It’s English this time. I got a note from his English “teacher” – the quotes are because she is actually a Referendarin, which means “student teacher,” except that in the States, student teachers aren’t left on their own with the kids, and here, they are. Basically, they have the role of teacher but no practical experience yet. Last semester’s English “teacher” went a whole semester without noticing that Ignatz is a native speaker. He asked us not to take any action, but when he got a 3 in English, we felt we had to write to the school.
The, um, Fachbetreuer – he’d be the head of the English department if this were a university, but it’s a high school, and as far as I know, American high schools don’t have any equivalent. Anyway, Mr E invited DrBob to come in and talk to him about it during his office hours (Tuesday, 11-ish), right before the Easter break, when the school closed for two weeks, and since then DrBob hasn’t been here on a Tuesday. So it falls to me, which is technically A Good Thing because I’m actually more qualified to assess Ignatz’s English-fu, but not so good because people kowtow to a real live college professor, whereas they don’t actually spit on housewives, but they really want to.
Anyway, I hadn’t got around to doing it yet, when I got a note from his new English Referendarin (this one has noticed that he’s a native speaker, so points to her), saying that he hasn’t finished his homework several times, and she’s worried that his work habits will prevent him reaching his full potential. And since Mr E’s office hours are right before hers, I might as well just go talk to them both.
But what to say? “His full potential in English? Do you even know what that would look like?” Not nice. “Go back to school and ask them how to deal with a student who knows more about your subject than you do”? Not very diplomatic. “Are you worried about his future ability to communicate fluently in English, or his future ability to copy words from a list? Because I think I can safely promise that he won’t end up in any career that requires that particular skill.” Also maybe not a good approach.
I accept that Ignatz is not a good student. He thinks school is a huge waste of time, and in the case of English class, he’s unfortunately right. A smart teacher would find ways to engage his interest – recruit him as a teaching assistant, or give him a more challenging version of the assignment, like “Everybody copy the words on this list. Ignatz, write a story containing all these words.” But that would require creative thought – gasp! no! – and maybe some extra work, on top of their already grueling five-hour work day.
So, tragically, I don’t have a huge amount of respect for these people, going into these meetings. I should try to, because I understand that kids have to take English, by law, and his teachers didn’t make those laws and they can’t change them. But they are the ones filling his days with pointless busywork, and frankly, I think they should be grateful that his justifiable resentment takes the form of sloppy handwriting and a few missed assignments. And, um, occasionally pretending to hang himself in class. I admit, I didn’t manage to keep a straight face when I heard about that.
Well, when I am feeling particularly scornful of his well-intentioned teachers, I shall remind myself that I glued my fingers together today. I bet they’re not that dumb.
Song du jour of the day: Pete Yorn, covering Bruce Springsteen’s Your Own Worst Enemy.