A rant (probably only slightly paranoid)

21 Oct

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.


Posted by on October 21, 2009 in life


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4 responses to “A rant (probably only slightly paranoid)

  1. Corrim

    October 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Wow!! Raegan’s work is the same thing…. All the pictures!!!! Ugh! And aren’t they doing sooo much more at this age then we did? I don’t remember doing story problems and all this other stuff in first grade. Yesterday she had to draw 16 COWS!!! then cross out and make the math sentence but THEN they had a problem of 5 ducks and 3 cows and the question was how many feet all together!!! Really!!!?? Rae really is great at reading and spelling and she is in the accellerated level however last week she had to pick two words on her own and the teacher allowed her to pick “constellation” and “responsibility”…,, ok come on!! She could spell th out loud but misspelled on test. So teacher really moved her down for this week even though she got all her “real” spelling words correct. I don’t get it.

  2. Unfocused Me

    October 25, 2009 at 5:01 am

    My daughter had a similar problem in the transition from K to 1st. We met with the first grade teacher at the beginning of the year to talk about how she was going to handle our kid, and we got patted on the head and told it would be fine – it was pretty clear she didn’t believe us. Unfocused Girl became progressively more unhappy about school, and when we scheduled a meeting we heard about odd behavior problems that the teacher thought might be Asperger’s but quickly turned out – surprise – to be utter boredom. Finally the teacher agreed to toss most of the curriculum out the window for her, and we convinced our daughter that when she was ready to move on to something new it was ok to talk to the teacher about it. We pulled her out of the school after 1st grade and she’s much happier at the new one (and so is the teacher, who was completely overwhelmed by her). Hang in there, and keep standing up for your son. The only fights we ever regretted were the ones where we backed down.

  3. katrinastonoff

    October 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    We had a similar problem too, with our son. First Grade was painful, from Day 1 to the end. If he pulled only two tickets, it was a good day. He was bored stiff, and the teacher absolutely refused to entertain the most remote possibility that it was boredom causing his behavior problems.

    We met with the principal at the end of the year and told her about the problem. Our school doesn’t have a gifted program until Fourth Grade, but she put him in a multi-age classroom where the teachers have more flexibility with curriculum and can let the brighter children zoom ahead. Voila! Totally different child. In Second Grade, he pulled two tickets the entire year — both on the same day, when they had a substitute teacher. He’s now in Third Grade and happily reading his Sixth Grade sister’s science text for fun.

    Good for you for sticking up for your son. He’ll survive the frustrating, boring year as long as he realizes HE isn’t the problem.

  4. Chadicus

    November 1, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for everyone’s support. Since posting this the problem has actually gotten worse. According to my wife, who had to go pick him up from the school the other day because of his behavior (he didn’t hurt anyone, destroy property, or even really talk back, he just kept being uncooperative), “It looks like we have a smart, strong-willed child vs. a control freak.” Which sounds harsh but is probably accurate (and part of that, she would know. won’t say which one). Added to this the teacher keeps bringing up her own personal problem and has broken down in class, and I think we just have a lot going wrong here.

    Not that that excuses his behavior, but we are going to have a conference with the principal and see if we can’t at least change what classroom he’s in. I don’t want to waste a year of his education for stupid reasons. I just hate being one of THOSE parents, but it seemes to be warranted here.


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