Free Advice from Anne for When Your Kids Are Flunking a Class

Posted by Princess Eva Angelica On 3:05 PM
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" A warm thank-you to all who helped The Spare with her French story about dragons! She turned the project in today, on deadline. Debra, She Who Seeks offered assistance, but I have to say THE Michael's brilliant idea to run the thing through a translation program (see Comments) was uplifting. And the ever-helpful Yellowdog Granny shortened and simplified the tale in ways calculated to warm the heart of any French teacher. Well, maybe. Okay, maybe not. But I liked it!

The Spare has had the very devil of a time with French. There's been ongoing antagonism with the teacher practically since Day One of Spare's freshman year.

As with anything else in this world, you can learn valuable lessons from having to deal with an unmotivated student and a stubborn teacher. I've taken the scenic route to this lesson, so I'm going to give you the short cut.

The short cut is this: If a teacher sends home a failure notice, don't freak! Teachers expect parents to freak and wig out on the kids. Especially in Snobville, where every single brat goes Ivy League or is branded a Failure for Life.

Try this approach instead. Tell the teacher to go ahead and flunk your kid.

What? No grounding? No extra chores, no withheld allowance? No speech about High School Setting the Scene for the Rest of Your Life?

Who needs such aggravation in the household at the end of a long day?

And so, last year when Spare got a letter home that said she might flunk French, I wrote back to the teacher thus:

Dear Madame,

If Spare flunks French, that means that Spare has not mastered the material. She needs to take the year over and really master the material. So if you feel she has not learned French, then flunk her till she learns it.

Spare passed.

See, many of these dire teacher letters are -- how shall we say this -- penned with an ulterior motive. "Your daughter may fail French" translates from teacher-ese to parent-ese thus: "Your daughter isn't paying attention and doing her work, and I want you to punish the crap out of her."

Worst punishment I could think of would be to flunk French and have to take it over. And rare though it is for a teenager to agree with a parent, Spare felt the same way. Spare picked up her game a bit and never missed a single trip to the thrift store.

So here's my free advice. If your child is about to enter high school, have them take Latin, or some other useful language. And have your kid start at Level 1, unless you've got some future Mensa genius under your roof. Those years playing with foreign languages in Middle School? Useless! Spare had two years of French in Middle School, and all she learned was that she likes quiche but not escargot.

I will reiterate for clarity:


1. Pick a useful language.
2. Start at Level 1.
3. If the teacher sends home a failure notice,
     A. take a new language at Level 1, or
     B. call the teacher's bluff and let the kid fail.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pick up the unfinished dragon drawings on my office floor. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for foreign language classes. I hope some day to journey to New Zealand to learn English.

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