Monday, February 6, 2012

Bored With School?

My son Michael has always LOVED school. On his first day at Wee People, three-year-old preschool, he kept looking behind at my husband and saying, "Come on Daddy." Matt followed with the video camera because I wanted to capture every minute. I was already at school with my own students. Michael just couldn't wait to meet his teachers and all of his new friends. When Matt picked him up three hours later, Michael cried because he didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay at school. Matt just about died. Usually a child cries when being dropped off not when getting picked up. What would his teachers think?

Michael has loved every grade and every teacher just about every teacher. There was one. Anyway, he's in sixth grade this year and until the last two weeks has LOVED it.

THEN the math paper came home with a drawing on the back of a boy's face and a cloud coming out of his cartoon mouth that said, "I hate school." OMG! We were so shocked! STUNNED! Is this our little boy?

We sat Michael down at the kitchen table and asked him about the drawing. He explained that he had time left over in class and decided to draw a picture. The boy in the picture hated school. Not him. Teacher mode kicked into my brain and thought: Yes, but you drew the picture therefor it came from you so subconsciously you must hate school. After I gathered my thoughts a barrage of questions spewed from my mouth: Is someone bullying you at school? No. Are you upset with a teacher? No. (sigh of frustration from Michael) Did you have an argument with a friend? No. (another sigh from Michael) Michael reassured both of us that he did NOT hate school.

Three days later...Matt and I had been wondering when Michael would be bringing home his report card. We had asked him each day of the new nine weeks and both times he said he didn't get it yet. Then Matt and Michael drove to wrestling practice and had a conversation on the way.

Matt - "When are you getting your report card?"

Michael - "I don't know dad."

Matt - "Did you get it today?"

Michael - pause "No."

Matt knew something was up at this point.

Matt - "Do you have your report card?"

Michael - Long pause "Yeah."

Matt - "Where is it?"

Michael - "In my computer bag."

When they got home that night we had another sit down at the kitchen table. This seems to be the place where we hash things out in our family. Come to find out Michael had his report card for three days and kept it hidden from us. He was upset, worried that we would be mad at him for a bad grade in math. He received a C-. Now this kid has been bringing home A's and B's in math forever. Math and science were his strongest subjects. Go figure. When we looked at his grades online that night he had several homework assignments with low marks, whereas his test grades were high. How could this be?

Then I remembered how my husband was in school, or so I've been told. Matt is super smart. He never had to study to get good grades. He picks things up easily and has a memory like an elephant. I wonder where this saying came from? He told me that when he was in school he pulled C's because he never did the homework. Why bother when he could ace the tests without studying? He was BORED in school. While other kids worked on their homework Matt read books, until that didn't even keep his interest, and he began to get into trouble. Oh I did NOT want Michael to receive this gene from the Wallace side.

Michael explained that he went in for extra help during music class at the end of the day. Unfortunately, he had an F in music because he was getting extra help in math. Why must he take music when he plays the drum in band? And band is a year long course? I digress. Michael went on to say that he understands the math. He'll try harder. He'll get the grade up. Because he kept his grade card hidden from us (deceitful) we grounded him for a week. No TV, computer, or video games.

I emailed his teacher and she said Michael was bright in math. He participated every day and helped other students who had trouble with the material. She said Michael made careless mistakes in his calculations. Now we have told Michael umpteen thousand times to take his time and double check his work. She also said that he could fix any of the problems on his homework to earn full credit. The students have been allowed to do this all year. Why am I just now hearing this? Back to the kitchen table.

I shared the email with Michael. He smiled feeling pretty good about himself. Then I dropped the bomb about the homework. His face fell. "Oh, yeah. I forgot." We came up with a plan of attack.

Plan of Attack
Bring ALL papers home every night - no matter the grade
After school relax
When Mom gets home we'll both work on our school work together at the kitchen table ( I could use the time to grade papers.)
Get to bed by 9 pm
Take time and double check ALL work in ALL classes AND fix all errors on homework

Today Michael brought home his math test. He missed one and received a 98%. It brought his grade up to a higher C. He also brought his music grade up to an A since he's been attending class and completing the work. He felt good about it and called Grandma. She's been worried about him too. Hopefully we can keep things on track until the end of the year. I know he can do this.

Is it boredom? As a teacher I struggle with this everyday. I have many Matt's in my classroom, bright students who don't complete their homework, but do well on tests and quizzes. How do we reach these kids? How do we get it through to them that it's important to complete ALL of the work? Most of them settle for just passing. "I just want to pass." How about I want to do the best I can?

Is there anything you've tried in your classroom or with your children that works. If so please share.

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