20 September 2005


This year, for some unfathomable reason, my ten year old's sense of achievement has been stirred. He suddenly wants to produce schoolwork, including extra curricular, unrequested extravaganzas of self-initiated work that mirrors the class topics.

Good work gets shown to the class - paperwork goes up on the walls and PPSs get shown on the wall screen, including stuff you did at home.

The kid who used to look at a four-question homework sheet like it had the plague, suddenly spent four hours researching World War 2 and making up a seven page Powerpoint presentation, complete with flying bullet points and moving graphics.

An hour of that time was spent on the phone to his Gran, and both left the conversation with a sensation of being special. They bonded.

In fact, most of his presentation was to do with the little things she told him - born in 1930, my mother was ten when we went to war and fifteen when it all came to an end.

She told him (and he quoted) that:

  • Some children were evacuated, and some of those were used as unpaid slave labour on the farms when they arrived - treated as good only to replace the farm hands that had gone to war
  • Some children (like her) stayed in London with their families ("If we go we'll all go together") and that for them there was a kind of club you joined to collect newspaper and shrapnel for the war effort. You started out as a Private in this official club and went up the ranks according to how much you had collected. It meant she tailed the ARPs etc, waiting for a bombed house to be declared safe, to clamber in and get the shrapnel - her and a whole bunch of kids, who would compare finds to see who had got the biggest bit. It put some fun and purpose into facing blown up houses.
  • She ended up as a Field Marshall.
  • There were queues everywhere. If you saw a queue you joined it, no questions asked, because it meant there was something worth having at the other end.
  • Because every scrap of good meat was for the human rations, the pet shops would stock horse and whale meat, for the pets. There were a lot of imaginary dogs where she lived, people 'created' animals, so they could bump their diet up with a bit of horse. The pet shop always had a long queue.
(No I am not going to make some scathing comment about the reports that some New Orleans residents have disdained fresh food and water because it wasn't burgers and Coke.)

He took this in to school on Friday morning, on his own memory chip, having first done a grand presentation to us at home, so I know exactly what ended up on the finished piece. He even removed the point that dressmakers would ask the butchers for the net that the meat arrived in, as it could be bleached and was the only material around for making a wedding dress (unless you got your hands on a rare parachute silk - although those had their own black market for making women's underwear.) He thought that was gross, too yucky to use.

His teacher didn't have time to look at it that day and ended up keeping his chip for the whole weekend. Then she was in and out of class yesterday and he finally got it back today. Since he completed his mini project on Thursday night, he has waited five days to see whether he would be allowed to share his effort with the class. So much tension and excitement, and hope.

No. Apparently his teacher said it was unsuitable for two reasons:
  1. Too many exclamation marks.
  2. Some of it wasn't true.
He asked her which bits weren't true, but she said she couldn't remember.

Post Script due to comments:

Lewis is Aspergers and dyslexic, with a bad case of the "I can't so I won't" and trouble reading faces and inferred intent. He has a 'Note In Lieu' at school and does a lot of work on the computer there because his handwriting is so appalling. Last year they 'discovered' his brain when a teaching assistant regularly took dictation for him.
Up to now he has been encouraged with House Points for good behaviour and teachers are free to award them in extra amounts to kids who struggle.
He has NEVER recorded them or paid them any attention because you mark your own points on the board at break time or the end of the day and too many times he has amassed enough for teachers to wipe them back off the board, calling him a liar - so he just doesnt play.
This year, if he does every single piece of homework, he feels that he will be presented with £5 cash, in assembly, by the headmaster.
I didn't think this would inspire him but it has, I guess because homework sheets are tangible and can't be called imaginary - not that he has EVER done a single piece of homework outside of school hours.
He has also started trying, like this instance, to put in even more hours.
Perhaps she was stopping him from getting ego issues with it, from becoming obsessively carried away, but I really do have to go in and see, don't I, I can't let it lie.


bart said...

hmmm... he's done well and certainly learned a lot, especially about patronising adult attitudes...

Tanda said...

[grunts with disgust]

Sorry to hear that, dear.

What initiative! You must be so proud.

Annie said...

Poor kid. What a rotten thing to do to a child that age. How does she know what was and wasn't true anyway - I'm presuming she wasn't around then? Is it any wonder that kids lose interest?

zilla said...

Damn! And he's 10? Does the teacher not have a bloody clue? I would ask for an explanation, and an apology seems appropriate.

Oh, Cheryl -- you're making my blood boil! Can't stand a lazy teacher without enough integrity to GO BACK AND LOOK at the assignment WITH THE STUDENT to clarify what the "mistakes" are so that he may learn from them!

And, !!!!!!!! take that !!!! and that!!!!!!, you idiot teacher!!!

I hope you read the linked post re: Katrina survivors & McDonald's in its entirety. If you didn't, please do. The text surrounding your links reads as if you believed the claims of the writer from Houston, which, apparently, were debunked.

And if they hadn't been debunked, I was ready to defend PTSD. Traumatized people are rarely at their best.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the support guys.
Zilla - it says its unproven. You are right, shock and exhaustion can make anybody snappy and distant. So can charity.
Nonetheless I think the two situations are a fair comparison - N.O. is definitely like a warzone, and listening to the shortcuts and making do that went on in the outer edges of London was an education for me.

If the teacher had said 'innappropriate' instead of wrong, it maybe would be more understandable than casting aspersions on the kid and his granny. I think I will pop in for a chat, she expects me Fridays anyway.

Rasputina said...

Just passing through and thought I would comment "What the hell was this teacher thinking?" How utterly rude and clueless!!!! Your son sounds like a sweet boy. I hope he is not discouraged because of one awful teacher that probably shouldn't even be in the classroom.

Milt Bogs said...

Sounds to me like your son was supposed to get it all out of The History Book i.e. no research. Unfortunately this is how a child's enthusiasm for a subject, or school is ruined.

The teacher may have thought that work on a memory chip indicated parental imput. I suspect it indicates lack of knowledge on the teacher's part.

If you go to this page you should be able to see which criteria he is meeting or not meeting with his submission. But you should also ask which English Language and ICT criteria his piece satisfies. In other words make a real pain in the ass of yourself. I don't see any specific ruling about exclamation marks.

The Man on the Clapham Ambulance said...

I think we're all overlooking the most important aspect of this incident, namely that excessive use of the exclamation mark is an incontrovertible sign of an inadequate education and is considered in many quarters to represent actual illiteracy. Be grateful that your boy is being given sensible guidance in this area at an impressionable age while there is still a sliver of hope for him.

fineartist said...

Sounds to me like his teacher simply skimmed or scanned the material, and didn’t want to bother with actually attending to it properly. I understand how busy teachers are, but really our reason for being there is to educate children, and part of educating children involves motivating them. We can all agree that a child cannot be forced to learn, they can, however, be motivated. I am disappointed in this teacher, if she was too busy, tired or, what ever to give the material her proper attention then she should have been honest about it and told him that she would do her (damnedest) best to get at it as soon as possible, instead of dismissing it as being factually incorrect and having too many exclamation marks.

Too many exclamation marks? Pfffttt! Exclamation marks declare that a child finds something to be EXCITING, and while it may be a sign of an “inadequate education” for cripes sake the kid is ten years old, he is meant to be in the midst of an education.

I am proud of your son for being excited about researching, for wanting to bring his research to his classmates, and for the work and effort that he put into such an endeavor, Rock on with your bad self Lewis!!! !!!

The reason I believe that Lewis’ teacher didn’t really give much attention to his work is because you and your family previewed his presentation at home, before he took it to school. Cheryl you are a brilliant woman, with a remarkable intelligence level, who researches the heck out of everything, no way would you allow your son to carry an ill researched piece of material to school, nope, not happening! I know that if you approved of the information then it was right on!

jane said...

he's 10 and too many exclamation marks? and couldn't give him the inaccuracies? i don't like her!

your son sounds like something has been turned on about learning & that's fantastic!! (tell him a 47 year old woman did TWO exclamation marks.)

he's tops in my book. :)

Badaunt said...


Le laquet said...

What a cow! I'm sorry but she needs a slap! *bristles* It's because of people like her that teachers have a bad name - are you going to talk to the head/GB?

Ms Mac said...

OMG! Jo took the words right out of my mouth. What. A. Cow. She'd fit right in with the my boys' teachers.

I'd be up there complaining my head off if I were you.

In other observations, this gives me hope for my bone idle 8 year who refuses to do a scrap of work even thought we all know he is more than capable of it!

Sam Freedom said...

Sounds like your boy can relate to his grandmother's need to cope imaginatively through an oppressive stretch of life.

Sorry to hear of this difficulty, but confident it will factor into his struggle for success as time goes on...


doris said...

Firstly - I am so thrilled that your son is now approaching research and work in this way considering all the difficulties he has. And I loved the artwork he did the other day. Just gives you so much hope.

At least you were suitably encouraging to him but I am so sorry to hear how the teacher has received his work. School life is so hard for kids and it is sad that he is being treated in this way.

Sure, there comes a point when a child can no longer get the intensive encouragement they may have once been used to but this is ridiculous. As for accusations of some of it not being true... that is awful. I too wonder if the teacher thinks he was helped with the project and that is almost worth clarifying before Friday!

It is wonderful that your son and his Gran shared a moment in time... priceless.

And I am a little jealous that my 11 year old son hasn't yet turned round and showed that level of initiative ;-)

You will tell your son that there are quite a few of people out on the internet who think he is really cool and doing very well?


Ally said...

Everyone else has said it all before me - but I agree with them, particularly Badaunt and Ms.Mac!

Let us know what happens when you go in.

Steve said...

Cheryl, after reading this post I felt deflated for Lewis, I know from first hand experience how exciting it can be to see your child"turn on" to learning and researching subjects and how proud they are when they complete fantastic pieces of work.
I can only agree with the majority of opinions here ( including a couple of teachers I note) and say that this sounds like a lazy teacher who just couldnt be bothered, for her to say that she couldnt remember is outrageous.
I thought the whole idea of homework was for the child to produce work and for it to be checked by the teacher, who would then point out any ways it could be improved or corrected to ensure that the standard of work gradually improves, to simply dismiss a piece of work out of hand is just not acceptable.
To answer your point in your post script, you wouldnt be the person I know you are if you didnt pop in for a quiet word.

dog1net said...

It is apparent that your son is inspired, unfortunately it would seem that his teacher is not. Notwithstanding, continue to pique your son's curiosity by developing his interests.

ella m. said...

That woman needs to be fired. Immediately.

And once she is disgraced from the teaching field, I hope the only job she can get is at a sticker factory, where whe will be placed in charge of packaging the sheets of exclaimation marks and other punctuation that they give you in those pre made scrapbooking kits as a companion to the alphabet.

doris said...

It's Friday.... did you manage to get into the school today? I hope it went OK.