A letter to the teachers of each of our sons:
Dear Teachers of ElderSon,
It was nice to attend the school's Open House this week. We're sorry we didn't get to meet some of you, but look forward to later this fall when we will. I thought it might be helpful to share a few comments about ElderSon before classes begin:
ElderSon is very intuitive. Please know that his receptivity to learning is very directly related to your enthusiasm for teaching. This is to say that if teaching your subject is not a joy for you, learning from you won’t be a joy for him. He can tell.
ElderSon is a deep thinker. This may not be evident. But most things that you do or say will stick with him in some form and he will look for deeper meaning in everything...whether there is a deeper meaning or not.
ElderSon is a bit lazy. If he’s asked to write an essay with a pen and paper, he’ll give you the standard three brief paragraphs of three sloppy sentences each. But if you allow him to use a computer, he can write eloquently for a long time (especially on a subject which interests him) and you will get much better results. He thinks a lot faster than he can write, and can type faster than he can write, too. This kid could amaze you with his writing ability - the trick is getting him to write well on topics which he finds less fascinating.
ElderSon needs firm deadlines with no loopholes (He’s very good at loopholes!). This is to say that if you tell him that one grade is deducted for every day late an assignment is turned in, he will convince himself that 2 or 3 days late on good work does not equal an F and so submitting work late is –technically, not failing. And not failing is technically, succeeding – you see where I’m going with this, don’t you? (we fear ElderSon would make a great lawyer!)
You will find ElderSon to be a very kind and likeable person. He will never be disrespectful or rude to you. He will likely tell you exactly what you want to hear about everything. If he doesn’t like you or agree with you about something, you’ll probably never know it (we will, though).
ElderSon seems to be fairly satisfied with mediocrity. He’s capable of much, but satisfied with that which meets the minimum requirement. If you raised the overall bar a little, you’ll see better work from him. If you find a way to motivate him, to make him genuinely interested in what you are teaching, he will even excel.
ElderSon is a sensitive guy and relationships run deep with him. This can work to your benefit. Earn his respect and treat him with kindness and respect and he will do his best for you and you will have an admirer for life. He will listen to you and learn from you. Belittle him or be less than kind – especially in a public sort of way – and he will likely blow you off for the duration of his middle school career (not unkindly, mind you – he’ll simply smile and check out when it comes to you and anything you have to say).
ElderSon likes to be like everyone else – this is probably a temporary middle school phase. He wants to look like everyone else, talk like everyone else, and act like everyone else – so as not to stand out in a crowd. In many ways he is not like everyone else, and he knows this and is OK with it. But he doesn't really seem to want anyone else to know it. So we hope your classes are all full of happy and attentive over-achievers!
Dear Teacher of YoungerSon,
It was nice to meet you at the school's Open House last week. I thought it might be helpful to share a few comments about our son, as a way of introduction, before classes begin:
First, I was impressed that you recognized our last name and immediately made the connection that YoungerSon is the brother of ElderSon - good memory! However, you will find out within about the first 5 minutes of class that a last name and a set of parents is just about all our sons have in common.
YoungerSon, while very bright, has the attention span of a large flea. The fact that you have a class of 34 students this year with no door on your classroom will not be at all helpful for YoungerSon. He will likely learn a lot – but it probably won’t be what you are teaching. It will be the contents of every conversation happening in the library just outside your door and in the hallways and classrooms nearby.
Being a cool teacher will impress YoungerSon a lot. Even if your presentation of material is really boring, if you are cool, you’ll be able to hold YoungerSon for at least awhile. But because he thinks he’s cool too, the danger here is that YoungerSon will look at you as a very tall peer. I see that you have long hair and retro eyeglasses – and you are his first male teacher, which in itself, is cool. You are the teacher he hoped he’d get this year. YoungerSon will definitely think you are cool – at least at first. Find a way to use this.
(By the way: I know that you and the other 5th grade teachers are growing your hair out in order to donate it to be used in hairpieces for those living with cancer. We all think this is very cool!)
Don’t laugh at anything YoungerSon says or does...ever...even if it’s really funny. If you give him an audience even once you will have a clown on your hands for the rest of the year. All the world IS a stage, and YoungerSon knows this.
YoungerSon is a tactile learner. If all you do is talk while he sits at his desk, what he will hear is what Charlie Brown heard from his teacher in the old cartoons (but you are too young to remember the old Charlie Brown cartoons, aren’t you?) . Please help him learn by letting him get up off his bum once in awhile and letting him do something with his hands – anything. If you don’t, he will ask to go to the restroom about 20 times each day.
YoungerSon notices everything. I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. This can be helpful - but sometimes it is not.
YoungerSon thinks outside the box – almost all of the time. He is less interested in the way something is than in the way it isn’t, or in the way it could be. That is to say that if you tell him that the earth is round, rather than just accepting that and moving on, he will stop and spend a lot of time imagining what the world would be like if it weren’t round ... What if it were triangular? Or a trapezoid? Two dimensional? What would things look like? How would this affect gravity? What would I look like?, etc.We don’t know where he gets this.
YoungerSon is good at math – we don’t know where he gets this either. None of the rest of us are. He also loves to draw -on everything. You will notice this with the first assignment he turns in. Another tip: if he is drawing what you are talking about, he’s listening and learning.
YoungerSon doesn’t really like the academic part of school much – but he loves seeing his friends every day. And he does like Gym and Art - and recess and lunch. As people who care about his education, it would be good if we could find a way to capitalize on this.
(Oh, and by the way, I saw from your class roster that his pal, B., is also in your class this year. I’m sorry. Before school starts, change the seating arrangement in your classroom so that these guys are on completely opposite sides of the room - preferably out of direct view of each other - and completely surround each of them with girls. It’s your only hope of success with either of them or sanity for yourself.)
Good luck to all of our sons' teachers! You will be in our prayers.