How to organize a binder. Filing papers in binders is the most important task a twelve-year-old can learn. The binders must be neat. The papers must be in their correct chronological order. The binders must always come to class. Otherwise, points off! Failing grades! He wasn’t allowed to bring many papers home during the school year. On Thursday, the last day, the binders came home. A whole year of academic work. And all it adds up to is a paltry pile of worksheets.
How to fill out a worksheet. Ok, the pile isn’t that paltry. Worksheets are now spilling all over my dining room. Cats are skating on worksheets. (They’re delighted by all the loose papers.) My son has nothing to show for his sixth grade year–no authentic pieces of writing, no books read, no projects he’s proud of–except for worksheets.
How to use euphemisms that don’t fool anyone. The F list is called the ICU list. After-school detention is called quality time.
How to ignore empty threats. If you don’t sit down, I’m going to send you to the office. If you don’t be quiet, I’m going to call your mom. If you don’t get this worksheet completed, you’re going on the ICU list. If you can’t be quiet in the hall, you’ve got quality time.
How to get along with teachers. Sit down. Be quiet. Do as you’re told.
How to find his place in the world. “Don’t even think about raising your hand today. You are invisible to me.” “Get out of my class. I don’t even want to look at you.” “I’m going to make you an All-American.” “You’re going to take this school to a state championship.” “You’re going to be a star on the football field.”
This is one version of my son’s sixth-grade year. I hope there are also others. He had fourteen different teachers this year. I am so grateful to the ones who worked to understand him and accommodate his needs.