectations.

Our job is to hold students to high expectations with their best interests at heart, which means there needs to be a level of compassion and an understanding for context. Giving a “zero” for the assignment or putting a student on the sidelines without inquiring what really happened speaks volumes to students.

Fairness does not mean equal responses regardless of the offense.


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