Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple for Teacher

So, the kids got their report cards today. Amy and Emma had few surprises. But, Keith... Well, Keith had a shock in store for us: He got a "D." In Spanish.

Now, to be fair, the rest of his grades were actually pretty good. So, if he were a baseball player, his batting average would rock! But, since he's a student, the "D" is still unacceptable, any way you slice it.

As a side note to the report cards, my father picked up the kids for piano lessons, and discovered Keith's time bomb first. Dad quietly called me on his cell phone and whispered the news into my ear.

I don't know if he was preparing me because he was concerned that I might throw Keith under the train down the street. Or if he was concerned that I might say, "Plbbbfff... It's Spanish- Like he'll ever use that!" Or if he was just genuinely giving me a head's up so that I would have time to process it and sound like an intelligent adult when Keith told me, as opposed to the blathering, sputtering, infuriated crazy woman I would have been without some preparation and a Fat Free White Chocolate Moca Grande, No Whipped Cream, from Star Bucks.

I'm going with the last one.

But I was struck by the situation, none the less. The "Dad" that raised me would have turned purple, used my full name in that "tone," and "discussed" it with me until I begged him to just beat me instead. The "Dad" that called me today did a wonderful job of "reporting" without giving opinion. I guess I can see how grandchild rates vs. child... Anyway...

After the big "confession," Keith vacillated wildly between "I'm so sorry. I'm an awful person," and "Eh... No biggie..." I wasn't sure if he didn't get it, or didn't want to deal with it. I sort of think it was a little of both.

He was concerned that this would go on his "permanent record." I tried to remind him that it would all be averaged together. That relieved him.

But I was still in a quandary. What do I do? Obviously, I can't just pat him on the head and say, "Try harder next time." And I don't see how "punishing" him for a grade helps. For me, the ultimate goal was to give him the appropriate tools and help him learn the skills, so that he doesn't have this happen again.

I called hubby, who was out of town. Hubby wanted to have the teachers send home reports. I felt like that was giving the teachers extra work for something that was ultimately Keith's problem. So, as I have been known to do sometimes when hubby is out of town and we are working on an issue together long distance, I got got frustrated and said, "Never mind. I'll do it myself."

I called a friend of mine whose children are a few years ahead of mine and asked her advice. She, without prompting or payment from hubby, said that she had asked the teachers to send home reports on her child, and had very good results.

I promptly called back hubby, and as I have also been know to do sometimes, I ate crow. He was a good sport, and didn't gloat- much.

I spent the rest of the evening wrestling with the best way to execute a program that would be mutually beneficial to Keith, his teachers and me.

This is a part of parenting they could never put in "the brochure" for enlisting new parents. If we got the "real" scoop before getting pregnant, we may never have babies. If we knew the heart-ache, the sleepless nights, the worry that came from every side, the world's population might eventually cease to exist. After all, who would willing sign up for such a job???

After much thought, a slew of e-mails and a heart-to-heart with Keith, we arrived at an acceptable plan of action:

Each Friday for the next nine-week grading period, Keith would have each of his teachers sign off on his planner to show that he had done his work satisfactorily for the week. There would consequences (both positive and negative) for his results.

If he got all signatures and they were all positive, at the end of the nine weeks, I would take he and three friends to dinner and a movie. I believed that all positive information from the teachers would indicate to me that he was paying more attention and, thus, should improve his scores.

However, if he neglected to get a signature, or if he had negative feedback, he would lose privileges for the week following. We set up a tiered system that took away another privilege for each missed signature and/or negative feedback.
The teachers, Keith and I agreed to the program. And we start immediately.

I know this is a hard time. I know that Middle School is new in every way possible: socially, academically- everything. Plus, you throw in some hormones and you've got a potential disaster.

I'm very proud of how Keith is handling it thus far. He's thoughtful and responsible. He's a typical person of this age: he has the overwhelming desire to be both grown up and young at the same time.

I know we will navigate through these waters together. I know there will be a constant give and take. Middle school is anything but static.

In the mean-time, I hope he really takes all this to heart, so that when grades do become a part of his permanent record, we aren't still having some of these struggles. After all, I'm counting on him to get a full scholarship to college, being super-successful in his chosen career, making the big bucks, and letting me live out my latter years as the royalty I was always destined to be... Okay, I would at least like him to be able to do whatever he wants, without having to work around bad grades or stupid choices, and I want him to be happy.

As parents, I think that's what we all want. And, if I recall correctly, I believe that part was in the brochure, which is why I signed up for the job- and love every minute of it!...

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