Teach your children well
“April’s third-grade teacher really challenged the students. But Mike and I are very disappointed with her new teacher, Ms. Smith. She seems to take the path of least resistance. The school year is already two weeks old, and April comes home almost every day and says she’s bored. We have sent a certified letter of complaint to the school committee.”I’ve heard worse things in coffee shops. I once heard a guy say, “I get all my information from Fox News.”I took a surreptitious look at April’s mother. She and her tablemate, both attractive and well-dressed, appeared to be visitors. I pretended to read my New York Times while trying to listen. In a nutshell, here is what I learned:April is gifted. For her first three grades, she has been the most motivated student in her school. Her earlier teachers seemed to recognize her genius, but Ms. Smith treats her like any other student. What’s worse is that her new teacher allows the slower students to drag down the pace of the entire class. I also learned that April’s mother has called some of the other parents to see if their children (who I’m sure also are gifted) are bored as well.To her credit, the other lady suggested that April’s mum give it a few months to see how things shake out. The statements I were able to hear were: “Every teacher has a different style. Perhaps April will learn to like Ms. Smith.”Admittedly, I have a bias here. When I was April’s age, I was one of the students slowing down the pace for the entire class. But I will say I wasn’t the worst. There was this one guy, Arthur Neagle, who used break off pieces of his desk and eat them. Perhaps some parents back then were upset because Arthur and I were dragging down the learning pace, but I doubt any mother sent a certified letter. And I can tell you no classmate complained. Well, one did, but Arthur bit him. Parents used to give educators the benefit of the doubt. I only can speak for my mother when I say I’m sure she was just delighted to have her six kids in school and out of the house. And though admittedly I was not in the same ZIP code as the top of my class, all my brothers and sisters were at the top of their respective classes, and I don’t remember them complaining of boredom. (If they had, my parents would have found something for them to do around the house.) Neighborhood respectParents then were of the mind that school was just part of their child’s education. A child might learn to read and write in school, learn manners from his mother, morals from his dad and respect from the bigger kids in the neighborhood. In other words, though it might take a village to raise a child, the ultimate responsibility belongs with the two people who brought him into the world. Moreover, if your child is not being challenged in school, tell them to read a book; better yet, read a book with them. No one becomes a public-school teacher to get rich; I would guess most consider it a calling. I graduated from high school with the GPA of a house plant. There is little doubt in my mind I that could have done better had I remained conscious during class. But I can’t blame my teachers – I was tired.I even think my failing grades taught me valuable lessons. One of those lessons was if you seldom attend school and then sleep when you do, you won’t be able to go to college. In retrospect, I wish my parents had been more aware of my education. But at that time, they had their own issues to deal with. Ultimately, responsibility falls in my own lap. Granted, my opinions on parenting are not corrupted by experience. Despite not having children, I’m happy to pay taxes to help educate both children and adults. I think investing in a good school system is not only good for those educated but actually saves money in the long run. But I would remind parents that the decision to have children was theirs. Teachers can teach your children, but parents need to raise them. If your child is bored, take them to a library. If all else fails, send them my way. I’ve got a house that could use a new coat of paint. Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book, “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic,” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.
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