confused studentGrade Expectations is a weekly look at education from a parent’s perspective. We’ll talk special needs, gifted & talented, and everything in between. 

Imagine my surprise today when my daughter was playing a game at school today and feigned complete ignorance about what to call a certain shape. An assistant and a small group of students were playing “Bingo,” except their cards had shapes of various colors. The teacher held up an orange triangle, asking my little girl to identify it, and she just sat there with her hands in her mouth and shrugged her shoulders.

I couldn’t believe it! We’ve been working on our shapes for over a year. My daughter can’t just point out triangles, but knows diamonds and ovals. And it wasn’t just once. Over and over again I watched her shrug her shoulders or call every shape a rectangle, no matter what it was.

I sat back, unsure of whether or not I should intervene, and finally mentioned my surprise to her teacher. “Brenna knows her shapes really well,” I explained. “Does she have trouble with them very often in school?”

Her teacher, who I know really well, looked at me with hesitation. I could tell that she was a little nervous about sharing something with me. “We actually just did some evaluations for the end of the grading period that I wanted to go over with you,” the teacher told me. She pulled out a sheet of letters, both lower case and capital, where Brenna had been asked to identify the letters. The majority of them were crossed off, meaning my daughter had simply said she didn’t know. A couple were switched around. Very few were correctly stated by my daughter.

I sat there, staring at the sheet of paper without really knowing what to say. My daughter is more than capable of recognizing her letters. It’s something she’s worked on for quite a while. She made a letter book, with each letter drawn out and examples of words that start with that letter. She’s able to write her name and a couple basic words like “Mom” and “Dad.” It just didn’t make any sense to me why should wouldn’t show that knowledge to her teacher.

Her teacher and I started brainstorming possible issues. She might be rushing through assessments because she wants to get back to playing with her friends. Maybe she feels pressured when asked by teachers, but not while we’re working on schoolwork or educational games at home. Maybe she doesn’t realize that the small quizzes are important and simply doesn’t apply herself. There are any host of possibilities as to why my daughter ignores lessons she seems to have down perfectly at home. Now I wish I could just figure out which one was affecting her.

As a child, I was always a good test-taker. I was a straight A kind of girl. And I kind of assumed my daughter would be the same way. She’s incredibly intelligent, has an impressive memory, and is generally too smart for her own good. So why wouldn’t she show that side of herself in the classroom? It’s honestly a question that I’m just not sure how to answer yet. But it’s a situation that I feel like I need to correct now, while she’s still young enough that a couple bad grades won’t mean anything.

If my daughter really didn’t know the answers to these questions, it would almost seem easier. I know how to work with kids and help them learn. But once you’ve taught the lesson, how do you get a child to repeat it when it counts? That’s something I’ve never had to consider before. And I’m hoping that there’s an answer out there for me somewhere.

(Photo: Smailhodzic/Shutterstock)