Friday, March 20, 2009

Too Much Talking, Missing Assignments and Amish Marilyn

I struggle with my teenager and his grades. If I thought strangling him would help, I'd do it. I've threatened. I've restricted. I've cried. I've stripped him of anything fun. I just don't know what else to do. He is social and would rather attend school for fun verses learning. He doesn't see the point of half of his classes. I keep telling him that I will not be able to afford college for him and that he needs good grades. I also tell him that he would not enjoy repeating a year and therefore should apply himself. What's next? Military Academy? Charter School?

I wish I was home when school got out so I could make sure his homework was done right away. He has little organizational skills, and I fear he is just being lazy. Plus I worry that if he doesn't develop good study habits now - what will happen when he is in the real world? Am I nagging too much? Should I just let up? On the up side he is smart. He is smart enough to do the work and pass the classes. He is well-rounded. He is super funny and clever and extremely creative too. People like him. He is an overall good kid. Please send me your advice with what to do with his grades...

Speaking of grades... I was looking through my one and only box of childhood mementos. My mother saved all of my report cards and most of my state and national test scores. I don't ever really think I realized how well I did. In fact, I remember telling my friend that pretty much every report card said the same thing... "Too much talking" and "missing assignments". For some reason, this is what I remember. However, when thumbing through my report cards, I only came across those comments ONCE. How is it that I remembered those statements as being "the norm"? Did they really impact me that much?

I remember one teacher not liking me because I was NOT Amish. Let me explain. We lived in Northern Indiana, close to one of the largest Amish settlements in the country. We were going to move from the city school district to one in a neighboring town. This is where much of the Amish lived; in this town. Anyway, when my mom registered us for school, I found out that I would be in the same class as my Amish cousin, Daniel. The teacher's name was Ms. Christner. She was conservative Mennonite and therefore wore the prayer covering and simple dresses, etc. She was probably about 60 years old at the time. Well, to make a very long story short, let's just say Ms. Christner had a preference for the Amish kids. In her opinion they were quieter, more respectful, and hard workers. No doubt, all of those things were true. Basically, she just didn't want any trouble makers. And we all know that the English Kids (that's what the Amish call the non-Amish --"English"--cuz we speak English) are more out-spoken and therefore obviously a handful. Ok - so back to the story... Daniel had announced to the teacher that the new girl coming was his cousin. Ms. Christner was delighted -- until I arrived. She took one look at me and said, "You're not Amish!" Almost as if it were an accusation. "Nope," I said. "I am not Amish." She looked at me with disgust and pointed to my seat. It seemed I could do nothing to please this woman, hard as I tried. My hand-writing wasn't as neat as the Amish Girls'. And my desk was ALWAYS messy (especially compared to the Amish girls). And adjusting to a new school in the 4th grade and trying to fit in, I guess I was a little quirky. She was right, though. I wasn't very organized that year. I guess I didn't really enjoy school that year. Here is what she wrote at the end of the first semester: "There were several times that Emma could not find her completed assignments." Now, in my defense, I was for sure I had turned them in and SHE had just never given me credit for them.

At the end of the second semester, look what she wrote on my report card:

"I enjoyed being Marilyn's teacher." What the Freak??? It was clearly MY report Card and SHE wrote the WRONG comments!!! Of course she "enjoyed" being Marilyn's teacher; Marilyn was AMISH!!! Lol!

In Middle School, as we started taking placement tests, I would score in the 80th or 90th percentile nationwide in everything except for Science. I hated Science, and I was sure it hated me too! In Science I always scored in the 60th percentile. It was never in the "above average" section; always in the "average". I don't know why, but for some reason, I thought this was bad. Anyway, I let myself believe that I wasn't any good in Science, so I never really tried. Look at what my Science teacher wrote on my 6th grade report card during the first quarter:

No beating around the bush on that one, eh? Nothing positive at all to say... simply "too much talking". You can almost hear the implied exclamation too.

I did have a few great teachers in High School, whom I will never forget. My friend Celise & I had Freshman Biology together. And contrary to my difficulty in the Sciences, Celise aced science. - no problem. Being the quirky freshman that we were, trying to fit into high school, we goofed around a lot in all of the classes we had together. In biology we even pulled pranks with the "leftovers" from the dissecting unit - - but that's another blog in and of itself. Anyway, one day after class, Mr. Schultz asked me to stay behind to talk to me. He told me that I had a C in his class. He told me that it was apparent that I liked to have a good time in his class, but that while my friend Celise had no problem with the material, my grades were another story. He told me that if he thought a C was my best effort, we wouldn't be having this conversation. He stated that even though Biology might be hard for me, there was no reason I shouldn't be able to pull a B. He then said that during his lectures he goes over every answer to every question on the quizzes and tests and that if I just took notes and paid attention I should do well.

I was amazed. I was shocked. I goofed around in his class - he could have easily just stuck me in the back of the room and ignored me, waiting for the semester to be over. Instead he took the time to encourage me and tell me that I had worth. I worked my butt off in that class, because I wanted to test his theory. He was right. Because of him I started taking notes in every class. And I managed to stay on the honor roll all through high school and graduated with a 3.67 GPA.

Funny, how I forgot about all of that until looking at my report cards. Funny how those few negative comments made by one or two teachers was what had stuck in my mind all of these years as being "the norm".

That being said, I don't want the "negative" comments to stick in my son's mind. I want him to want to earn better grades. But I also want him to believe that he can achieve it and that he is worth it; because he is.


Two Blessings From Above said...

That is such a great post! I am having touble right now with one of my twin boys. He has what it takes to get all A's like his twin brother, BUT he does not seem interested at the time. Your post could not have come on a better day, to help me realize that the negative comments are remembered a long time. Thanks!!!

Cindy said...

I'm able to relate to this story so well. I spent many, many years trying to get my son to be organized, do his work when he arrived home so that he could then goof off (not the other way around). Anyhow, he somehow (that sounds terrible coming from a mother) graduated last June. He has never become organized and never did anything the easy way.

It's frustrating but sometimes you have to just let go and hope they realize soon enough.
It's very hard to do that, but they need to learn they're responsible for their choices.

Susie said...

I think it is very enlightened of you to go back and remember where you were when you were your son's age! As for the grades, I have always known that emphasizing the child's strengths lead them over their weakness. "You are so smart. I know you can do this."

The Willeyes said...

What a great post. Hang in there...I dont' have any great I am struggling with this myself with T. So, I'll check back and see what great advice you are given and then use it myself :)

Ruthykins said...

i wish school's would give you an option of how you want to be graded. if all i had to do was tests i would have aced school. my problem was that homework is boring. that's probably his problem, too. get him a way cute tutor. see if that helps.

Mom Taxi Julie said...

That just goes to show how much teachers taking an interest in you really pays off. Too bad more teachers aren't like that and more are like the negative.

Ashley said...

No - I definitely wouldn't back down from him. He needs your guidance there to help him understand the important things in life. While algebra or science or whatever subjects he struggles with may not seem important to him or his future - the organization and self-discipline he can learn from school work is definitely a worthwhile lesson. He is smart. I'm sure he'll get the hang of it!! Not sure how to help him see the light though.. I'm sure other moms have been there and have great advice.

Your school memories were interesting. It is funny how we can accomplish so much but allow ourselves to focus on the bad things. Although - I'd say your gift of gab has definitely paid off in the blogosphere. You can tell your teacher who says you talk to much, "Thank you!" Hehe!

purplehaze said...

Emma great post as usual! I really don't have an answer for you, because my oldest son is also very smart bright and all of that. He could've got striaght A's. You can do everything until you are blue in the face and it might work for a while,but it still might not work. My son is still not organized, but he has became a great young man and I am very proud of him! His problem was that he would ace the test, but never turn in the home work. He would say I prove to them I was paying attention by acing the test. I could never get through to him that the homework was part of the grade. He didn't like the school system so he rebelled. You will just have to keep encourging him and telling him what a wonderful person he is maybe he will relized that to get into college if that is what he wants he will have to work at it. Good luck and God bless.

"The Queen in Residence" said...

I too have a teacher whose comments to this day haunt me. Everytime I take a class I hear her telling me I will amount to nothing and I let it bother me. One day I hope to rid my memory of her horrible words.

On to your son, do you think that another school say a charter school might be better? Do not waste your money on something like Sylvan, we did and it was a TOTAL waste of money, no improvement and no money-back either. Is there a good male role model that could help him out with homework? Sometimes all kids need is a change of scene and someone else to be accountable to, a grandparent or good neighbor.
I do not have great advice cause I too have a boy in first grade that is supper smart but supper lazy on getting his work done. I hear alot of what you have said from his teacher too, but thank goodness she is so patient and would never say a bad comment towards him, she just continues to encourage things.

Good luck, sometimes it is just something that they will always struggle with, or maybe he will get a teacher that strikes a cord and gets him motivated. Hang in there.

Megs said...

Funnyguy is a really funny kid. It's funny because I got to know him before I got to know you and when I met you I thought, "okay, that's where he gets it." I think you're similar. Does he read your blog? He should read what you wrote because it might strike a chord with him. He's really smart and gifted. He just needs to know people believe in him and expect good from him.

My mom used to bribe us with $ for good grades... if that would help?

RhondaLue said...

DISCLAIMER: I'm a momma to 6 kids who believes in natural consequences and has a 7 yr old that I've been told has the "worse cases of ADHD" his teachers have ever seen. He's also so gifted that his neuropsych evaluation showed he was basically a genuis in all areas except one where he only tested as above average. ONLY. lol

Ok so now that that's out of the way. The boy can bring home an F or a D and even though he used to get all A's he's taken a downward spiral into not being interested.

Here's the good news: Minds like that (and I don't know if this is your adhd son but it applies for "normal" kiddos too) can still be filled to the brim with learning. They just learn differently and perhaps aren't much interested in "proving it" with homework, etc. My Ben can give me the answers to a worksheet in 2 minutes flat but can he do the doggone one in class in less than 2 hours? That'd be a NO. I've had him thoroughly evaluated because the poor child has had the deck stacked against him since his premature birth and I have wanted to leave no stone unturned in helping him. If you have any reason to believe that your son's probs are not his own defiance but something he can't quite help then you can always try an evaluation and getting an IEP in place which just mandates that the school make certain accomodations to help him succeed. not easy, as you know, if you've read my posts about fighting the school and that mess. BUT, when they go to college or tech school or whatever they have an interest in those same minds that wouldn't turn in a worksheet to save their lives could THRIVE.

I always tell my kids that they are not only as good as their grades. The grades do matter because it's an evaluation of their learning but if I KNOW they know it I really don't care if they get all C's or D's. I'd *like* to see good grades but they're not the end all be all. It's a number on a piece of paper.

WOW. You should've known me many moons ago when I was all about what grades my kids made and all that jazz.

Oh and another thing, in case this wasn't a long enough book already, I REFUSE, I say REFUSE!!!! to damage my parent-child relationship over school work. My job is to help support them, parent them, love them, make sure the teachers are doing all they can to help him, etc but I will NOT micro manage every second of their education. More damage can be done in that arena than I care to ever participate in.

The End.

okeydokeyifine said...

Beat Him UP!

Oh, well that might not be the best answer.

Perhaps the note-taking in class might work for him, but also put them on the honor system re: homework. Talk to him about being a good steward, and that includes his years as a student. Emphasize that although he might not feel he needs all this book-learning now, it will make him well-versed and well-rounded.

He has been blessed with a brilliant mind and now he needs to use it.

Any of that helpful?

Tell him Gram will sit on him and smash him to smithereens....just joshing.

Puphigirl said...

Tell him he needs to get good grades to get into a good college, hopefully on a scholarship. Tell him that he doesn't want to end up like me, an old lady going to college and is older than her instructor.

Tulsi said...

I didn't know Amish mixed with "English" much. I didn't know they Mingled with the "English" in school, either. I thought it would have been separate. That is really funny.

Teen grades are another story. Our brilliant son graduated by the skin of his teeth because "nothing interested him so why be forced to do it"????? And now the child we have at home is doing ok, but fully tells us that school is for socializing. Taking the phone, no friends, etc, help at all. Now that she is on the softball team, we will see how that goes. It didn't do a darn thing with Kass.

Megan said...

Oh how I hated school. Science and math the most! When I look at my report cards, it's almost embarrassing. Especially if compared to Kyle's because he (and his brother and sister) did well in school without even having to try.

This is such a great post. I don't have any teenager advice really. To me, it sounds like you're doing everything that a good, caring parent would do. Hopefully one day it'll just click with him!

Laura said...

Oh I've been trying to get him to do his school work too. But I think I've come up with something that will work. I don't want to do it cuz it's gonna suck for me too, but I think I'm going to.

Lol! You were JUST like me! I mean, last term in geography (I had that class with your son and the twins) I got an N in citizenship and the comment was U-Distruptive Behavior. HAHA! ;] I talked A LOT!

greenolive said...

I never had Ms. Christner. She either quit or got fired before I made it to 4th grade. I did have her old classroom though. Whew, I really dodged a bullet. Because I too am not Amish. As far as your teenager goes, he's a great kid. Maybe he does just need a little bit of encouragement like what your one teacher gave you. He's bright and maybe he is just relying on that a little too much instead of trying harder to excell. Let him know that I'm rooting for him.