My son is a first grader. He’s very bright. Independent observers have confirmed this and, anyway, I can’t take credit for it because I did my best to teach him how to rot his brain with cartoons and comic books. He had a great year in kindergarten, but toward the end of the year started to get in trouble, mostly because he’s smart and charming and had a group of littre smart and charming friends who all decided they would see what they could get away with. It got handled very well by his teacher and his principal.
His kindergarten teacher was wonderful. She was whip-smart and had this really effective mix of warmth and firmness.
Enter first grade. Full stop. He basically has not been able to do anything right the entire year. My wife and I have tried to be really supportive of the school, and his teacher has tried to work on being more positive with him, but it’s getting a little ridiculous.
Case in point: He has math work he does at home and in class. Maybe this is the way they’re teaching it now, but with almost every math problem they have to draw a little picture. 5 apples + 3 apples = 8 apples (someone should probably check my math there just to be sure). They’re supposed to draw and color the apples as well as write out the “number sentence” (an aside: why are we not teaching kids the actual math terms and using fuzzy stuff like this?) Well, Drew looks at this and immediately says 5 + 3 = 8, and writes out the number sentence. He grasps the concept. Why does he need to take an extra five minutes and draw the apples? It just frustrates him.
So, the next night, the homework comes home for corrections which are all, basically, DRAW THE PICTURE. This is stupid. He does not need to draw the picture. He needs to move on to other things so he does not get bored.
I know elementary school math programs now are all about this kind of stuff, making it more “arty,” and supposedly “fun.” But for kids who get it, its just frustrating, and reinforces the whole, “Can’t do anything right.” thing. My daughter’s fifth grade math text was all about little pictures and tricks and listing and she could do all of that but didn’t have a grasp of the fundementals, so we switched to Saxon, a math program with no frills, all fundamentals.
At the beginning of this year we wanted to be so supportive of our son’s teacher that we unwittingly sent him the message that we were not on his side, we were on hers. Well, fuck that! I’m on his side, and he needs to know that. And if my kids teacher starts to think I’m a little bit of an asshole because I’m going to the mat on this stuff, well, fine. Kids need what they need and he needs something different. I’m not asking the school to provide that something different, just to get out of my way.
And don’t even get me started on the yard duties who let the boys be teased and tormented by the girls but don’t hesitate to bust a boy who steps out of line, because anyone who’s ever worked around kids knows that totally happens.
Anyway, i’ve been thinking a lot about this kid lately after the months of sturm and drang regarding the other. It’s the opposite problem, really, but just as important mostly because he is really smart and if he gets frustrated and decides to devote his powers to evil in revenge for his unhappy primary school experience we are all screwed.