Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reading, Writing, And A Smattering Of Arithmatic

I had a meeting with Elder Miss’s math teacher today.

Gøril.

How’s that for a name? Think ‘good reel’ only without the ‘d’.

It says something about how long I’ve lived here that that kind of name no longer even fazes me. Hell—I kind of like it. And Vigdis has grown on me to the point where I’d even consider bestowing it on a treasured cat. Not Ragnhild though; never Ragnhild. And Gaute is still something contagious, and spoken of only in furtive whispers. But Gøril I like. Gøril is sporty and fun; Gøril would buy you a round of Jello shots on your birthday—‘course, she’d call them géle shots and order ‘em full of aquavit instead of vodka, but the night out itself would be a riot.

Hold up. Where was I?

Oh yeah, math. My Elder Miss, she struggles mightily with the arithmetic.

Okay, not mightily, but I suspect there are issues which I wanted to address while they’re still young and largely imagined. So I requested a conference.

Right away Gøril assured me that in her opinion EM is fine—right on track with her progress. She showed me the standardized test that EM and her entire class took last week. EM scored a 56 out of a total of 74 possible points. A solid middle pack performance according to Gøril, and far, far from the panic threshold of 36 or lower. So what the fuck are you doing here? You pushy, demanding, critical, harping tart of a mother you.

I jest. She was really very pleasant. And, truth be told, she gave me a fair amount of kudos for being so engaged and interested in my daughter’s schooling—rare in these parts, apparently.

I will admit to being relieved to hear that EM is not the dumbest kid in the class. I will even admit that that very reassurance was 50% of the reason I asked for the meeting in the first place. The difficulty EM is having understanding and finishing her assignments is common and shared with a good half of her classmates.

But. But but…..

56 out of 74? I’m being patted on the head with 56 out of 74? That’s pretty crap, isn’t it? She showed me the actual test too. This was basic, basic stuff: greater than/less than, find the number on the number line, count by twos, count by threes, fill in the missing numbers in the equation 21+__ =30, 15-__ =8, and so on. Easy, easy stuff. 8 problems per page, and the only page where she was able to finish every problem in the allotted time was the one where she had to find the number on the number line.

She’s in the 2nd grade. Shouldn’t there be more to a 2nd grader’s understanding of basic arithmetic than this?

There was one page where she managed to miss every single problem. The instructions were to finish the equation by finding the 10’s and the 1’s. So something like this: 34=__ +4. The answer EM wrote was 38. Gøril told me not to worry. Many of the kids were unable to do this page. She felt it was because they don’t have any real understanding of what the ‘=’ sign actually means.

Why? How? What the everloving fuck? How does a kid, let alone ‘many’ kids, get to the 2nd grade without knowing what the ‘=’ sign means?

I do not mean to malign the teacher. I really don’t. I have every reason to believe this Gøril’s as competent and caring a teacher as I could hope for for EM. It’s the method and the book from which she teaches that I hate—the convoluted, wordy, theoretical, mumbo-jumbo, concept driven bullshit that bathes these kids in a gentle sprinkle of mathematical ideas without ever teaching them any actual skillz yo.

Grumble, grumble.

In the end we agreed that EM could use some linguistic reinforcement. So for the next month or so, until the end of the school year, she’s going take the time to go over some of these concepts with EM in English after she’s instructed the rest of the class in Norwegian. And I’m supposed to encourage EM to learn how to speak up and admit when she really doesn’t get it. EM is a master at nodding and feigning interest when really she’s just counting freckles on her arms and biding her time until all the tiresome yapping from the grown-ups ceases. It would be helpful, says Gøril, if she quit that.

Yeah. So, so much for my proactive meeting of the minds. Wish I could say I felt better about everything now, but I don’t. She’s average. Fine. I neither expect nor require genius from my kids. I just wish I didn’t feel like the standard she’s being held to was so woefully low. Even after seeing that bungled test of hers, I can’t help but feel she’s capable of so much more, if only someone would issue the challenge and teach her the necessary skills.

I feel utterly trapped by this laissez-faire school system, but see absolutely no viable alternatives.

Grumble, grumble, grumble. I’m going to bed now.

7 comments:

Alpha Grandpa said...

being an ESL teacher on the other side of the pond, I have a bit of experience with kids having problems not understanding, and not asking the right questions. It has nothing to do with brain power. it has everything to do with not wanting to look like there is a brain power problem. When the communication thing is no longer a thing I'll bet she will suprise you. love you guys.

jillybaby said...

I can't remember the number of times you would tell me that ok the norwegian system is painfully slow but they all catch up eventually. Isn't that your philosophy?

Ok so she's not doing long multiplication, division and percentages yet but she will...eventually.

And who knows, maybe by that time, she'll have found her confidence and will sail through it.

I think a trip to Aberdeen would work wonders! Are you taking the bait yet doll?

jillybaby said...

Oh and another thing...I thought your favourite name was Gnol. Did I spell that right?

Gnol is a geek, he's the guy who would pretend to fix your computer whilst actually looking through all your pictures of your last vacation in the sun just so he could stalk you later. He has thick unruly blonde hair that he smooths into a side parting with Brylcreem. He also has 163 virtual girlfriends in Second Life.

Jeez I need to get our more. When is the new Indiana Jones movie out!

JEDA said...

Oh dude, you're not even close on that spelling. That would be Njål. And when you say it, you have to pretend you're a motorcycle speeding down the road.

You might be right about the computer geek thing, but you're wrong about the hair. Njål has dark, naturally greasy hair.

Anonymous said...

Well dear Jedda, welcome to the "average" = "good" world. Yes, the Norwegian system is slow (Christian is in the 1st grade and would have done a lot better on that dumb test). Yes, they will catch up. Someday EM will tell my son "Dumbass, didn't they teach you that at school?".
Love,
Claudita
PS. Did I spell "dumbass" correctly? I'm not very big on profanity you know.

Queen LaTeacha said...

It's that "won't speak up and ask questions" part that bothers you, isn't it? I remember.

But, I agree that she will catch up, especially if she can get some instruction in her mother-tongue (or would that be her mother's tongue?) She's a smart girl.

I hope she doesn't HATE the look, sound, or smell of math by then.

Guitar said...

It won't be long before EM can get instruction in her Grandmother-tongue.
She's a smart kid and she'll do great - you did.........