Sometimes Ethan is too smart for his own good. The latest:

Ethan missed a few days of school last week because he was sick. His homework was sent home with a classmate, and in the stack of papers and books was an envelope with a note from his teacher. It also included a graded math page, one of Ethan’s timed tests. It was crumpled from being shoved in the back of his desk. The note said the paper should have come home on Tuesday, but  that Ethan tried to hide it. The note said that Ethan missed 20 of the questions because he skirted the rules.

See, the teacher told the class that she would allow the students to finish any number they started on the paper when she called “time.” (She meant that if the answer was “20” and someone only wrote the “2” when time was called, she would allow the “0” to be penciled in before handing in the paper.) But Ethan interpreted that a different way. He found a loophole to her direction.

Ethan looked at the 40 problems on the page and scribbled a line next to every.single.question. This was his way of “starting numbers” so that he’d have a chance to finish them when time was called. So the 20 questions he missed still had a one-ish looking line next to them. Technically, he STARTED the question. He thought, based on the direction given, that he should be allowed to FINISH his answers. Obviously, the teacher did not allow this.

The situation might have been just a funny story, an example of how the kid is just too damn smart. But, the letter continued – Ethan completely LOST it when he wasn’t allowed to finish his test. He started screaming at the teacher. He was crying. He was incredibly angry. Ethan received a lecture on respect, lost some recess time, and was removed from the classroom until he calmed down.

On one hand, wow, he figured out how to get more time on a timed test. Go, Ethan. Even if the teacher didn’t allow it, the fact he thought of “starting” numbers is pretty awesome.

On the other hand, he cannot get THAT angry. He can’t disrespect teachers. He has to know when to give in and how to calm down. The world is not black-and-white, and Ethan really struggles with that. The problem comes from not seeing him get THIS angry when he’s with me. Maybe he knows he’ll have firm consequences if he carries angrily when he’s with me, or maybe I don’t present enough grey situations to warrant his outbursts.

Obviously, if Ethan is disrespecting people and demonstrating extreme anger (as was described in the teacher’s note), he has to be disciplined. (Ethan had to stay in his room all day Saturday, coming down only for meals.) It’s also something I brought up with his therapist in our meeting this week.

This parenting thing is hard…

2 thoughts on “Loophole

  1. Not that I don’t 100% believe his teacher when she describes his behavior, but be sure to ask Ethan questions about what happened – Both how he reacted AND what his punishment was.

    I had an experience in 3rd grade that has me distrusting teachers sometimes. Long story, but basically, I said something to another student about how our teacher was so mean and I’d wish she’d die. (Remember, I was in 3rd grade; I had never been around death before and had no real concept of what death really meant. So I didn’t realize how terrible of a thing this was to say.) The student told the teacher and I was held from every recess for almost a month. I had to have MULTIPLE talks with the teacher about how awful that was to say. She threatened to call my mom, but didn’t. At least not right away. Just before Halloween, the teacher called my mom for the very first time to tell her what I had said and suggested that as punishment, maybe I shouldn’t go trick-or-treating. My mom was young and not so great at this parenting thing so she did exactly as the teacher instructed without ever questioning me about it. She thought she had all the facts from the teacher. I was devastated and spent the entire night in my room, crying. The next day, as I was still sulking about it, it somehow came up about all the recesses I’ve missed, all the talks I’ve been having with the teacher, etc. My mom was furious with the teacher, called her up, cussed her out, and tried to apologize to me for making me miss Halloween, but when you’re in 3rd grade, Halloween is a pretty big freakin’ deal and it’s not like you can go trick-or-treating on Nov. 1. So yeah, I’m still pretty mad about that.

    All that to say (and I’m sure you already do this) but make sure you talk to Ethan about his behavior when someone else reports something to you that you’ve never seen him do before. There’s always two versions to every story and somewhere in there lies the truth.

    • Oh, I’m talking to E all the time. I’ve also observed, when he didn’t know I was there (from the coat room or around the corner), and I see a different kid. One I don’t really recognize. I feel good that his teachers want to help him anyway they can. It’s just hard because E doesn’t know HOW to express himself, so he just usually doesn’t.

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