My daughter’s solid C

As I said yesterday, my daughter’s teacher will indeed be sighing with relief in June because I’m a subversive mom.

Kiddo#2 is in third grade and learning to write cursive. She told me yesterday, “I can write a C in cursive, but the teacher won’t let me.”

She won’t? Why?

“Because we haven’t learned to do it yet.”

But you know how to do it.

“But I’m still not allowed.”

I said to her, “The next time this comes up, I want you to say, ‘Thank you, Mrs. {Teacher}, for teaching me the value of mediocrity. This skill will serve me well all the days of my life.”

She said, “Huh?”

I said, “If you know how to write a C, then it’s ridiculous to make you stop and print it just because some of the kids in the class might not know it yet. Is she going to stop you from reading Harry Potter just because some of the kids in your class can’t read it? If you use a big word in a report, is she going to make you rewrite the report just because you haven’t learned that word in vocabulary yet?”

Probably it’s for the best that Kiddo#2 didn’t get what I was saying. But at the same time, I’m horror-struck by the fact that she’s being told not to do her best by an institution which ought to be encouraging her to expand her horizons and challenge herself every day.

I’m not sure this is worth a note to the teacher. It’s just the letter C. But it’s also a lot more than the C: it’s my daughter being told to be a C-student when she could be doing far better. It’s the triumph of mediocrity, the glorification of the lowest common denominator, in place of her eagerness to learn zipping along at the speed of light.


  1. Jason Block

    What I would do…is let her do it anyway. I would use this as a “teachable moment.” She should break the rules and see how far the school would go to push her down and be mediocre. I am tired of the LCD BS in schools.

    She should continue to be the smart,learning intensive K2 I know she is 🙂

    1. philangelus

      She is also a sensitive kid who wants to follow the rules. And in this case, the rules are looking out for someone other than her.

      She wouldn’t do it if I told her to do the C anyhow, in other words. Sure, I’d be in the school the next day fighting if she got penalized for writing a cursive C before The Proper Time (“Is this done incorrectly? No? Then what’s the problem?”) but she won’t.

  2. Jason Block

    (Shakes head) I was kind of in the same boat back then. I understand how she feels, but wow. Just wow. Whatever happened to the fact that school and learning isn’t fair, and not everyone learned at the same time. Some kids are SMARTER, and well…some kids are STUPID. Or don’t want to learn. Or are disruptive.

    1. philangelus

      Some kids have an older sibling at home who taught them this stuff long since because while he was learning it, he was also playing school with the younger siblings.

      Life itself isn’t a perfect balance. I don’t want any other kids in her class to feel bad about themselves, sure, but by the same token, they shouldn’t be looking at her school projects anyhow!

  3. Ivy

    I can’t recall whose child this was, but one kid in kindergarten got into trouble for reading in class. The class was doing the whole “This is Mr. B. Mr. B wears lots of buttons” and this kid (I think a she) was sitting in the back quietly reading an Encyclopedia Brown novel. The teacher reprimanded her for not paying attention. Her mom went up to argue that, if she could read the book, she didn’t need anyone to teach her what the letters were.

    Maybe the teacher was worried that, were she called to write something on the board, the other students would be unable to read what she’d written?

  4. Lane in PA

    Sounds like the Leave no Child Behind system.

    I have my own views of this broken scheme, like Leave No Child Behind Thinking Independently.

    1. philangelus

      Good one! How about “No Child Allowed Ahead,” would that work too?

      What drives me nuts is this isn’t even the kind of thing where you need a reasonable accommodation. The only one who would know if my daughter wrote the C in cursive, other than my daughter, would be her teacher. So whose emotions are being shielded? Is the teacher worried about feeling redundant?

      1. Blue

        The kids would know. They probably already know. They also know that they are not (at this point) supposed to think about it. “Don’t worry about your neighbour’s papers! Everyone will learn it by the end of the year!”

        So it will take them that much longer to realise that not everyone knows everything, and that’s OK. Kiddo’s classmate that doesn’t know a C may know how to throw a baseball. The one who daydreams in class may know how to do physics problems. And if you put all that knowledge together, they could build a business that would take down Microsoft!

        Ok, maybe you should hide the chemistry sets before you tell them that, but still…

  5. Jason Block

    No, she is worried that the “self-esteem” of the kids who can’t do it would be hurt by K2 because she is ahead. Every kid has to be equal. But some kids ARENT equal. They are SMARTER. The teacher is being inflexible.

    1. Ivy (Advocate for the Devil since 1985)

      Perhaps she wants to keep to the curriculum and make certain nothing is skipped, like the cute little apostrophe in “aren’t”. 😛

      If the other students would have to read letters they haven’t been taught, she’s being perfectly reasonable. If the other students wouldn’t see her switch to cursive, their self-esteem wouldn’t be influenced by it. I think it might be a matter of instilling the practice of remaining on schedule. Students who rush ahead tend to miss important information.

  6. cricketB

    My son’s been told not to work ahead in his math book because some of the kids who do get most of it wrong.

    I’m also told it’s rude to pay attention to your book when the teacher is trying to teach, even if it’s review from two years ago.

    Dad used to not do his French homework. That was when kids wrote the answers on the board. He did it on the fly, looking only at the question, without reference book, perfectly. He enjoyed the challenge. The teacher was comfortable enough that he let him, so long as Dad didn’t make any mistakes.

    How can she tell if it’s cursive or not? One little circle at the beginning.

    I bet she isn’t even teaching cursive in the right order. My son was in occupational therapy for it, and I’ve looked at several programs. They group letters by shape, with some adjustment for frequency, but most teachers do them alphabetically.

    Our son’s in a tough class. She doesn’t need another kid outside the lines. We’ll mention it at the next regular meeting, but I doubt it will change.

    We’ve told our son it’s unfortunate, and we know he can do the work. Meanwhile, be polite and respect her wishes. Continue to learn it the first time (it’s a useful skill), and use the free time to plan his robots, without being obvious about it.

    I don’t like it, but it’s the best option available. He’s happier this way than us fighting with the teacher. Kids are uncomfortable if teachers and parents disagree.

    Meanwhile, he gets his chance to shine representing the city in a math contest this month. When he asked me about square roots last week it took him ten minutes to learn multiplication and division of fractions and decimals, square roots, raising to any integer power, and any integer root. (I wanted to see how far we could go before he got bored. My excuse was, unlike his classmates, he’d not be restricted to round numbers. Now I need to relearn how to raise to a fraction. Proud Mommy. Bragging is part of our plan to show him it’s okay to shine.)

  7. cricketB

    This has me thinking more. The system is broken. Teachers should let kids shine, and supervise enough that they don’t head off in the wrong direction. (A kid who works ahead and gets a lot wrong needs to slow down and review.)

    “All together” isn’t new. My grandmother taught primary school for 40 years. She was there when kindergarten was new and controversial. I was one of the first to watch Sesame Street. She felt the show was terrible. Not only was the pace too fast (some current researchers agree), but the kids who watched it would enter grade one already knowing most of the material! (Dad’s response was that the teacher should capable of teaching grade two material.)

  8. cricketB

    Even more thinking a day later. By telling someone not to work ahead, they’re drawing attention to the fact that many in the class can’t work ahead. In other words, they’re telling the kid that they are better than the rest of the class. If everyone is allowed to work at their own pace, everyone will get individualized help on their current page. The kids won’t know what “average” is.

    Also, some kids feel punished if they’re encouraged to work ahead too far. They’re punished for being smart, by having to help classmates or do extra pages or read boring books. If they want to do more, let them. Tempt them with neat things. If they still choose to reward themselves with time off instead, let them.

  9. Promise

    Wow! A school system that still teaches cursive handwriting! Sadly, where I live, handwriting is no longer part of the curriculum. It’s not included in the end of grade testing you see, so there’s no time or reason to teach it. Only things that will be tested are taught. Some teachers do buck the system slightly by giving handwriting tracing papers as part of the “morning work” (aka busy work to keep kids occupied whilst they drift in over the course of half an hour), but by and large, the students here cannot write or read cursive handwriting. I’ve been told that it’s not neccessary anyway, since adults use computers and other tech devises to communicate, not hand-written media.

    1. philangelus

      I’m sad to admit I learned cursive in fifth grade and then never used it again until 10th grade when I realized…someday, I might have a kid,and when I did that, I would probably need to write the kid an absence note or something.

      And unless I could do it in cursive, they’d think my kid did it. (My printing is atrocious.) So I forced myself to take notes in the busiest class of the day in cursive. Re-taught it to myself over the course of a month or so.

      It’s sad that they don’t teach it any longer. Unless we get printers attached to our heads, we’re always going to need to be able to jot notes to one another or to ourselves.

  10. knit_tgz


    We learned to write in cursive (I believe kids still do, in my country, that is) on 1st grade… I still remember the teacher writing each kid’s name on top of the page of our little notebooks and we had to copy it (and then fill the page with cursive aaaa or whatever the letter was). I was unlucky to have an f in the middle of one of my names, which I had no idea how to write till much later, and I always wrote it wrong!

    On my 1st grade school the kids learned at very different paces, so we had some activities together, where everybody had to do the same, and some individual activities, where everyone was in a different place of the books. Of course, this only worked in smaller classes (up to 20 pupils).

    I learned to read very early (I could read at 3 years old) so I already “sort of” wrote: I copied the letters from the books (though I mirrored a lot of them and had a very unsteady hand, but it allowed me to write sweet little notes for my mother). Anyway, I was (of course) ahead of everybody else in reading, but not in writing (cursive). And I was the worst in sports and I would be very upset if people would prevent the other kids from being faster than me in order “not to hurt my feelings”.

    Kids *know* that they do not learn at the same pace. There’s nothing worse for a kid’s self esteem than dumbing things down. Kids like challenges. I loved when I started to become faster at sports, even though I was slower than everybody else.

  11. Kate

    Kids Learn at different Paces but that still doesn’t mean that a teacher should tell a student to stop ! When a child figures out how to write in cursive , spell or count a teacher shouldn’t tell them to stop instead give them encourage to keep on practing ! it shouldnt matter what your age is or if other kids are behind what matters is that specific indivaul ( student ) who is going to school to learn ….. they have thier own pace and they should just keep at it … and never let anyone tell you to slow stop or stop learning because your ahead of everyone else 😀