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Michele Doesn’t Quite Have the Crappy Teacher Market Cornered

We have a very stubborn Boy child. He’s ten now and he has fought and kicked and screamed about doing his homework since frickin’ Kindergarten. But we are nothing if not tenacious, and have learned to manipulate him quite effectively into doing what we expect, with as little resistance as possible. He started fifth grade this year, and the level of homework is absolutely astonishing.

Monday – Write a list of twenty spelling words three times each and study them.

Ok, no big deal there, usually takes him about 10 minutes of writing, then another 15 minutes study time.

Tuesday – Ten math pages. Two pages of word problems. Study spelling words

This is nightmare night. Each page has about 10 to 20 questions on it, in varying forms (ie. equations and word problems). They’ve apparently started algebra already. The word problem pages are crazy advanced for the fifth grade. It is not unusual for homework on this night to take until bedtime (start at 3:30, break for dinner, go to bed around 9).

Wednesday – Four reading question/answer pages. Study spelling words.

This usually takes about an hour and a half. These are typically a breeze for him, but time consuming due to quantity.

Thursday – Write a report on a loosely defined science topic (ie. polymers) for presentation to the class.

He loves this night’s homework, so it isn’t much of a trial, but the handwriting, christ the handwriting… His brain moves too fast for his pencil.

So, the above schedule wasn’t working for me. The full night of math on Tuesday was causing major heartburn for everyone in the family. I have now spread that out two math pages per night (starting Friday night, yes, and working through the weekend), with the other stuff thrown in as it fits. This works for us. Less painful for everyone, and the Boy actually has time to be a kid every day.

Now, with that solved, enter problems the Boy’s teacher. Mr. M is an ex-Marine. Oh good, we thought, because the Boy is very strong willed, and a weak teacher just cannot deal with him (see the utter failure of the touchy-feely Berkeley reject who had zero control over him in third grade). But Mr. M apparently has a problem. He’s retiring next year, and this last year of ten-year old little punkass shits is just more than he can take. Apparently he enjoys screaming at the children on a regular basis. Now, I’ll be the very first to admit that a ten-year old has some amazing manipulative powers, and I’ve screamed at mine at least twice a week since he turned that age, but if a 50-something ex-military person can’t A) maintain class discipline, or B) maintain his own self-discipline, then he should have retired some time ago.

After a report from the Boy last week regarding an issue with an assignment given by a substitute teacher, and a yelling fit by Mr. M which resulted in the Boy being placed in the corner (At his age? Get real!), Husband called the school to speak with Mr. M. Mr. M said to Husband (and I do quote here), “Your son is a slacker in a lot of ways…”

Um, yeah. The Boy has a big brain. And a big will. The teacher HAS to be stronger than he is, or both will suffer. As parents there is not very much we can do about this, other than making sure that whomever is teaching him does not attempt to BREAK him, as this Mr. M seems intent on doing.

Thus, the Husband ventures to the school today to meet with Mr. M, to see precisely where the problem lies. The fact that Mr. M spent most of the day today reminding the Boy that he was meeting with his father tonight, and that Mr. M was going to tell his father all about his transgressions during said meeting, kind of points right to it, doesn’t it.


After a nearly two-hour meeting with Mr. M yesterday, here’s the upshot:

– The Boy is intimidated by Mr. M, to the point where he will not ask for help if he doesn’t understand something.

– The Boy is disrupting class with constant chatter, something Mr. M has to get a handle on.

– Mr. M admitted he’d probably “put up a wall” between himself and the boy, out of frustration, whatever. He seemed genuinely contrite about this and vowed to work to repair the problem.

– An extensive talk with the Boy still had him denying everything Mr. M reported regarding his behavior (and can I just tell you that this reflexive lying is really getting on my fucking nerves), yet seems to understand that this could potentially be his favorite teacher ever, with his heavy emphasis on science (which the Boy adores). He’s promised to tabula rasa everything and get his shit together in the classroom.

It’s exhausting, I tell you, this raising kids business. And I know it’s only going to get harder from here, as the hormones start dumping into their systems. I’m not really sure why anyone does this on purpose.

Well, until they spontaneously hug you. 🙂