Apples for the Teacher

Is there anything less welcome in the middle of a workday than receiving an e-mail from your kid’s teacher with the subject line:

[Your Child’s Name]’s Homework/Performance/Participation/Behavior?

And then receiving another one an hour later, with your other kid’s name in the subject line?

There probably is, but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time.  At the time, it feels like winning back-to-back Razzies for being The Worst Mom in the World.

I mean, one iffy apple can happen in the best of groves, but two on the same branch?  That tree must be slacking.

According to my children’s teachers, our little autodidacts decided to take this semester off.   I don’t know if they decided this independently or dropped out in an act of surprising solidarity, but either way, the timing is worrying.

Jane was doing the homework written in her assignment book, because we were checking that, but she wasn’t writing everything down, clever girl, and wasn’t turning in what she did do, for reasons we have yet to ascertain.  And then she lost—or “lost”—the assignment book.

Sunny simply decided she didn’t want to participate in class, and didn’t.  She was doing the work that was in her take-home folder, but there were also a lot of assignments lost between school and home, and back again.

My husband and I learned about all this last Tuesday.

Except for the reasons behind it.  We can guess, but we really don’t know, and it’s possible they don’t either.

Today, we have back-to-back conferences with Jane and Sunny’s teachers, and the principal, to see if we can help the kids turn this around.

In the interim, we cut off all non-school use of screen time, including Jane’s beloved iPod and the TV.

I gave Jane a composition notebook for her assignments and due dates and she came up with the idea of having her teacher initial her homework list at the end of the day, at least until we could trust her.  Her teacher believes in student responsibility, but has agreed to this for now.

We had a series of talks with Sunny about the importance of homework that may or may not have made a dent.

And I didn’t turn on my computer on weekdays until the kids were officially in bed, except for school-related work—permission forms wait for no one, and Jane had an essay draft due.

We did our homework together—I dug out my yellow legal pads and favorite Ninja pencils and generated some wordcount—and in our free time, we played and danced and read and drew and make sure work was finished and put INSIDE folders and backpacks.

Not next to, not underneath, not on top of.  INSIDE.

We’ll find out this afternoon if this has been working.

The kids say it has, but we’re waiting for third-party confirmation.

If they’re right, we may continue the no screen time rule on school days.  The TV may remain off until Friday evening—after all homework is done.  I may have to adjust my blogging schedule a bit and move some deadlines.

Because maybe it’s not only the accountability, but the playing and dancing and reading and drawing that’s working.

Because maybe those Razzies were earned.

Maybe all apples really want is to know their tree is paying attention.



13 thoughts on “Apples for the Teacher

    • Sunny is sleeping better when we read to her before bedtime. Jane is still worried about her electronic pet, but I’m keeping it alive for her.

      Wish that distance wasn’t so long . . .

      (Took the family to Granite City on Sunday. Your mother ate her body weight in Eggs Benedict. It was an awe-inspiring sight.)

  1. Good approach. It’s a battle I know as well, though solutions for boys are different. I do believe that the level of distraction for kids has increased significantly in the last 20 years. Your 2 sound ever so bright and likely are taking your lead.

    • That’s a terrifying thought, John. 🙂

      Seriously, though, you’re right. All we had was a land line and maybe TV and what we could see of the world a reasonable bike ride from our houses.

      Now, they have the whole world all at once.

  2. I love those surprise notes when all seems perfectly fine. The advantage on the non electronic nights for me is that time slows to a more human pace. The downside, of course on occasion, is the time slows. Fight the good fight, dear friend.

    • Thanks, Lyra.

      What surprised me is the gratitude of the teachers and the principal that we were willing to come in and work with them instead of slamming into denial mode: “Not MY child!”

      I might have whined a little, in secret, but it never occurred to us to ignore the problem and do nothing.

      • Says a lot about our current national mental state when teachers are grateful that parents want to get to the root of the problem with help from educators – and were expecting a first-class Ivy League-educated things-always-go-my-way hissy fit instead.

        I’m ready to move to Mars, or away from this condiment at least.

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