Another year has begun, and the kids who were fourth graders in my class last year are this year’s fifth graders. Since my class consists of half 5th graders who’ve already had me for a year and half 4th graders coming in for the first time, I depend on my 5th graders to help the new students learn my expectations. But there are many summers that I worry about whether or not they’ll be able to rise to the occasion. Usually an amazing transformation takes place over summer vacation, and last year’s silly, unsure followers become this year’s serious, confident leaders.
And, of course, this year my daughter is one of those leaders. Our first day of school in August this year marked the beginning of our second year together as mother/teacher and daughter/student in a public school classroom. To add to the fun, my son Knox has started kindergarten, so I get to have a single school year with both my children at school with me each day.
As I said in one summer post, I had been looking forward to paying my students for their summer work. Kinley had accomplished very little in spite of her myriad of cultural experiences, and I couldn’t wait to make a point to her by passing out piles of Boyd Bucks to the kids who’d worked diligently all summer writing book summaries and journal entries, solving math problems and working on cursive handwriting. I had daydreamed about passing out the money for weeks, slowly and deliberately calling student names and totals. In my mind, it would go something like this.
“Justin – nine hundred Boyd Bucks! How wonderful! Way to go! Kaycee – three thousand Boyd Bucks! My goodness! Weren’t you a busy beaver? And you’re only a fourth grader! And your mom isn’t even the teacher! Abbey – eight hundred dollars! Nice job, especially for someone moving in from the regular classroom! Xander – twelve hundred Boyd Bucks! My, my, my! And I heard that your mom didn’t even have to yell at you once all summer to get your work done! Geoffrey – two thousand Boyd Bucks! And look at your thorough math work here! No skipping steps for you! All of your work is neatly shown!
And now, who’s next? Oh, yes. It’s time for my daughter, Kinley Boyd. Let’s see Kinley, how much have you earned? You visited all the best museums of London, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Natural History…TWICE. So surely you must have written up summaries of each of those to earn a hundred Boyd Bucks each. And then, of course, surely you finished your math workbook since your mom hauled the dadgum thing across the Atlantic for you! Let’s see. What did you get? Two hundred Boyd Bucks. Really? Is that all? You must be terribly embarrassed that all these kids who DIDN’T have their teacher with them all summer long still managed to complete so many activities! I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Insert evil laughter here.)”
It didn’t go quite as I had imagined, though. As it turned out, Kinley wasn’t alone in her underachievement. One incoming 4th grader took it all very seriously and earned a whopping $1,200, but most kids who brought in work had completed enough activities to earn only $400-$600. Kinley really did earn only $200, but several of my 27 students had nothing to show for the summer. And so (to my chagrin) Kinley actually seemed relatively conscientious.
Shoot. There went my, “I told you so.”