When one of my older children entered middle school, they surprised everyone by immediately having failing grades in their classes. We hopped on the online grade book and discovered that this child wasn’t turning in homework or projects. Tests and quiz grades were stellar. Homework was a consistent F. Since we knew the homework was being completed every night, the zeros seemed like a mistake. All of the child’s teachers, the school counselor and the VP were summoned to a meeting. Everyone scratched their heads and looked bewildered by the smart bookworm who never turned in his homework. One of the teachers suggested searching the student’s locker for a missing assignment or two. The locker was a filthy mountain of crumpled and unwanted papers that included every single missing homework assignment and project. I would like to be able to explain the child’s calm insistence that the grades shouldn’t matter as long as he was doing his assignments. I can’t. It was hormonal philosophy aka the nonsense branch of philosophy.
This year, our family has returned to the same middle school that was tasked with teaching our three oldest children during their hormone volcano years. Almost immediately, we identified the newest middle schooler’s nonsense trigger.
The twirling, singing child that we all know and love becomes Katie Kaboom over her daily math homework. Left to her own devices, she will avoid the homework with a litany of distractions and excuses. When anyone sits down with her to help, she bursts into tears, angry shrieks and flopping. Yes, she flops. It’s some sort of interpretive movement to express her misery.
Her brothers become visibly upset because they hate seeing her in such obvious emotional distress. Her parents are upset that she is suffering, frustrated that she is doing this to herself and angry that every evening is now homework hell. Katie Kaboom has enough mental capacity to memorize the script of her day. “And then we went in the good bathroom and she said that he said that they blah-blah-blah.” Ask her what two plus two is and BOOM. Sobbing irrationality forms a hard shell around her that Ghostbusters couldn’t remove. Telling her to use an online tutor would never, ever work when her brain is locked down. After only two to four hours of this fun, the math homework gets done. Then, we all stare at our dinner like forgotten vampire victims. Drained and empty and useless.
Multiply Katie Kaboom times 30 and make each Katie’s nonsense trigger something completely different. Then, tell each teacher of the thirty Katies that their paycheck depends on each Katie’s scores on a scan sheet. Now, tell each of the Katies that they get to review the teachers who are tasked with pushing the nonsense triggers. Make sure the Katies know that not only can they prevent the meany-pants teachers who want them to learn from being paid properly, they can get the teachers fired. What could possibly go wrong?