Have you ever been righteously indignant on behalf of your child? I have the ultimate respect for teachers, but last week my son’s teacher ticked me off.
On Friday, Snazzy Lad 1 began telling me about an assignment he had received in class as a punishment. His third grade class took a quiz, and they were told that if anyone made lower than a B, that person would have to write out every question and answer three times as a punishment (i.e. incentive to study next time). Once the quizzes were graded, my son received a perfect 100, while the rest of the class earned A’s and B’s – except for 1 person. The last person earned a C. For whatever reason, the teacher decided they would receive a group punishment – everyone had to rewrite the quiz three times.
As my son was telling me this story, we were hiking, and my first inclination was to spout off about how unfair that seemed, and be generally incensed on his behalf. How dare she give my kid an extra assignment! Thankfully, I was out of breath from the hike, and had to think about what I was going to say before I opened my mouth.
In all honesty, I did not think that was a fair assignment. Why should any child be “punished” for another’s grades? Doesn’t that teach them to not bother trying? I decided to play devil’s advocate in this situation:
Me: Did she tell ya’ll ahead of time about this punishment?
Snazzy Lad 1: Well, yeah.
Me: Did you study for the quiz?
Snazzy Lad 1: A little. But I made a 100. I shouldn’t have to write the quiz out! I knew he wasn’t going to get a good grade.
Me: Did you think about quizzing him? Studying with him to make sure he learned the material?
Snazzy Lad 1: No. Why would I…we aren’t allowed to study during class.
Me: What about on break? You had a recess right before the quiz, you could have studied for a minute then.
Snazzy Lad 1: No one wants to do that on break.
So yes, I get it. It is not up to my child to make sure his classmates all get “good” grades. But then I realized plenty of real world examples exist where groups do get punished for one person’s mistake. My initial thoughts were of military operations, SEAL squads, and firefighters. One mistake could be the difference between life and death for multiple people. Even a clerical error at a bank could cause multiple catastrophes.
As I tried to explain group mentality to my son, I defended his teacher’s actions. Even if I don’t agree with her choice, I’m not going to disrespect her or her position. Was it fair? No, but neither is life. Was there something different she could have done? Yes, but then my son would have missed the opportunity to look at the bigger picture.
What did we learn?
After this episode, we discussed how to respect authority figures even when we disagree with them. I also explained that it’s never wrong to set the right example (whether that be studying, obeying, or whatever). Lessons can be learned from every situation in life, if we are willing to look for them. If half an hour of writing helps my child think of others next time, then maybe I won’t climb on my high horse just yet. My son’s teacher ticked me off, but we learned something from the experience and are moving forward, looking for our next life lesson.
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