Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fourth Grade Teachers Are Sadists

This exact same thing happened to me precisely five years ago. A son of mine was in fourth grade and Women’s History Month reared its ugly head. The fourth grade teachers have been giving this assignment for years, and probably will for years to come: Write a five-paragraph essay about a woman in your life that inspires you.

The operative phrase there is “in your life.” Meaning: you must know her personally.

My older son hated to write nearly as much as my younger son does, so getting down to business on this report is torturous enough from the get go. Three weeks before the report is due, the student must turn in a note proclaiming his “subject.”

Me: “Who do you want to write about?”
Him: “I don’t know.”
Me: “What about one of your grandmas?”
Him: “No.”
Me: “What about one of your teachers?”
Him: “No.”
Me: “How about Nancy? She’s really fun and jumps with you guys on the trampoline.”
Him: “No.”
Me: “Roberta? She likes to go camping.”
Him: silence
Me: “Ok, what about me?”
Him: “You’re not inspiring.”
Me: silence
Him: “What do you do that’s inspiring?”
Me: “I can get a lot of things done all at once. And some people think I’m funny.”
Him: “You’re not funny at all.”
Me: “Ok, how about Mrs. V? She taught you how to read.”
Him: “Ok, I’ll do Mrs. V.”
Me: “Great. Get a list of questions together and I’ll give you her phone number.”
Him: “I have to talk to her?”
Me: “Well, yeah.”
Him: “Fine! I’ll just do you!”

My favorite part of this assignment is where I have to beg to get my kids to consider writing about me. Second only to the outcome – what my child actually writes.

When the teenager was in fourth grade, he wrote that I inspired him because I fed him every day. “That’s how I inspire you?” I’d said. “Any schnook can do that.”

This one wrote a few nice things that I know he thinks are bald faced lies. And then he told a story I told him once about how, when I was six, I’d hid my best friend in my bedroom closet so that she could spend the night. The whole neighborhood and half the police force were looking for her before I finally confessed to her whereabouts.

That story is the only event of my life that my child finds compelling. So it is not without a certain giddy glee, that I bid my final farewell to Women’s History Month.

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