Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life's Lessons Learned the Hard Way

I made the mistake of not opening the backpack on Thursday afternoon (Friday was a teacher planning day). I waited until Monday morning before we headed out the door to make my discovery.

My boy is failing science. And has a low C in social studies.

Report cards come out next week, so I guess this was his teacher's way of giving me a heads up. His pink sheet - the one that comes home every week that lets me know about his behavior and work skills was the worst one yet. Off task. Not prepared for class. Disrupting class. Running.


I had to ask about that one... apparently he was running in the hall and crashed into someone. Oh.

Up until recently, my boy was a model student. Always quiet. Always did his homework. Always paid attention in class. He would get in trouble for drawing during class (on blank paper and on his work), but he's a doodler. It's how he focuses his attention. He hears everything if he can doodle. His second grade teacher understood this, but none since then have. He also gets in trouble for reading.

You heard right. Reading.

It seems that he keeps a book on his lap during class and reads it under the desk when he should be paying attention or doing his class work. Punishing him by withholding "Fun Friday" and sending him to study hall doesn't make a dent - he'd rather go to study hall so he can read.

I have to admit that I got a little angry with him. We've been over the behavior problems. We've talked to his teacher. We go over his homework with him after he finishes it. It's frustrating when it doesn't seem to make a dent in his brain.

The thing is... he's smart. Scary smart. His little brain makes connections that grownups take a long time to make. His ideas about math are amazing. And time. This kid could very well invent the first viable time machine. Except for school.

He should be in the gifted program, but if he continues like this, he'll wind up on the short bus because no one will see his brilliance, just the problems he causes, the work he doesn't do, and the listening he doesn't seem to accomplish. And that worries me a lot.

I don't ask for straight A's or A's and B's. A C here and there won't hurt much. But he needs to be doing his best, not sitting there on his butt waiting for good grades to show up, or expecting good marks in behavior because he's so darned cute and charming.

See, when I was in school, I skated. I went to class, I listened. But I never studied anything. I aced all my tests and with the exception of typing (oh, the irony), made straight A's. I was LAZY too.

And you know what? If I had it to do all over again, I'd apply myself. I would push myself harder than anyone else could ever push me. I would not only excel in school, but I would go to college and get degrees. Lots of them. And I would have a career with possibilities.

Because I'm stuck. I am, actually, quite excellent in my job. But it's as far as I'll ever go in my organization because I don't have a degree. I won't ever be paid like a college graduate, even though I do my job just as well as I would with that piece of paper...

"Why don't you go back to school?" you may be asking. Well, let me tell you... once you're out of school and start having to make a living, it's mighty hard to go back. It's expensive and time consuming - especially when you have a mortgage to meet, mouths to feed, a kid to raise and a husband that needs your time too. By the time I hit the hay every night, I am so exhausted that my eyes are spinning in their sockets because my muscles can't seem to hold them still anymore. How would I ever accomplish going to classes and studying on top of everything else?

Perhaps when the boy is older and better able to fend for himself (or decides he doesn't need Mommy so much anymore) I'll go back. Get a degree in... something. In the meantime, I will continue doing what I'm doing and hope that one day I will write a story someone will want to read, want to publish, want to buy. Just because I have limited higher education doesn't mean I can't tell a good story or use my imagination.

But the point is... how do you explain all that to someone who is all of nine? He wouldn't understand the value of pushing yourself now because he's never missed having a formal education. He hasn't worn my shoes. Right now all he's missing is computer and video games.

I just hope I can make him understand before he gets stuck like me.


Sandy said...

You have just described my grandson! Brilliant, charming, intelligent beyond reason and so bloody bull headed about doing things (or not doing things!) his way that he is driving us all to drink.

We are trying a combination of caffeine, dha, vitamins and good old Catholic guilt. I'll let you know how it works.

Mel said...


I have had similar problems with Really Rosie, only it's been throughout her educational history. She's gifted, she's smart; she's so damn lazy it kills me.

Interestingly enough, either one of my many pep talks over the summer got through to her, or one of my "Please, please don't end up uneducated and stuck like me" (because, OH YES, I absolutely hit her with that one) talks, or else she wised up of her own accord and realized that she is in high school now, there's no slacking allowed.

She's doing great with only marginal interference on my part. It is a HUGE relief.

For the moment. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Figure out what the most motivating thing is that he does outside of school and reading, put a serious and consistent limit on it until the grades improve. Then let him earn increments of it back. Sometimes that works faster than all of your pleading.
It's worth a try.
Also remember who this child is.... Z may be just looking for attention and feeling left out since he spent the entire summer with you and other favorite people.
More Mom and Dad time, less whatever.
Smile - You are doing a great job with that young man.

Hootin' Anni said...

I have a halloween treat for you on my Wednesday blog...just scroll down beyond the Wordless photos!! Happy Wednesday Sayre---

S William said...

I wish I could explain to him what it's like to blow it. He sounds like me 32 years ago.

I as the kid in school who had so much potential, but hated school. I got by - barely...I just didn't try.

I wish I could show him what hell awaits in the job market for a man without a degree.

Maybe you could give him a big reward for doing good? I hate bribes, but sometimes they are needed.

Find out what he really wants, and then allow him to earn it by doing good in school. Think of it as teaching him about life and getting paid for your work.

Or something, I don't know.

Tell him that I told him to get his act together.

Best of luck Sayre.

S William said...

I saw that someone mentioned "lazy". I wouldn't call it lazy. I don't think kids at that age can be called lazy.

There are different types of learners, and some kids - especially the very smart ones - don't learn best in the typical school environment. Many "smart" kids do, but they are the ones who tend to be good book learners.

I wasn't lazy in school. I did my homework. I just didn't care. What I wanted to learn was miles past what they were teaching.

I was reading astrophysics books in 11th grade and studying advance math on my own.

The last thing I was, or what these other kids are - is lazy.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the educational system is lazy because they haven't addressed children like this.

Sandcastle Momma said...

From what you've written I would say he sounds bored. If the work is too easy for him he probably doesn't see the point in doing it at all and that comes across as lazy. He probably caught on the first time the work was explained and anything after that is just blah, blah, blah to him. Maybe you could talk to his school about trying him in the gifted program right away. Once his brain is really challenged he may start to excel. Any kid who would rather read than play needs to be given interesting, challenging work - something he can get excited about.
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he could be recruited to tutor a less gifted child. Dad has always said the best way to learn is to teach.

nikki said...

Ken is having many of the same issues and I see them in Aaron too. Do you think Z-boy is just really bored and is acting out by not doing anything? If learning is no longer fun and challenging then why do it?

Jennfactor 10 said...

Oh, Sayre, you are singing my song.

Let us know if you find a way to motivate him!

Ari_1965 said...

Since I don't have kids feel free to ignore anything I say here! But I wonder if you could try the advice in the first comment. Tell him his only job at this point in his life is to get the best grades he can. No privileges if he falls down on the job. The next report from the teacher must be free of anything like "disruptive" or "not prepared," etc. and must be all Bs or above, or he loses more privileges. He gets a special reward of some sort if he fulfills all these obligations.

I don't know. But I do think you are right in thinking you need to take serious steps with him about this. I've had employees in the past who can't motivate themselves to do work they consider boring or beneath them. I've had to tell them to pull themselves up by their socks or else. I've had to explain the pretty basic fact that if you can't find motivation within yourself to do your job properly even if it doesn't thrill you, then you need to focus on your need for a paycheck if nothing else will get you going. I've fired people who can't do it.