My son came home from school the other day apparently outraged by the treatment of one of his classmates. A boy at his school had handed in a poor piece of English homework. So bad that the teacher had not only given him several ‘behaviour points’ – (black marks, to you and me) a level 3 violation (even blacker marks) and a call home to his father to say that this was the worst essay the teacher had ever read. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
But one can’t help but feel for the boy especially when my son enumerated the sanctions his father had decided to put in place as a result. According to all reports, the boy has been grounded and had access to all electronic devices denied, including his phone for a year. Yes, that’s right a whole year. He has also been told not to expect a present at Christmas or for his birthday. My thought was what incentive is there for this kid to improve his behaviour? It’s like being hung for stealing a bag of sugar so you may as well murder the shopkeeper while you are about it.
Now I have no idea of this boy’s previous behaviour. Before gaining such notoriety at the school for this terrible essay and subsequent punishment, my son had not mentioned him. Maybe this was the last in a long line of transgressions and his father was at his wit’s end.
But it apparently had the desired effect on me. I expressed my shock at how draconian the punishment sounded and how I felt for the boy.
Then the story began to fall into place. Having assured himself that my response would be nowhere near as extreme should something similar happen to him my son began telling me about a history test that he had just taken. Apparently, the teacher had told the class that the pass mark was 60% and should they fail to reach this mark he would be contacting parents to let them know. I tried not to smile at this obvious ploy as my son went on to explain that there were two papers and the first one to be marked that day had so far delivered only a 45% pass mark for him. He explained at length and in some detail that some questions had in fact been on subjects that they had not yet covered in class and therefore it was very unfair. He then listed all the people in his class whose scores had been far lower than his own, and quite a list it was. The second paper was due to be marked the following week but he was obviously preparing me for a potential communication from his history teacher.
Well, a test that asks questions on topics not yet covered doesn’t sound very fair, so, in my head I began to put together a rather choice letter of response to any communication from the school that I might receive. It went something like this……
Dear Mr History teacher (I would find out his real name)
I just wanted to let you know that my son has been severely punished for failing to achieve at least 60% on his recent history test. I’m sure this will not happen again and I thank you for bringing this to my attention.
The excuse my son used, in his defence, was that some questions related to areas of history that you had yet to cover. As it would be ridiculous to set an exam on areas that the students hadn’t covered I have also punished him severely for making up this obvious lie.
Yours etc etc
I would have polished it a bit in its final draft but essentially I was quite pleased with it. I went away to Italy for a week and on my return I was in time to pick my son up from the station. On the way home we shared news of our week apart. Suddenly I remembered the dreaded history test. I asked him how it had gone. He told me that only 5 people in his class had reached or exceeded the 60% pass mark and after a moment’s pause he smiled and told me he was one of the 5. My delight at his success was tempered slightly by the fact that I would now not be able to send my letter. I recounted to him, from memory, the letter I had planned to send to his teacher. He laughed, obviously relieved that I would not now be able to embarrass him by sending it. We drove on in silence for a moment and then I turned to him and said ‘You, don’t suppose any of your friends could use my letter?’ He thought not……what a waste.