A Better Letter

My son started fourth grade this year and it has been a bit of a rough transition for us. It feels like we have exited the warm and nurturing environment of grades past into the rough and tumble, yes you can actually fail a test world of upper grades. Unfortunately my son’s uptake of math is following my trajectory which was basically a downward spiral. It was truly bad for me since I was a science major. Science and math go hand in hand which made subjects like physics not a whole lot of fun. I wish that I had gotten a tutor when I was younger and had been able to kick math’s ass. It was not to be. This is part of the reason I had to walk away from science, that and well, it really doesn’t pay well. That may sound lame but it is what it is.

So my poor math addled son managed to fail, like get an actual F, on his first math test of the year. Part of it was that he didn’t understand the concept (place value) and part of it was that he did not answer a couple of questions the right way (not the name of the continent but the name of the deserts – and yes that was math related). And then he had an F. He did not take it well. When he came home that day he said that he felt sick. That he did not want to go back to school. We tried to console him but it was no use. He was like the Anthony Michael Hall character in Breakfast Club, he pulled the tail and the elephant wouldn’t light. I reached out to his teacher who had told us at orientation that we should not be teaching our children. That if there were things that they did not understand, to let him know and he would give them extra help. I immediately sent an email.

The next day, his teacher kept my son in from recess to go over the concepts. Then he told the class that if they needed help they should get it. That it was like being in quicksand and the more that you struggle the deeper you will sink. The night before the test which was on rounding numbers, my son was still shaky on the concept. He could round a two digit number and three digit number no problem but once we started rounding the hundred thousand place in a number that reached into a million he just couldn’t grasp that it was the same thing he had been doing. I emailed his teacher that I had fear in my heart for the test. He reassured me and ended up working with my son on test day. At the end of the day my son called me and told me that he thought that he had done well. Then the waiting began. What if he really hadn’t done well? What if his optimism was crushed? Finally, on Monday the grade was posted. He got an A- bringing his F in math up to a C. The grade system sent me a low grade alert about the C. I laughed at the C. I scoffed at the C. I danced joyful circles around the C. I welcomed the C into our family and kicked the F out. Hopefully it’s gone for good.

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About nematomorph

Living like the rich and famous, splitting time between Hawaii and New York.
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One Response to A Better Letter

  1. maukamakai says:

    I have been having the exact same feelings about 4th grade that you express in your opening paragraph. 4th graders are expected to be more responsible for their homework and their stuff. I noticed that all the parents raising their hands in curriculum/meet the teacher night asking about math homework workbooks and trapper keepers and packing up for the day at 3pm were all parents of boys.

    I commend your son’s teacher for following through with giving help to students who need it. But on the other hand, I think it can “feel” like a punishment to be held back from recess. I understand that with class sizes and lack of teacher assistants, that may be the only time when extra help can be given.

    Yes, dance your a** off around that C! C is for CELEBRATE! Celebrate the accomplishment of working hard and getting it.

    Don’t get me started on letter grades at all. I will say this. Since they start giving letter grades in 4th grade, we try to keep the focus on What Is Being Learned, rather than focusing on the test, or points or the grade, that is given at the end of a week/semester/year.

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