Sunday, March 23, 2014

Turning It In

I was never terrifically concerned about my grades. This could be because I was such a good student that it was never an issue. It probably also had something to do with the fact that my parents never seemed to make much of a big deal about them either. My older and younger brother made it through their years in public education without much of a fuss, so perhaps we came from a gifted family. Or maybe we went to schools that made it easy with their superior teachers and advanced curriculum.
Maybe it was easier to succeed back then. I didn't measure myself by my grades back then, but I find myself at times confounded by my son's report card. These are my marks as a parent. As a parent who is also a teacher. I've been a teacher since my son was born. How have I not been able to pass along the essential DNA strands that would create an excellent student? Considering my wife's educational experience, I would have expected that we should have created some sort of genetic beast of a super scholar.
That happened, sort of. We have a very smart kid, able to take things apart and put them back together again. He can carry on intelligent discussions about movies, literature and current events. He is also, by my reckoning, a pretty funny guy. He's not very good at turning in his homework. When he was in elementary school, we didn't notice so much because he had a single adult to answer to: his classroom teacher. That person was almost always willing to work with him to make sure that his desk eventually disgorged the correct missing assignment, and with plenty of reminders, he was able to rise beyond his multiple distractions. It didn't hurt that he was so witty and charming.
The game changed in middle school. Suddenly he was just a number on a long list of students with varying degrees of difficulty and challenges. My son learned all kinds of things that never even showed up on my final exams in high school while he was there, he just couldn't get those papers in the box at the right time. Suddenly, he was in an arena he didn't fully understand. In seventh grade he gave me a lengthy and mostly cogent argument for eliminating homework. That's when I wished that he was the son of somebody other than a public school teacher. I felt the absurd need to defend homework and all the abstract construct around secondary education. Ultimately, the name of the game is "If You Don't Turn In Your Work, You Fail."
He knows that. He works hard at it. Not just for himself, but also not to disappoint his mother and me. That part makes me love him all the more. And he wants to put together a transcript that will magically transport him to the college of his choice. We all hope it's somewhere without homework.

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