["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published September 17, 2015] © 2015
I don’t think there is a parent out there who
wouldn’t agree that if there’s a good teacher-child fit, the school year flies
by. A bad fit and it’s a long year indeed.
I should probably interject that there might not be
anything wrong with the teacher other than that she doesn’t like your kid. As
hard as it is to accept, your child may be a total pain.
You try to work with the teacher, of course. But at
what point do you decide that it’s time to try to change classrooms, or even
schools? A friend’s free-spirited child pretty much had his tushie firmly
affixed to The Bench at his tightly-wound local private school. In fact, we
heard so much about that time-out bench that it became incorporated into our
lives as well. (“Olof,” I’d say to my husband, “do that one more time and
you’re going to The Bench!”) Ultimately,
she moved him to public school where he thrived.
It’s a fine line between trying to make everything
perfect for your child versus concluding that the kid is just going to have to
suck it up.
And that doesn’t change after elementary school.
My older son, Rory, was either adored or hated by
his teachers. He had a teacher one year named Mr. Munzer who truly brought out
the best in him, made him excited about learning, or even more, about behaving.
At the time, I would have liked to have cloned Mr. Munzer and had him teach
Rory for life. But that’s just not the way life works and it’s probably for the
best. Rory would have missed a lot of life lessons along the way. Like, for
example, what happens when you drive to berserkness someone who has power over
I’ve written quite a bit about Rory who could best
be described as a parental terrorist in training. There was nothing he enjoyed
better than getting an adult – parent or teacher – totally wound up.
When Rory was in eighth grade, all the kids were
required as part of their PE class to run around the track within a certain
time limit. Rory never quite made the grade (but not for any lack of physical
ability). The PE teacher, whom Rory decided to target, decided she would make
Rory her personal project, working with him every day after school. As she told me at the time, she wanted every
child to succeed.
Okay, maybe not this one. About three weeks into
this endeavor, I picked up my phone at work to hear a woman screaming “I HATE
your child! I have NEVER hated ANY child as much as I HATE your child!!!” I was
hoping it was a wrong number but alas, I knew just which child she was
referring to. It had taken her that long to realize that Rory, in collaboration
with his digital watch, was running around the track precisely two seconds slower every day just to annoy her. You could
be a quadriplegic and get an A in PE at this school. But she threatened to give
Rory the first F in the school’s history.
I know some parents feel that their child’s teacher
has it in for the kid, but I’ve always felt that if a teacher called me at home
or the office, it wasn’t because they didn’t have anything else to do.
heard from a teacher about my younger son, Henry, who was always a dedicated
student and athlete. But in the spring semester of Henry’s senior year of high
school, I got a call from the AP Physiology teacher who reported that she
didn’t like his attitude. Actually, I didn’t like his attitude either. In fact,
I didn’t much like HIM at the time. That spring, his spirit had already left
for college but his body had to remain behind. I don’t know who suffered more.
Now, Henry had logged ten AP classes during high
school and captained two sports teams so nobody could accuse him of being a
slacker. Discussing the situation with him that night, he complained that the
teacher was terrible; she had them coloring
in diagrams of organs. Total waste of time, he protested. OK, sounded totally
lame to me too.
I had logged a lot of hours in the employment world
by that time, 12 of them as a single working mom after my divorce from the
kids’ father. I told Henry to think of this course not as the study of
physiology but as an exercise in getting along in the real world. If he could
master this, his future work life would go much smoother. You only have to deal
with a teacher for an hour a day for nine months, I noted. In the work world,
your boss might be having you do idiotic assignments for years at a time. You
only have two more months with this lady until you graduate. Unless, of course,
she gets so annoyed that she fails you in which case you won’t. Then you’ll be
here for another year or until one of us kills the other. So figure out a way
to do what she asks so that she’s not calling me again which I told her to do
if you don’t shape up fast.
I think it might have been the most important course
he took in high school.
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