Monday, September 2, 2013

the father-by-phone checks in

A recent post by Captain Capitalism has spurred me to share this little shitbit from home a few months ago. If you haven't met the Captain, please do so. You'll learn something, guaranteed, and the fact that he's another guy who has turned his back on making a living in the field he was trained in makes him a kindred spirit to yours truly, anyhow.

        I have an awesome kid. I try to leave my boy some privacy so I don't go on and on here, but I got very lucky in most every way with my family, especially considering my life and lifestyle, and the fact that I spend so much time at sea. My kid's a real individual- smart, about a head taller and half again as big across the shoulders as most other boys his age. He prefers the company of adults compared to other kids, for the most part, with the exception of a few friends. He has the ability, at 10 years old, to tell women what they want to hear, which makes me nervous. He's also incredibly stubborn yet very well behaved. Strange combination, but bear with me, as it pertains to this story.

 My boy learned Portuguese first, and, while fluent in English, he learned Portuguese first, which put him behind his peers early on, so he spent 3 years in supplemental ESL classes in his first years in grade school.
     Anyhow, all last year I was receiving progress reports showing that my kid was excelling in math, but lagging in English classes. I wasn't actually home for the regular parent/teacher conferences until the end-of-year conference, so I never actually met my kid's teacher last year. I know that my wife was ambivalent about the woman, who had complained that my boy was disruptive when bored, and corrected the teacher. A LOT. Comes with the territory I guess of spending too much time with adults. I'll admit that I was a little dismissive of my wife's opinion, as I thought her dislike came from the woman's having given some constructive criticism, and my wife is pretty fierce about anyone talking shit about her boy.

 Anyhow, I got some not-so-subtle classism/racism overtones from one of the teachers who had been in contact with my wife. The woman spoke very quickly and ignored my wife's look of confusion when she couldn't keep up with the flow of rapid English. Bowled right over her. (all these years together, my wife still won't admit when she can't understand someone's English, including mine at times). The woman shifted over to me and ignored my wife, and I was trying to figure out what was going on with all the undertones.  Since I don't have a foreign accent, I am obviously the smart parent.
What a bitch. Really.
    Turns out, my kid's teacher last year was into grouping the students randomly, not by ability, and handed out group assignments. In the hour or so alloted to math work, my kid would finish the independent parts in 2-3 minutes, leaving him 20 or more minutes to wait for the others to finish. He was not allowed to do something else, but he could 'help' other students in his group. Well, turns out he didn't like doing that. Hey, he's an individual, and I sympathize. I don't like instructing others either, which is why I'm not a biology teacher getting paid to work 5 hours a day and mentally masturbate for 25 years 'till retirement.
 Anyhow, my kid doesn't like teaching, not least because he tends to do math intuitively in his head. And this teacher was going on and on about his 'difficulty' and her 'difficulty'. And I was wroth. Very wroth, in fact, but I disguised it as confusion.

 "Well, I'm not sure I understand," says I. "You won't teach him at his level, so he's bored, and you're asking him to do your job for you, and he doesn't want to teach the slow kids-"
"Oh, we don't use that word!"
"OK, he doesn't want to sit with the dullards and do your job, but you're not happy that he doesn't want to help the kids who are struggling, and you don't want to give him work that will interest him. Do I understand this correctly?"
"We're concerned that his socialization..."
"We're still talking about math, right?" Math?

     Anyhow, after listening politely while the teacher talked about how bad my kid made the other kids feel because he's bored out of his trees in math class and some of them aren't, I asked if the teacher ever read "Harrison Bergeron." At this point, the ESL teacher, who was sitting with us, looked at me like she had just bit into a lemon.  I hit a nerve, but luckily my kid's main teacher went to a liberal arts college so she hadn't read anything written by a man and had no idea I had just landed a solid body blow.
 Well, my wife explained again that she didn't feel a need or desire to discipline my boy for the crime of being bored and a boy, and I paraphrased to bridge the gap between my wife's version of English and a more clear version, for the sake of clarity, and noted that I concurred, but that we would talk about being more deferential in the future, if they would consider trying to teach our son a little more.

 Anyhow, now I understand what happened in my college days when the students who bombed out of the core bio/chem/physics/calculus classes would reappear in my gen-ed classes the next semester. They couldn't pass a high-school math class, but apparently they can teach it.
 Gah, I wonder what's going to happen when the elderly, knowlegeable but crabby teachers retire? All the students are going to feel great about themselves and their collection of participation trophies, right up until they run into a guy like me at work.


Joseph Gosse said...

not sure if i should comment on your parent teacher visit but i agree with most of your observations and experienced many of them on my visits when i was home for our two daughters. i think it might be good to encourage a little more team work in any enviroment though.

have been following your blog for a little while now an enjoy your observations. good luck with the educational system.
rgds joe

John Feralirishman said...

Hi Paul..

Off topic but you might enjoy this story