I have a cold. I am positive that it is due to the amount of stress that my oldest has caused me over the past 2 weeks. Are all eleven year old boys habitually forgetful and infuriatingly unconcerned about schoolwork, or is it just my kid?
Two weeks ago, I received an email from the school reminding me that I should sign up for the parent portal on iNOW -- a handy little tool where the teachers enter grades and you can see how your kid is doing without waiting for report cards or progress reports. Now, since I was procrastinating on doing housework and freelance stuff (shocking, I know), I decided to go ahead and set up my account. We were 4 weeks into school and I thought, "Hey, I am sure that there is nothing to worry about but for future references, lets do this." So I did. Kid one and kid two, the 2 youngest are in kindergarten and first grade and had no grades recorded. That makes sense because they do not start receiving letter grades until 2nd or 3rd grade. Kid 3, the gifted one, had all A's. In fact, her lowest average was a 96. Again, no real surprises there.
Then I logged onto the oldest's account. HOLY CRAP. Four C's and an F. How does he have 4 C's and an F??! It's the 4th week of school!
As I perused the different classes and the entered grades, I noticed a trend. Lots of 0/100 and 0/50 grades. All of them had the same notation beside them -- "NTN". I immediately began emailing his teachers. I quickly learned that NTN means "Not Turned In" (which should be NTI, but no one asked me). I discovered through many, many emails that he has not been turning in his assignments and that he has not kept up things like his journal for English, his science folder, his math notebook, etc. All of his teachers said that he was a great kid, but had no follow through. I assured them that THAT was about to change.
When he came home from school, we had, what you might call "A Come to Jesus Meeting." I told him that the only thing saving him from military school was the lack of funds.
I showed him all of the zeros on the computer. His response was that those were "just participation grades." WHAT?? I pointed out that if you get a 100 for turning something in, and you get a 0 if you don't, then YOU TURN IT IN.
It was like I was speaking a foreign language.
He was placed on restriction. From everything. And he had to apologize to all of his teachers, ask what he could do about the missing assignments, and promise to make more of an effort. You would have thought I had said that he had to wear a diaper to school. I was the meanest mom ever.
We began going over every single part of his homework in every subject, every night. He has a few things working against him, but he is smart. He is at a disadvantage particularly in math thanks to his stellar Texas education. If you remember, I went rounds with his 3rd grade teacher over him learning the times tables. She advised me that "rote memorization was not an effective method for learning" and basically ordered me not to have him memorize them. Well, I ignored her and tried to teach them at home anyway, but I had 3 other kids and he was making A's so I honestly dropped it after a while. Now, he is struggling in math because he doesn't know them. His teacher here agrees with me. Her exact quote was "Rote memorization of the multiplication facts through at least the 12's is essential and in fact crucial to moving forward." And he should have learned them 3 years ago.
Another thing that they never taught him was how to write. I do not mean the alphabet -- I am referring to the ability to form thoughts, express ideas, and write in complete sentences. In Texas, all he had to know how to do was fill in the correct bubble next to A, B, or C, and write "T" or "F". They taught exactly what he needed to know how to do for the standardized tests and no more. (FYI, if that doesn't make you throw out all of those state rankings on education, then maybe you need to go back to school yourself.) Well now he is required to take short answer and essay tests. He is having a very hard time with these. I have pulled my hair out trying to help him to understand, and I am not sure if I am making any progress or not. For example: His science teacher allows them to correct any test that they score less than an 80 on to raise their grade up to an 80. The test covered 3 specific hurricanes (Galveston in 1900, Camille in 1969, and Andrew in 1992). The essay question was about early warning systems for storms and asked the students to write a response that used examples from each of the 3 storms to explain why early warning systems were important. They were to have a strong topic sentence, 3 examples, and a strong conclusion. He wrote a bunch of crap about NOAA, Hurricane planes, and radar systems without mentioning ANY of the storms or the IMPORTANCE of early warning systems. I told him that it was all wrong and that he would have to redo it and he lost it. He told me that what he wrote came straight out of the book and that it was correct. I tried to explain that while it may have been FACTUAL, it did not address the question. 2 + 2 will always be 4, but if the question was what is 6 X 8, then 4 will never be the right answer. We are working on it still, but I may need therapy before we are done.
His dad and I have been working hard with him over the last 2 weeks and he has improved -- 3 B's and 2 C'c at this point. However, we are still struggling with getting him to turn all of his work in. We can make him do it, we can check it for errors, but we cannot turn it in for him. And I have told him that I will go to bat for him if he does the work and gets an answer right that the teacher marks wrong, or if he is somehow cheated on a grade, but that where he is now is entirely his fault and he is on lockdown until the grades come up. I will check his grades DAILY and I had better continue to see improvement or he will find himself in more serious trouble.