Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Making the Grade—Part II

     Here we go again. We've been asking Braden throughout this school quarter how he's doing and whether he's keeping up with his grades and his answers have always been “Fine” and “Yes.” Three weeks ago we get a prerecorded message from his school announcing a mid-quarter report card was sent home that day. Deanne asks him for it and he says, “Oh, yeah...” and retrieves it. Turns out his grades are far from fine. Not even close to fine with C's or worse in Math, English, and Science and a border-line B in History—all honors classes, but nonetheless, all grades unacceptable. This is especially unexpected and unpleasant 'cause he's had so much time throughout his days at home to get in trouble with Jaren, do lousy jobs with dish washing, lie around, do nothing, misuse the computer, give us bad attitude, and in general, look as if he hadn't a care in the world. (Perhaps he's fit to serve in Congress?) We ask him to bring home a print-out of all his grades for every assignment this quarter and through such discover he's been getting tomes of C's, D's, and F's for all these classes.
     Regular readers of this blog (real or imagined) may know the routine for such sub-B grades: Redo all such assignments, show the redone work to the teacher, and ask, “Will this have gotten me a B or better? My father wants to know even if it does not change my grade.”
     I ask which of the sub-B assignments he redid and he says, “None.”
     Why not? I ask, veins in my eyes throbbing like sea slugs.
     He attempts to feed me bovine feces, which I decline because I've already eaten and put him in time-out and make him do all the chores for all eternity.
     I then look at all his redone sub-B work to see that they're up to snuff, but what he shows me looks and smells an awful lot like equine feces (with heavy emphasis on the word awful).
      It takes him billions of attempts at each assignment to finally get them to where I believe they might warrant B's or better. All the while, I'm fuming, he's fuming, Deanne's fuming, and the family (and ozone layer) is suffering! I don't know how else to get it done. Just let him get lazier and lazier and lazier, with a worsening “Who cares?” attitude? I don't even know what he's thinking, sometimes wondering (assuming) he's doing it all just to irritate me and show me up.
     I start reading a book that I find on a library display called The Teen Whisperer 'cause it sounds so nice to be able to whisper to Braden to get him to put in his best effort the first time every time and follow-up on sub B grades with an attitude of excellence and responsibility without having to be told (shouted at, disciplined, threatened, etc. etc. etc.) as if he were completely ignorant on the matter even though this has been our ongoing routine during the beginning of every school year since he was in diapers. What must I whisper to him? I love you? Please? Pretty please with sugar on top? I know this must be difficult for you? How can I help you? Is there anything bothering you? I hope (though I know I shouldn't) that there is some magic incantation that I can whisper to him in his sleep that will solve all his life's ills...
     Turns out the book's pretty reasonable (but not earth-shattering—Where's the magic bullet?) and even softens my heart some, so after he breaks down and cries in anguish (over the difficulty of learning—Yes, learning and thinking are difficult, they're some of the most difficult things there are to do, that's why jobs that require such are some of the higher paid (excepting rock star, pro athlete, CEO, and hedge fund manager), I've told him. But the upside is that they're also some of the most rewarding and doing without thinking and learning makes life far more difficult. I realize, eventually, that he's just going through typical teen angst, of which I had more than my fill when I was a teen, and yes, I do remember and empathize.) I give him a choice: Do what needs to get done by quarter end and he gets to keep all his classes. Don't do adequate, and I'll have him drop Honors Science in favor of regular Science. (The most recent grades listing shows marked improvements in Math (low A territory), English (low B territory), and History (a solid B). Science has dropped to D territory, however, with Fs and an ungraded “redo” for recent assignments, one of which he spent hours on, including a Saturday afternoon taking a bus to and from the library to do internet research. He's trying fairly hard, I see, but is still struggling in the class. A change must be made—I don't want this to be the beginning of a long downhill slide...) If the school demurs, I'll insist he drop his favorite elective: JROTC, which is demanding and at times distracting, taking time and attention from academics (though he may resume it next year, assuming he earns decent marks in all his core academic subjects).
     He isn't pleased, but then again, what does he expect? He can no longer score A's and B's with minimal effort like in the past, he's going to have to work much, much harder to thrive and enjoy school, which are critical at his age should he desire higher education later, 'cause it's not going to get any easier, it's going to just keep getting tougher and tougher. I don't like laying down the law this way, but under the circumstances, I feel I must. It's what helpful dads do (or so I deceive myself). Leastwise, we can scarce afford to send him to adult play school (college) with no expectation of return (a useful diploma). However, if he finds a way to perform well, we will do our best to provide. But time is running out... (which is why those sea slugs in my eyes are thriving!)

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