Living up to the potential
The boy isn’t living up to his potential.
At least, that’s what his teacher called to say at 2:16 p.m. — about a minute after class was dismissed — last Friday afternoon.
I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to laugh, but I find nervous reactions of the parental sort are hard to contain. The stress of getting good grades, which will lead our kids to better colleges and opening up the best life possible seems to be overwhelming in this day and age of disruption.
This is why I usually close my eyes and plug my ears and try and empty my mind of all the things I can’t control...
Such as how to get my son to care about evaluating numerical expressions involving decimals ... or which homework assignments he has yet to complete ... or how to improve his god-awful penmanship.
You know .... like I’m taking it for granted that his teacher is the only human on the planet who can make out his hatch marks, which are forever decreasing in size as they trail at a diagonal across a smudged looseleaf page.
You know what happens to those who ASSU-ME?
Apparently, I wasn’t surprised by the phone call or the concern. And it’s not that I don’t take it seriously.
I mean ... who isn’t worried their son will prove to be a failure to launch and spend the rest of our natural lives living in the basement, playing video games, and doing deep dives into the dark web?
Maybe you can tell, I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop.
The boy follows in the shadow of his sister, whose school work, while not beyond reproach, left little for a sixth-grade science teacher to desire. Hers was on time. Legible. And mostly accurate. And she had taken great pains to correct the things that she misunderstood in texts she could trade for extra credit.
My son, however, doesn’t really aim to please.
Any circle on the target is fine.
Doesn’t have to be near the center.
He aims to finish. Quickly.
And without double checking to be sure he handed it in to be graded.
You know that school teacher in “The Christmas Story?” The one who dances about Raphie’s imagination as he dreams about the A-plus, -plus, -plus grade she will give him for his preternaturally eloquent essay on the attributes of possessing “a Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time?”
Well, the not-so-fictional teacher of this story might very well have celebrated my daughter’s cerebral output with better than perfect scores, but the score she had to settle with my son was a little more to the point.
And it was just as blunt as it had been for Ralphie: He’d shoot his eye out ...only the “I” my boy would shoot out would be the “Incomplete” he’d get for all the homework assignments he’d neglected to hand in before the marking period ends.
“But I finished them,” he protested as I turned off the TV and fanned out a stack of pages 100-yearold-tree deep that I had extracted from his book bag. None of which had been inscribed with a red mark or frowny face. “Doesn’t that count?”
“Only in flawed logic and movie dream sequences.”