Month: June 2016

The History Teacher Substantially Docked Dylan’s Grade.

Finally, finally, finally, Dylan seems to be taking some responsibility for himself. He has been coming home from school, knowing what is due the next day, and doing his ultimate best to get it in on time.

But he didn’t print out his history paper. He worked on it until midnight, but forgot to print it out. And when he went to class without it, the teacher wouldn’t allow him to go to the media center to print it out. Dylan had to wait until lunchtime to print it out, and then he turned it in immediately.

So the history teacher substantially docked Dylan’s grade.

I asked Dylan to do some self-advocating, and let him know how hard he had tried. So Dylan emailed the teacher. I won’t reprint his email here, but it brought tears to my eyes. Dylan explained what happened, and asked for a tiny bit of mercy.

But the teacher had no mercy.

Dylan, this assignment was given out last week. As I stated in class, in was due at the end of class on Tuesday. The exception was anyone that was typing their paper was permitted to turn it in on Wednesday at the beginning of class due to the fact that we do not have a printer in the classroom. Effectively giving everyone who needed it, extended time to complete the assignment.

That didn’t feel like “extended time” to me. So I sent a follow-up note to the teacher. I couldn’t help myself. I asked him to reconsider on this project, since Dylan had given it his best effort. I “cc”d Dylan’s case manager at school. The case manager called, but the teacher never responded.

Dylan got a C on the paper.

Shortly thereafter, Dylan told me that he had – also in history class – turned in a PowerPoint project via the computer, only to later realize that he was supposed to have printed out the PowerPoint.

“That’s not what I asked for,” said the teacher. “So I’m giving you a D.”

This seemed a bit random to me. Dylan doesn’t do “D” work – or even “C” work.  He does A work that is often turned in late. It doesn’t seem fair to take an A project and turn it into a D project, just because it wasn’t submitted via the correct format.

I emailed Dylan’s case manager again. I thank God for Dylan’s case manager. She doesn’t coddle – him or me! – but she knows what’s right and wrong. We both know that Dylan has been struggling lately with the apathy of a typical teenager.

And she also knows that the teacher can only dock Dylan by 10% if his work is a day late. And that the lowest grade he can get is a 50%. These were things I did not know. So she is meeting with Dylan to find out more about the situation. And then we may have to have a face-to-face meeting with the teacher, too.

It just seems so unfair: Dylan gives up on himself and gets D’s and E’s. THEN Dylan decides to pull himself up and do all the right things, and he gets C’s and D’s.

But only in one class. The other classes are coming along nicely. So we shall see what happens.

The end of the year is fast approaching….

I Can’t Sleep.

Shane came into my bedroom at 4 a.m. – less than three hours before he was supposed to get up for school. I heard him, and reached out in the darkness.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, touching his arm, knowing instinctively that he wasn’t sick.

“I can’t sleep,” Shane said. “And it’s been two hours.”

“Do you want to try to sleep with me?” I asked, pulling a pillow over for him.

“I think it will help,” he said, climbing in.

I did my best to comfort him, even sharing one of my own stuffed animals, but Shane didn’t sleep for a long time. As a fellow insomniac, I lay awake next to him until he did sleep, maybe 40 minutes later.

In that 40 minutes, I thought mostly about Shane’s bassinet.

We lived in a two-bedroom rental when Shane was born, with no room for another crib. We were building our current house, which wasn’t quite finished. So we put a bassinet in the office for Shane.

But Shane was born in the dead of winter, and there was no air circulation – or heat – in that bassinet. When I picked him up, no matter how much I bundled him, Shane was freezing cold.

We moved the bassinet into our room, but it was still too cold. So after about a week of trial and error, Shane slept between us in our bed.

Three months later, the new house was finished and Shane got a crib and his own room. He slept in the crib until he started to climb out of it – when he was barely two. He would show up next to our bed in his tiny pajamas, too short to climb up by himself.

So we got him a toddler bed, which was shaped like a car and totally cool. The mattress, however, wasn’t all that comfortable. So sometimes Shane would climb out of the toddler bed and wander into our room.

There were a few years when seeing Shane next to my bed in the middle of the night was … expected. And knowing he would grow up made those moments … treasured.

But now, it’s not so expected. I still treasure having him there, but I remember that cold bassinet, and how easy it was to comfort him then.

And then I think about the nights in his future, where Shane can’t get back to sleep and he won’t know why. This happens to me all the time. I have suffered from insomnia for my entire life. I found that sports and exercise help a lot. Skipping sugar helps. I am teaching this all to Shane.

Meanwhile, he struggled so much last night, just to get some needed rest. He went to school today – on time, because he didn’t want to skip math class – after six hours of very interrupted sleep. I told him to call me if he’s too tired to focus in school. I told him I would come and get him and he could rest.

But Shane won’t call. He will keep going, and be contented for the most part, and we will talk tonight again about exercise and sports and movement.

And he will sleep well tonight, with no school tomorrow. But his insomnia will return. And someday, I won’t be there to comfort him. I won’t be there to pull him out of his cold bassinet, and cuddle him until he can sleep. He will have to comfort himself.

And while I know it’s for the best that he learn how to comfort himself, I will treasure my job as long as it lasts.

Your Current Grades Reflect That.

Dear Dylan,

Attached are your current grades.

In an attempt to show you what I’ve been talking about, I am giving you a visual aid. If you do SCHOOL FIRST, your best will come naturally. In fact, YOUR CURRENT GRADES REFLECT THAT.

I took these grades directly from Edline. These are YOUR GRADES. You have some E’s and Z’s to take care of NOW (or you don’t get your phone this weekend) but you ALSO have a ton of good work that we rarely recognize (because we EXPECT that). We need to start recognizing your GOOD work more often!

All I did was separate out the things you turned in late, or didn’t turn in at all, from the GOOD work you did. I separated out the things you DID finish, and DID turn in on time, from the stuff you didn’t. It gives you two different pictures of the SAME GRADES.

There is STILL TIME. You still have a few weeks to step up and change “the way it is.” And if you do, the LAST PAGE is how your transcript CAN look at the end of THIS year.

I am not showing you this because “you don’t already know.” It is just a visual aid. It is just a visual picture of what YOU can accomplish if you put SCHOOL FIRST. It is the difference between what you’ve been doing and what you can do. Take a look.


I attached Dylan’s grades to this letter – six pages from this quarter. But I split them into two sections: the work he had turned in on time, and the work he had not turned in on time. Then I actually pulled out a calendar and tallied his grades for the quarter. Then I wrote out his grades for his entire transcript.

The results were astounding.

Based on only the work Dylan turned in on time, Dylan has four A’s and three B’s for the quarter. Based on only the work Dylan turned in late, he has one A, two B’s, three C’s and a D for the quarter.

Exams are next week – and they represent a third of his quarter grade. With serious study and work, he could pull those grades up. When I calculated his final grades for his full transcript, pulling up his grades NOW is the difference between a college transcript with five A’s and five B’s – and a transcript with two A’s, five B’s and three C’s.

I don’t know if the visual aid helped Dylan. But it sure helped me.

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