Teachers, Kids, Parents, and Pencil Sharpeners

My first-grader came home with a note from school yesterday. He broke the pencil sharpener. The note regaled us with how the teacher had purchased the pencil sharpener (an industrial pencil sharpener) with leftover funds from the PTL. And how on the first day of class she had explained to all the kids that only pencils go in here, no crayons or anything else.

So my son, according to the letter, was putting in markers and erasers and “encouraging the other kids to put stuff in it too.” All while thinking it was a big joke.

The letter ended by saying that now she was going to have to buy a new pencil sharpener with her own money (what? You went through all the money the PTL gives you at the beginning of the year for school supplies already?), that, as a lesson to Kurt, he should help defray some of the cost since he broke it, and she thought Kurt should write a letter of apology to the class for ruining the pencil sharpener and trying to get the other kids to sin.

OK. She had me until that last word: Sin. Fine, I get it. It’s a Lutheran School. (They already sent my older son home with a warning because he dared to wear a Pink Floyd shirt. Which reminds me, I have to run out and get a Megadeth shirt before the school function on Friday.) But sin? I think God has more important things to worry about than if a kid is tempting other kids to break a pencil sharpener. At least, I hope He’s that busy. If He’s not, maybe someone needs to look into what He’s been doing while on the job. Maybe He’s surfing the Internet, watching Godtube.com.

OK, first some background. There are only 10 kids in my son’s class. Smallest class in years at that school. His school work has been coming back and his math is atrocious. He’s getting 30s and 40s for grades.

This from a kid who was doing great in math the year before. He struggled with reading, but math seemed to be his strong suit. We even gave him age appropriate math workbooks over the summer and he excelled at them. Now he’s failing?

I might add here that we’ve already had a run-in of sorts with her. At the school’s Open House a month ago we met with her and she expressed her concerns that Kurt tends to go off and do his own thing. I said proudly, “Yes, he marches to his own little drummer.” She saw this as a bad thing, however, and went on to give us examples of this horrid behavior.

Gripe 1–When the class was having snack and his table’s snack bowl (a cheap ass coffee filter) was empty, he took it upon himself to cleanup and threw everything away. His table was upset because they had wanted more popcorn and now they couldn’t because he had thrown away the bowl (a cheap ass coffee filter).

Gripe 2–When Kurt is line leader he will, on occasion, lead the class in a direction completely contrary to where the teacher wants the class to go.

She explained all this with a look of horror, as if she had some sort of monster on her hands. I thought of it as him showing initiative and leadership, qualities I definitely hope she doesn’t squelch over the remainder of the school year. Although I am seeing signs that she’s squelching his interest in going to school.

(I won’t even bring up the fact that we also have over Halloween with this teacher. She thinks Christians shouldn’t celebrate it, I think it’s great Pagan fun and have allowed Kurt to take Halloween decorations for show-and-tell just to spite her.)

What exactly was the teacher doing during this time? She says he put a marker, an eraser, and was encouraging the other kids. At what point was she planning on interfering?

Lastly, I asked Kurt a few questions. Why did he do it? He doesn’t know. But I’m used to that. He often acts before thinking.

What did you stick into the pencil sharpener? “A marker. An eraser. And a scissors.” Ah-ha! She never mentioned a scissors! (I must admit, when my kid sets out to break something, he does a damned fine job.)

Why the scissors? Again, “I don’t know.”

Did you encourage any other kids? “No.” And I believe him. Kurt is not that kind of kid. He does things on his own. He plays on his own. He’s a loner, in most respects. He is not an instigator. He doesn’t go, “Hey, Joey, come ‘ere, let’s go do this!” He leads by example.

Anyway, we made him send all his money, all $10 to the teacher. Had him write out two apologies, one to the teacher and one to the class. And then we included a $15 check ourselves. We’ve also banned him from playing X-Box for 3 weeks. And at this point, we’re banning him from Trick-or-Treating, although that might change if he shows some remorse by Sunday. (Yeah, we’re one of those stupid Trick-or-Treat on Sunday afternoon communities.)

I had a point when I started this… Oh, yeah. Kurt is not a bad kid. He’s not naughty as we define naughty, he’s just . . . well, to put it one-way, a boy . . . to put it another, he just doesn’t think about consequences. He’s hard working, honest, very happy, and lovable, just hyperactive and if left to his own devices, will get into trouble.

With a class size of 10, how can he get into trouble? How can he be failing math? I get the feeling that class size just doesn’t matter. 10 kids, 20 kids, 30 kids, she’s going to teach her class the same way she’s taught her classes for the last 10 or 20 years or however its been. No personal interaction, just “Here’s your work, do it and I’ll be sitting here meditating to God.”

Am I being the prototypical bad parent, taking my child’s side when he’s clearly in the wrong? Or do I have a valid point here?

The school “forced” his kindergarten teacher into retirement after last semester. Kurt thrived under her tutelage and now he’s struggling mightily. Personally? I think they put the wrong horse out to pasture.

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6 thoughts on “Teachers, Kids, Parents, and Pencil Sharpeners

  1. Wow. I have no kids, and really have no way of offering up a valid or useful opinion, but I will anyway!

    It sounds to me like Kurt is being a kid – a normal kid. And that maybe, just maybe, this teacher is of that breed . . . the Stick-Up-The-Butt purebreds. The ones who believe, especially since this is a private school, that each child should be a little angel who sits quietly and does exactly what their told, without using their own little kid minds.

    My oldest sister is a teacher – and I was once a kid – so I’ve seen both sides, and many of that breed of teacher. Luckily, you’d only get stuck with them for one year, and then usually move on to another, hopefully mixed breed one the next year and have a better time being a Kid!

  2. Oh, your grammar correction reminded me!

    I might also explain that the teacher’s big thing seems to be penmenship. Papers come back because an “O” isn’t a perfect circle, or the tail on a little “g” isn’t hooked perfectly, or she can’t find the dot to the “i.”

    Along these lines, she has sent home spelling tests where she marked words incorrect because an “a’ wasn’t perfectly formed. She even marked the word “Dad” wrong because he capitalized it.

    Sorry, lady, in our house Mom and Dad are capitalized. They are proper nouns, our names.

    If she spent less time on penmenship and more on math I might not be so inclined to criticize the fact that my son is now a sinner.

  3. I’m not seeing where what he did was so horrendous. Wrong, sure, but not completely horrendous I hope you let him go trick-or-treating tonight with all the other little pagan devils.

  4. When I was in third grade my teacher called in BOTH my parents for a conference. She was concerned that I was left-handed. For of course, the left hand is that of SATAN! ! ! Well, my daddy was a minister and my mama a special ed teacher and they gave that lady holy what for. Really, except for that aberration, she was a perfectly good teacher.

    Anyhoo…

    Ed, you need to speak to the school administration ASAP. You know your child better than this teacher. If he is a truthful kid, then he didn’t try to entice other kids into misbehaving per what he said to your question. Fight for your child, Ed. Make waves. There is no reason his math ability should change so drastically – especially with parents who kept his skills going through the summer.

    And Ed, if there’s a decent public school he can go to? Maybe you should think about switching him after Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, get some more math workbooks or homeschool math lessons online and teach him at home. Do not let this teacher ruin his attitude toward school. Once it goes bad it’s hard to turn good again.

  5. No. There isn’t a decent public school we can send them to, that’s why they’re going private.

    If we lived in the burbs, there are several good schools there. But we have a horrible public school system that believes the answer to poor student performance is to throw more money at the problem. They already outspend every other school system per student.

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