Monday, November 12, 2007

"Mom, Don't Say Anything to Embarrass Me."

I so vividly remember saying these words to my mom before she would go to parent-teacher conferences in high school. I wanted to keep her from disclosing personal things about me. Or statements that I gushed or admitted about teachers or classes when I was at home.

To her credit, she was pretty good about it.

Although there must have been something she said once or twice that made me feel the need to say this to her. I stand by this. I don't remember what she must have said, but I'm sure it was something horribly embarrassing to adolescent Stimey.

Today it was my turn.

I got to be the parent for the conferences today. Yay me!

I went to Jack's special ed class this morning, and found out that he is doing great. They say he is super smart and really good with the academic part of school. They act out stories, and his teacher says he is a terrific actor. He plays the little red hen and Mrs. Wishy Washy, whoever that is.

And it turns out that the names he's been giving me actually ARE kids in his class. Way to remember details from the past, Jack!

His reluctance to follow directions that his teacher pointed out earlier in the year is getting better, although she did note that when it's time to clean up, he tends to purposely step on the blocks rather than pick them up and put them on shelves, but I know all about that from home. If he did actually pick something up at school I think I'd have to move in there, because he doesn't do it anywhere else.

He's pretty up front with his disdain for cleaning. I like to think he gets it from me.


Sam had a half-day at school and his conference was in the afternoon. To preface the following incident, I have to give you some background. The grading system at Sam's school (probably much like at many kindergartens) is as follows:

star = I did my best work.
smiley = I made some mistakes.
check = I did not do my best work.

Until a few days ago, Sam had never gotten anything other than a star. Then he brought home a couple of smiley faces with notes on the papers like, "More careful tracing," and "More careful coloring." And I was like, "Oh, ha, ha, my son is getting imperfect grades for coloring outside of the lines in kindergarten. I totally have to blog about this."

And then today he came home with three pieces of his work. One was a star (given by his regular teacher). Two were checks (given by the teacher from his english group. There was no note on the checks and, I swear to God, they looked identical to the star one. Maybe the coloring was a little sloppy, but I mean, really, he's six and he's coloring.

Then, when Sam started sobbing and telling us how he didn't have enough time to be careful, and, "please, please, don't tell Ms. S that I got a check," it stopped being funny. I told Sam that I wouldn't tell Ms. S, and then I promptly went in for my conference and told Ms. S. (Future Sam, if you ever read this, I'm sorry. I knew Ms. S wouldn't think badly of you.)

I felt kind of like an idiot bringing it up and showing her the checkmark, like, "Look at my precious son. Someone's gone and given him a check and I'm completely outraged!" But I don't care if he gets a check. (I mean, I do care if that's all he gets, but that's a whole other story.) I don't care that the teacher gave him the grade she thought was right. I do care that his work on the check paper and the star paper were virtually identical so he has no idea how to make changes and get a star. I do care that he was absolutely devastated by it. I do care that, in fact, that was his best work. Because we talked about it, and he told me he tried, he really tried, but he ran out of time.

Ms. S was similarly perplexed. Sam is her star pupil. His behavior is great. His work is great. She said she considers him her assistant. She said not to tell anyone (keep it under your hat, Internet), but that she feels like there's the class and then there's her and Sam. I'm not so naive as to believe she didn't say this to a few other parents as well, but her gist was that he is doing great. She was surprised because she's never given him anything but a star. She said that she would talk to his other teacher to make sure that she knows how sensitive he is. She also said she would ask the school counselor if she had any ideas on how to reduce the poor little dude's stress.

I've written before about Sam's kindergarten stress. I'm a little sad that he feels so much pressure so early. Make that a lot sad. I wish his kindergarten was like my kindergarten was: coloring without strict repercussions if you strayed outside the lines, free play, recess, running in circles.

He's two months in and they have him doing graphs, patterns, reading, dictation, counting by tens, and more. He can make a graph, but they're dinging him for coloring outside the lines or using the wrong colored crayon? I'm glad that they're preparing him academically, but at what expense? I don't want him to flame out because he's so stressed about getting something wrong.

So. I'm sorry, Sam, for saying things to your teacher that probably would have embarassed you. But you are great. You are smart. I love your coloring. And I don't give a shit if you get a check. I'm proud of you, no matter what.


  1. You didn't say anything kids are terrified their kids will talk about - like how cute they were when they used to try to run around the block naked at three or something!
    I always told my kids that the grades themselves were not the important thing to me. It was much more important to me that they were doing the best they could, and that THEY were satisfied with that. I hate the pressure at such a young age. :( But YAY Sam for being a star pupil! Sh-h-h.

  2. Oops - I meant 'kids are terrified their parents will talk about' !!!

  3. I for one, LOVE Sam's coloring. His Halloween pictures were remarkable and creative. Humpf to you mean check teacher.

  4. Great job boys! I feel for you Stimey with the expecatations and such. I am really stuggling with the whole school thing... there's no doubt in my mind why my older one comes home tired, pissy, explosive, and defeated. When you struggle socially, academically, personally, and a little bit everywhere else, where do you pull from to get you through the tough times? :(

  5. Oh, hells no. Already? Stress? And yet you're not the first MoCo parent to tell me that. Ugh. I HATE the high school stress in this area. Hate. it.

    But this is very cool: "She said not to tell anyone (keep it under your hat, Internet), but that she feels like there's the class and then there's her and Sam." She's lucky to have him in her class, my friend, and he is lucky to have her.

    I hope things get better.

  6. I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but wait till Secondary school....

    I teach at the school my boys go to, and the pressure to do well in the last two tears of school is amazing. (Oops. That's a Freudian slip!) I meant years.

    The kids have interviews every term to talk about results and study. It's pretty full on. But imagine poor Jack. I'm his year 10 student manager, so in his last interview I was there as well. He had Mum and the teacher in the one body. (I felt a bit Sybil.)

  7. Bless his little star deserving heart.

  8. My son started kindergarten this year and has been tops in everything they've done,spelling, reading, math, and so on. His teacher tells them to ONLY color in up and down movements and makes them redo things when they color outside the lines PLUS sends him home with an X for sloppy work, and has even taken him into the hall to question him about why his work was sloppy sometimes! Needless to say, it's caused a lot of stress for the poor kid. he tries so hard, and says that his brain thinks he can do it neat, but sometimes it just doesn't come out like that!


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