Grade Expectations: My Daughter Forgets Everything When She Gets To School

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)

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  • lea

    Has she been like this right from the start at school? Or is it possible that she did really well to begin with, then started to get teased about that and so decided to feign ignorance to avoid bullying?

    I only suggest this because when I was a kid, my friend and I were both really good students- we didn’t get graded with letters (A etc) in primary school, but were both achieving over 90% in most assessments. We both got teased. A LOT! We were called “Squid”, “Square”,”Nerd”, “Teacher’s pet” and worse, the most memorable of which were people telling me “nobody likes a smart girl” and “no one will ever marry you”. My friend decided it wasn’t worth it, and started deliberately getting things wrong so that she could avoid attention. (I refused, and the bullying only really let up in upper high school).

    Anyway, just a thought. Good luck getting to the bottom of this :)

    • Jessie

      God, this could have been me. I was just like you, bullied for being smart from the start of my school years. Unfortunately, I took the path your friend did and pretended to dumb myself down to avoid at least THAT kind of bullying (I was, sadly, bullied for many other things as well), and I still regret it to this day because I know just how many doors I closed for myself by doing that, and I never told ANYONE exactly why my school performance seemed so bad. :(

      Give this story a good listen and talk to your girl, Lindsay, because while she may seem fine and dandy when you’re around, you just never know what’s going on outside of your view, or the teacher’s. She may be getting picked on for being such an intelligent little girl, and if she is then I truly hope it can be stopped. Good luck figuring it out, whatever the case may be! :)

  • peanutchips

    Maybe she gets nervous and freezes up while being tested, because she’s not familiar. Happens to me all the time. (not a parent)

    • Oz

      That happens with my friend’s daughter. She’s in her early teens. She does really well when her mother tutors her in maths and English and piano, but as soon as the slightest bit of pressure is applied, she freezes up and performs terribly. Her learning also seems to be situational – if she learns something at home sitting at the kitchen table, she recalls it when she’s at home sitting at the kitchen table, but not when she’s anywhere else.