The statute of limitations has expired concerning the following tale, so I can finally tell it.
In October of my now 40-something-year-old son Erics seventh-grade year, he informed me he was probably going to get a D, maybe even an F, in English on his upcoming report card.
Hows that? I asked.
My teacher doesnt like me, Dad, he replied. He then launched into a litany of her many offenses against him, including blaming him for things he didnt do, targeting him for unwarranted criticism, covering his best work with negative comments, and mocking his answers in front of the entire class.
You cant pull wool over my eyes, Eric, I said. Youre a troublemaker in her class. Maybe the other kids think youre funny. She doesnt, and neither do I. I have only one thing to tell you, which is that if you dont get at least a B in her class, you will spend every free moment of the next grading period in your room and you will go to bed every night at seven.
Indeed, he managed to get a B. How he managed to accomplish this feat is something I never looked into. I did not even talk to Miss Malevolence. She may not have been a very good teacher. I doubt that seriously; nonetheless, her competence wasnt the issue. The issue was that I expected Eric to be a good student.
There are three morals to this story, the first of which is that Eric solved his problem because he believed me. He knew that threats were not part of my parenting vocabulary. Can you say the same of your kids?
The second moral is that big problems require even bigger consequences. Most parents, I have discovered, try too hard to make sure punishments fit crimes. In the process, they end up doing nothing of consequence. A child misbehaves in some egregious fashion and parents respond with a light tap to the wrist with a flyswatter. Take that! they cry, and nothing changes.
The third moral is that children do not make good witnesses. hen When they complain about teachers, their complaints are generally not truthful. I dont mean that they are lying. They arent telling the truth because they cannot see it. The ability to accept full responsibility for ones misdeeds separates the men from the boys, which is why a good number of men (including a good number of women) are still boys.
As this school year begins, it would be a good thing if parents resolved to always give a teachers report the benefit of the doubt. Children benefit considerably when adults stand together.