Honesty: Not Always the Best Policy

Today, I sat with my son’s seventh grade English teacher at Parent-Teacher Conferences while he read some of my son’s responses to questions the teacher had asked about the class. He was trying to gauge how his new students were feeling, whether they were keeping up, stressed, having fun.

How are you feeling about La/Lit?

My son wrote something along the lines of “I like class, but I hate reading and writing. It is sooooo boring.”

He had written a similar statement in a letter to his sixth grade teacher, but I made him delete it, explaining then that telling an English teacher that you don’t like to read is not only stupid, but not nice. He is the sweetest kid on the planet, so fortunately everyone gets that he is not being purposefully disrespectful.

He just doesn’t get it.

Do you feel comfortable with the teaching style used in this class?

My son wrote (and unfortunately, I think I have this one close to verbatim), “Your teaching style doesn’t really work with me, because you make everything more complicated than it has to be. Maybe you do that for the kids that struggle.”

I put my head down on the table.

And the teacher, who I respect immensely, laughed, “And that’s not why I gave him an F on his note-taking.”

You know I’m gonna be breathing down his neck at homework time…

… and we might just have to work on ditching the honesty thing. Too much of anything makes you look like a ding-dong.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

When you get that first email from the teacher saying your child is being naughty, you feel like the wind got knocked out of you… even if you knew that with this kid, the email was inevitable. By the fifth email, you are already elbows deep in working with him to curb his rowdiness, pushing in line, hitting, silliness or wiggles.

To make the communication short and sweet, while enabling his teacher and I to work together to battle my son’s tendency to hit-back-and-ask-questions-later, we developed a mere thumbs-up or thumbs-down for the day.

While frustrated that my son is hitting his friends, I enjoy his honesty.

“Did you have a good day?” I ask as he climbs in the car.

I do not need to wait for the emails, which happily come less frequently now. My son has never given himself a thumbs-up. It is always slightly to the side or wiggling.

“It was perfect until…” or “I almost made it, but then…”

On the especially bad days – the hitting or pushing in line days – he dives into the story as the car door opens. No thumbs required.

Two days ago, the thumbs were almost straight up. “Except right in the last minute, my teacher said no touching the easel, and I touched the easel.”

“That wasn’t very smart. Why would you do that?”

“I was so tired, I had to do something to entertain myself.”

And yesterday…

“Not so good. I was too…”