Monday, June 07, 2010

Free Advice from Anne for When Your Kids Are Flunking a Class

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" A warm thank-you to all who helped The Spare with her French story about dragons! She turned the project in today, on deadline. Debra, She Who Seeks offered assistance, but I have to say THE Michael's brilliant idea to run the thing through a translation program (see Comments) was uplifting. And the ever-helpful Yellowdog Granny shortened and simplified the tale in ways calculated to warm the heart of any French teacher. Well, maybe. Okay, maybe not. But I liked it!

The Spare has had the very devil of a time with French. There's been ongoing antagonism with the teacher practically since Day One of Spare's freshman year.

As with anything else in this world, you can learn valuable lessons from having to deal with an unmotivated student and a stubborn teacher. I've taken the scenic route to this lesson, so I'm going to give you the short cut.

The short cut is this: If a teacher sends home a failure notice, don't freak! Teachers expect parents to freak and wig out on the kids. Especially in Snobville, where every single brat goes Ivy League or is branded a Failure for Life.

Try this approach instead. Tell the teacher to go ahead and flunk your kid.

What? No grounding? No extra chores, no withheld allowance? No speech about High School Setting the Scene for the Rest of Your Life?

Who needs such aggravation in the household at the end of a long day?

And so, last year when Spare got a letter home that said she might flunk French, I wrote back to the teacher thus:

Dear Madame,

If Spare flunks French, that means that Spare has not mastered the material. She needs to take the year over and really master the material. So if you feel she has not learned French, then flunk her till she learns it.

Spare passed.

See, many of these dire teacher letters are -- how shall we say this -- penned with an ulterior motive. "Your daughter may fail French" translates from teacher-ese to parent-ese thus: "Your daughter isn't paying attention and doing her work, and I want you to punish the crap out of her."

Worst punishment I could think of would be to flunk French and have to take it over. And rare though it is for a teenager to agree with a parent, Spare felt the same way. Spare picked up her game a bit and never missed a single trip to the thrift store.

So here's my free advice. If your child is about to enter high school, have them take Latin, or some other useful language. And have your kid start at Level 1, unless you've got some future Mensa genius under your roof. Those years playing with foreign languages in Middle School? Useless! Spare had two years of French in Middle School, and all she learned was that she likes quiche but not escargot.

I will reiterate for clarity:


1. Pick a useful language.
2. Start at Level 1.
3. If the teacher sends home a failure notice,
     A. take a new language at Level 1, or
     B. call the teacher's bluff and let the kid fail.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pick up the unfinished dragon drawings on my office floor. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for foreign language classes. I hope some day to journey to New Zealand to learn English.


Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

No, no, no! You have mistranslated the teacher's note. A note predicting the possibility of a student's failure REALLY means this:

"I realize, O helicopter parent, that you not only cannot bear the thought of your child being imperfect in any way, but that, in the event of your child refusing to do the work required to pass my class, your backup plan is to call a parent conference with me and with the principal of my school.

"At that conference, it is your plan to accuse me of "never letting you know there was a problem!" and to attempt to extort a higher grade from me via the principal by means of threatening hints.

"This note is your advance notice that I am aware of your plan, and a copy of all correspondence to you is being kept on file. In the event your child fails my class, I have no intention of EITHER losing my job or changing your kid's grade.

"So get to work to change this one on your end, 'cause I've done my part. Cope!"

At least, that's what it means when I send it...

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...


Anne Johnson said...

And myself, the non-helicopter parent, says to my offspring, "Here's a failure notice. If you fail, you have to endure another year of Madame, with whom you share mutual loathing."

Note the candid lack of extortion and the realistic take on the situation.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

LOL! French is a useful language here in Canada, but perhaps not so much in the U.S. -- although Spanish would be more handy for you than us. Latin may be a dead language but at least you could pretend you were at Hogwart's while learning it.

Spare said...

the french teacher hates me thats why when you said "Should she just take the class again" she freaked at the idea of having another year of me! I'm so cruel! :)

Maebius said...

When I was in school, I got one of those notes from the "hated teacher" and my parents did almost the same thing.

They asked if any special tutoring was available, or suggestions for further help with the student in such an apparently difficult subject.
I don't know what they said Exactly, but was apparently implied that "the teacher's job was to teach, so please help us parents in backing you up, since we as parents do not know the subject material, and only want to help you help our kid". (I did my homework and honestly WAS struggling, and did not grok the material)

The teacher passed me, barely. Which I at the time was glad for, and almsot resented in later life since I still never understood the subject fully.

Lori F - MN said...

I actually like makeing the punishment fit the 'crime' way of parenting. When my boys are fighting, I threaten to put them in their brother's room. That sets them straight!

LJ said...

I've got one going into High School this next year, and sadly the ONLY Latin teacher in this district just retired at the end of this last school term. Spanish is a given, but I really wanted Mouth to take Latin.

THE Michael said...

A "useful" language would be Klingon.

Lavanah said...

I really wonder what it is about high school french teachers. Earlier this school year, my daughter stayed home from school because she had the swine flu (everyone remember the swine flu?) Madame sent home a note saying that since my daughter had a presentation due that day, she should have come into school just for French class, and then gone home. Please note: the presentation was to prepare and serve food to the teacher and classmates. So, how does one say "swine flu" in french?


i thought my version while not accurate was closer to the truth.ha.glad you liked it..i have several i believe french dictionary's if she would like me to send them to her..

em said...

Having been a student in a very similar situation, I have to agree with both your advice and action - especially about starting at level 1. It's almost exactly what I told my younger sister!
I started at a level 2, because I'd taken some french in middle school, but I was very behind in grammar... it caused problems from day 1. Additionally, the teacher had this African-Belgian accent that was extremely difficult to understand, and some very strange rules (like having to turn everything in on yellow, legal-pad, lined paper in either blue or black ink). That only added to problems in class, and my parents of course went through the rigamarole of meetings and saying "what does my daughter need to do?". It didn't really help any. So thank you in the stead of all stressed out students for taking such a calm approach!

Still, since I have had some really wonderful french teachers. Let the Spare know not to give up just because of one teacher - French is a very beautiful language. :)

Hillbilly Fairy said...

All I can say is, thank the gods for summer vacation! My Spare slithered through Algebra II much the same way your Spare got through French... all the while, the threat of having to take it again barking at her heels (or even worse FOR ME -- which *is* the most important priority after all -- SUMMER SCHOOL).

Starcher said...

It may be a little late in the day for advice, but I learned more French from a Vogue France magazine (at 15 bucks, yikes), and from watching movies dubbed in French with English subtitles (or none at all). French radio, French videos online too. Listen to it all day, and at night one will be talking French in their dreams.