Today, JP brought home an N in conduct from kindergarten. And as I write that, I picture the mother in A Christmas Story whispering over the phone to his friend’s mother the unthinkable word that Ralphie had exclaimed earlier that night when the lug nuts went flying. And I picture all of you screaming in horror as you read it, your tinny voices coming through cyberspace to let me know you feel my pain and share my horror. Now, it’s not all that bad, an N, it simply means Needs Improvement (I think, but it could also mean Numbskull or Nerd), and JP, of all The Quartet, needs improvement. He seems out of control lately, being more physical than normal and he’s developed this lovely habit of asking “What?” after everything we say. But back to the N. The little note in his folder says he forgot his homework, which was complete, yet sitting on our dining room table – apparently you don’t get credit for that – and being “ugly in Spanish.” I’m not sure if he was misbehaving in Spanish class or if the Spaniards simply consider him unattractive, but it apparently pushed him over the edge of S (Satisfactory) and into the land of N. So I sat him down tonight and explained that I know he can get Es (Excellent) in conduct because he’s gotten plenty of them and I expect him to get more of them from now on, and no more Ns. I’m pretty sure he understood because he said “Alright” after every sentence I spoke. And then he chewed on his sleeve and walked out of the room on his toes.
I wouldn’t dare tell JP to second guess his teacher or that what she says in her classroom, much like a ship’s captain, isn’t law. But she, and the school, do have some inane rules. When he’s gotten an S in the past for breaking one of these, I haven’t said much at all because, well, they’re stupid. One rule that really irks me is that they can’t talk in the lunchroom. No talking in the lunchroom? That’s what lunchrooms are for! It's where you talk about how crappy the food is, how stupid your teachers are and how pretty the girls are … eventually. It’s the chance every day, along with recess, for these five-year-olds to blow off some steam. So when he says he got an S for talking in the lunchroom, I give him that stern, fatherly look, but what I really want to say is, “Really? What did you talk about?”
Tomorrow is another day. Another chance for an E. I feel a little bad about putting so much pressure on him. He’s just learned the alphabet and now we’ve already got him loathing certain letters. But it’s better he learn it now, we don’t want him walking out of that first performance appraisal with the multi-billion dollar corporation he’s gone to work for just out of college (on scholarship!) to find out that, though he met his fiscal goals for the quarter, he got an N in conduct and that, really, is what matters.
Other things N might stand for: