Friday, February 23, 2007

A Matter of Motivation

When I was in the 4th grade, I didn’t particularly exert myself in school. This went on for a few months, until my teacher requested a conference with my mother (because this was back in the day when it was expected that moms were home all day).

I sat on the floor in the hall outside my classroom while my mother and teacher discussed my class work … or lack thereof. I didn’t really pay much attention to their conversation until this one sentence registered in my little-girl brain:

“She can do the work,” said my teacher. “She just don’t.”

Uh, what? Excuse me? Even I, a lowly 10-year-old child, knew that this was more than just bad grammar. This was a rip in the time/space continuum. If I was being judged and graded by an individual in the teaching profession who couldn’t even conjugate a verb, then reality as I knew it was a fantasy.

Let’s flash forward umpteen years. I have two children – two boys, one who is 9 and one who is 12. They both are very bright. I realize that every parent says that her kids are bright, brilliant, and just all-around special; however, these two kids have been tested and deemed to be “gifted.”

OK, so we’ve established that they have the smarts. They almost never miss school. They see their father and me reading, having intelligent conversations, and studying subjects in which we’re interested. They are not deprived of learning opportunities, in other words.

So what’s the problem, you may ask. Well, as my long-ago teacher put it, they can do the work … they just don’t (I guess he’d probably have said “doesn’t”).

Oh, how the knife turns. Remember when your mom said something to the effect that she hoped that you’d have a kid just like you one day? Well, surprise! Now I’m on the receiving end of the notes, phone calls, and requests for meetings from the boys’ teachers.

I blame this not on a vengeful power or one with a sense of humor. No, I blame it on my 4th grade teacher who, by using poor English to describe my poor motivation, caused a rip in time and space that has landed me here, as a so-called adult, with not one but two kids to motivate.

Wish me luck. I don’t remember how my parents motivated me, but my plan for my kids is bribery. Bullying them won’t work: they’re both taking karate.

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