Last night I went to Parent-Teacher conferences at Jeffrey's Middle school. He seems to be doing really well and I was looking forward to his teachers telling me all about it.
They had all the teachers lined up at tables in the gym, and the first one I got to was the teacher he has for both Science and Social Studies. Since she has him in two classes she has probably gotten to know him pretty well, and he has a solid A in both classes. This should be a good one, I thought.
She was sitting there looking prim and proper in a tidy little suit, and I smiled big as I walked up and proudly announced to her that I am Jeffrey's mother.
"Oh, Jeffrey!" she said. "What are we going to do about Jeffrey?" This was not what I was expecting to hear.
"What do you mean?" I cautiously inquired.
"He's obviously very intelligent." Normally those are words I love to hear, but she wasn't making it sound good. "I call him the 'absent minded professor.' He can't seem to focus."
I asked her for an example of what she was talking about, and she showed me his grades so far. He had A's for every test and assignment, except for five Cs.
She tapped at them with her pen. "Those were LATE assignments, five is a very high number."
I pointed out that he still received As for the quarter. She said "I know, the lates don't really affect the overall grades very much." She seemed a bit disappointed about that.
I know that Jeffrey did all of his homework as it was assigned, but he didn't always get it turned in, either because he forgets or it gets mixed up in the jumble of doodles and papers he carries with him. I told her that I would see to it that Jeffrey gets more organized, and I'll try harder to work with him to turn things in on time. Then she went on:
"The real problem with Jeffrey is that he doesn't seem like he's paying attention. He usually has a spacey look on his face, and he often puts his head down on his desk as if he's sleeping. I try to catch him by calling on him to answer questions, but he always gets it right."
I felt like I should offer something here. "So, what you'd like is for Jeffrey to look more alert during class?"
She agreed, and then looked at me expectantly.
So I said "I will work with Jeffrey to help him look more like he's paying attention."
She seemed pleased with that and I thanked her and went on my way. Except...I have no idea for how I can help him to do that. Out of my two sons, he is already the perkier one. I decided I would at least mention it to him, and remind him before school, that he needs to sit up and look straight at the teacher when she's talking. I figured that maybe we could practice, somehow, like we did for his career project speech. Maybe I could play a CD of some slow music, like they use at the end of yoga class, while he looks in the mirror and tries out alertness expressions. Too bad he's not a girl, I could put his hair into really tight braids so his eyes were stretched open. I wondered if I could blame his food allergies for this. Was his restricted diet causing daytime lethargy? Does he need to eat more protein? Maybe I should introduce coffee to his diet in the morning. Or expresso. Should he take Ritalin? Everyone else is.
Well the next morning I didn't get to try out any of my ideas because for the first time ever the alarms didn't go off and our entire family overslept by an hour. Jeffrey got whisked out of bed in confusion, handed a pop tart and zipped away in the car with Larry while I got everything together to drive Tim. Poor Jeff probably wasn't looking very awake at all today.
And then just now I saw something over on the kitchen counter. I'm pretty sure it's his Social Studies homework.