Tales of the No Good, Very Bad Fourth Grade

String Bean is reaching the end of fourth grade. I must admit that it has been a no good, very bad school year for him.

He liked school in the third grade. He liked school in the second grade. He liked school in the first grade. He liked kindergarten and preschool.

He hates fourth grade.

The homework menace.

Each day after school is a struggle. He has more homework than I assign high school Language Arts students. Some days, we sit for over two hours while he works on his homework. This is not only torture for String Bean, but torture for The Captain and me.

I have to be honest when I say that the homework routine gets really draining. Who knew that 4th grade would be so hard? There are some days when I have come to be the peace maker during homework time. If String Bean gets frustrated, The Captain gets frustrated. The cycle is endless. It usually ends with tears (from the 4th grader) and me calming both parties down. I should have been in politics.

As a teacher, I want both String Bean and Squishy to love school. I want them to enjoy learning and become passionate about subjects that interest them.

But I do not have patience with a grade that is killing my child’s love of school.

The Salt Map of Ohio. I am not even going on record to say how long it took us to make this.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to make a salt map of the state of Ohio. I do not know what the point of this was besides seeing whose parents make the coolest project.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to create a brown bag book report. Now, I am all for book reports, but apparently the brown bag I sent along was not the correct brown bag. Minus 10 points for String Bean because I wasn’t correctly informed.

In fourth grade, String Bean has been sent home with four behavior slips. This is my quiet, Lego building child. Turns out, the behavior slips are not for what one would think are traditional “behavior” issues. One was for neglecting to put his name on his paper. One was for leaving his folder (which was empty) at home. One was for not have eight lines in a poem (he had seven). And the last one, the one that The Captain almost rocketed through the roof about, was when a girl tossed a swing that hit him on the back at recess, he told the teacher about it and the girl said it was his fault and he got into trouble. What a democracy!

As I look toward the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope I can salvage String Bean’s zest for learning. I hope I can remind him of what he liked about school before this year. I hope I can re-engage his curiosity in the world around him. I hope.

But, for now, I will hold my breath, hold my frustration and keep smiling to help him make it to the end of the fourth grade road.

Wish me luck.

I am ready for this sweet smile.

69 thoughts on “Tales of the No Good, Very Bad Fourth Grade

  1. Insightful post. Very hard for us teacher-parents to not say too much what we think about asinine assignments and tedious tasks that suck the joy out of learning. Part of me, says, speak up, another says, sit still. Good luck- hopefully you’ll have a wonderful, restorative summer and 5th grade will bring more positive challenges! My eldest stopped wanting to be in school after 1st grade. After he learned to read, he felt he needed nothing else. He’s 27 now and it’s been a struggle to keep him focused. He finally finished a college degree and is happily engaged in a master’s degree program.. but thanks to his small laptop I know he reads and writes on his own during lectures to keep sane. Keep fighting the good fight.

    • Thank you! I am hoping 5th grade will be a better year all around. You are right – it is hard to find the balance between speaking up and staying quiet. I stayed quiet for most of the year, but toward the end, I had to say something. Maybe she will be a better teacher next year because of it. I hope!

  2. I hope fifth grade goes better! I’m a teacher/parent too, and looking back at my youngest child’s education (which is when I went back to work), I wish I had been more like my “parent only” self when dealing with his teachers. I was way too polite and respectful of my teaching peers, and my child paid for it.

    • My husband, The Captain, feels torn because he works in the district. It is a hard position to be in. He didn’t want to be labeled as “that teacher who is very vocal with his peers” but I finally just took him out of the equation. It is hard to teach in the same district as your kids. I am hoping for a great 5th grade year – for all of us!

  3. Schools seem to be getting worse and worse all over the country. I am having the same kinds of problems with my kids’ schools (one is in high school next year, the other is going into sixth grade). The amount of homework they are given is crazy, but that’s what the teachers here have to do since they have to spend all their time in the classroom teaching my kids how to take standardized tests. It’s awful. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous projects they have been given, like your String Bean’s salt map of Ohio.

    • You are right – the standardized tests are a nightmare. I am not sure why there is so much importance put on them. My philosophy is that children are not the same, nor should they be tested as if they are on an assembly line.

  4. It’s always heartbreaking when a school year stinks. šŸ˜¦ This year was my fifth graders hurry-up-let’s-get-it-over-with-year. He had so much fun, but at times the school work was boring and tedious. He isn’t very patient. Our schools are officially out and summer is feeling SO SWEET! May you have the best summer ever, and here’s to a wonderful new school year in August!

  5. Ugh, I remember those horrible days. I can’t imagine what schools are thinking when they assign children so much homework they don’t have time to play. And projects! Ridiculous, because it’s the parents who do all the work. Hang in there, you sound like a wonderful mom.

  6. I find it difficult to be a parent/teacher in the same district and now the same building. It is hard when I hear about things that happen in my kids’ classes and I don’t want to step on colleagues toes. Definitely awkward at times. Hang in there! Summer is almost here and 4th grade is almost over!

  7. As a mother of a son who disliked 8th grade and made sure to let us know on a weekly basis but really enjoyed 9th grade, I’m here to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. New classrooms with new teachers made a huge difference for my son. Hopefully it will for yours, too.

    • Thanks for this, Carrie! I hope there is light for next year. I am glad to hear your son liked 9th grade (although I may be biased because I teach 9th grade Language Arts!). šŸ™‚

  8. I’m right there with ya – we can do it ! (keep saying it ….)
    love the title – Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day is a favorite , and the kids like it too !

  9. Those kind of behavior slips are not behavior slips. I think on the fourth I would have completely lost it! (My son once got one for coloring outside the lines.) Things like that are a very good way to get good kids to dislike school. Hope one year doesn’t spoil the rest for him.

    • The teacher told me that we were the first parents to complain about the terminology of “behavior” on the behavior slips. She also said they were considering changing them to another title. I hope they do, but, at this rate, they may call them “Parent Torture Slips” or “Slips that make moms and dads want to drink.”

  10. Oh dear, I really hate the fun sucker teachers (the ones that suck every bit of fun out of not only school, but life in general). Fourth grade shouldn’t be that hard–why do they have to make it so? Hang in there. Know how you feel–truly. I pretty much hated 4-7th. Don’t know what it is about those grades, but they are brutal. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  11. šŸ˜¦ That is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fourth grade year. Hope yall have such a wonderful summer he forgets all about it!

  12. That is a crummy year for everyone involved, not just String Bean. I hope that summer brings a better time for y’all. Stories lik this make me anticipate what’s in store for my girls (and me!). Yikes! Let’s all hear it for fresh start in fifth grade!

    • You all will be fine. My advice is to request teachers if you need to. I heard the horror stories about this teacher, but I didn’t request for 4th grade and paid for it dearly.

  13. I feel part of your pain! And wish you a lot of luck. My oldest daughter is also in 4th grade and it has been a rocky one. She loved most of her years. Her issue is a social one. Last year she had a wonderful group and this year had no previous friends. She struggled with being the only one at the peanut free table until I kept asking for her to have other students and be allowed to sit at a regular table. Homework in my district is sort of the ssame. Why do they have more homework in 4th than in high school? I don’t know. lets all pray 5th grade is better for your string bean and my red headed appendage.

    • To a better year in 5th grade for both of our kiddos! The friend thing in elementary is so difficult. String Bean’s best friend went half days to the Gifted and Talented school. He was lost for the afternoon. I hope next year fairs better for him and your sweet red head!

  14. Oh, my heart breaks for your son, for you, and for the Captain, as well as Squishy. This really has been a no good, very bad fourth grade year. I’m really hoping the summer is restorative, and I also hope that his fifth grade experience returns his natural love of learning. Sending all of you good thoughts.

  15. Hi, I just linked back to your page and nominated you for 2 awards in my last post. If you’re not up to doing it, I’ll completely understand. But I wanted you to have it. Have a great day!

  16. Well he is absolutely darling. I’m sorry but summer is coming! You’re a teacher so more of a pro than I but maybe he’ll be used to a lot of homework in the future? Homework is killing my 9th grader šŸ˜¦

    Being a parent is way harder than I ever thought it would be!

    • Thank you! We think he is pretty sweet. šŸ™‚ I agree with you wholeheartedly – parenting is tough. There were no books to prepare me for these aspects of parenting. With homework, I thank google daily because some of the math terms have me completely stumped. I hope your 9th grader has a less homework infused year next fall!

  17. I could go on and on about homework, and my oldest is just finishing first grade. I will lose my mind if I have to be as involved in homework as I was this year. I want the kids to feel a responsible for it and not me. However, the assignments were often too hard for him to fully get on his own.

    My point: I feel your pain.

    • The homework is a beast! I thought it would get better after first grade, but fourth is much worse. The good news? First grade was easier going with homework for my second child. I wonder if it is because I had adjusted to the dreadful routine of it, or because second and third grade weren’t too bad in the homework arena. So, there may be a little light for the next couple of years.

  18. What is it about 4th grade? Jake had the most horrible year of his education that year. I could still strangle that teacher every time I look at her smug face. Hopefully next year will be better!

    • That is exactly what I said to String Bean! I told him never to worry about one of those slips because I am not worried about them. I did let the teacher know that I didn’t like the terminology on the slips. She informed me that they are “thinking” about changing them for next year.

  19. Here’s to leaving 4th grade. It’s the worst thing to watch a kid lose his enthusiasm for school all because of some arbitrary practices. Maybe summer will erase some of his frustration so that 5th grade is fantastic.

    Also, I just nominated you for a “One Lovely Blog Award” (http://wp.me/p2du4c-a1). Please don’t feel obligated, but it’s my way of saying “I like your blog! I really do!”

  20. Here is to a summer so awesome String Bean forgets his awful year, and here’s to an all good no bad fifth grade!

    Loved your stories about Squishy and String Bean šŸ™‚ You have wonderful children. Following your blog now to keep up with them.

    Please do visit my book blog, and if you like it, please follow!

    • Thanks for following and for your kind words! String Bean and Squishy are funny dudes. They comment every time I am at my computer by saying, “Are you writing about me? Don’t put this in your blog!” I usually do end up putting it in the blog! šŸ˜‰ I will be checking out your blog today!

  21. When I was a kid, homework was hard labour. I probably took longer to get it done than all the other kids in the class. Maybe I was slow.

    In your son’s case, something smells. Something is wrong. Fourth grade to be so difficult. What do parents do who don’t know how to help their kids?

    • I ask myself that question, too. I feel bad for the kids that do not have advocates at home. Thankfully, fourth grade is now officially over for Noah. We are all relieved.

  22. I feel your pain, and have been feeling it since my Little Man was in first grade. Being dyslexic, reading, and thus everything else about school, is more than not fun. He can read (although is a bit behind), but hates it every step of the way. Unfortunately, the two areas that affect my son the most- his sensory processing issues and his dyslexia, are two things that our school district has decided to not deal with (I know that other schools in our fine country do deal with both of these). So, I prop the little guy up over and over again, try to get him accommodations that will help make school tolerable, listen to him cry and whine every morning, and send him off- with a huge sigh of relief for the 6 hours of quiet and “me” time.

    So much for my dream of his loving to read and loving to learn. School has crushed those.

    I hope, like crazy, that String Bean has a good year next year.

    • String Bean, too, hates reading. I am having him tested this summer for dyslexia. I wonder if it is part of the issue… I asked about it when he was in 2nd grade, but the district said I had to have him tested outside of school. They also said they think it just hasn’t completely “clicked” for him and to wait it out. I am not sure why this is, but now I am going to find out. I hope your Little Man has a good year next year, too.

  23. Interesting. Dimples just finished 4th grade, and she, too, stopped loving school this year. And almost had the same exact projects – in a completely different state! I will be one of her teachers next year (for Gifted and Talented, once a week) so hopefully I can help her salvage her love for learning.

    • How cool for Dimples to have mom at school! String Bean keeps asking me if he can have me for a teacher, but I teach in a different district (and 9th graders). I don’t know what it is about 4th grade… sometimes I wonder if it is because K-3 is so teacher-directed and 4th is very hands off for teachers. I am not sure… I do know I will be a little more ready for this when Squishy hits 4th grade.

  24. Oh, I bet your son can’t wait to get out of that teacher’s classroom. You’ve got to wonder what goes through the teacher’s head that can seem so counter-productive. My son had a very rough start with kindergarten and every discipline action made it worse. I had enough and called a meeting with the teacher and the principal. We discussed other options and after that, everything went well and he’s been thriving. Parents know best, right? At least most of the time!

  25. Oh, dear, oh, dear! I want to hug you! I so know how this feels as a parent. And I so know the fear of accidentally doing this to a kid in my own classroom (though this doesn’t sound very accidental; what is up with that teacher?!). When this happened to my daughter, I just made sure to have a sit-down meeting with the next year’s teacher before school even started to tell him/her what my little lady needed to redeem her love of school. It worked. All it took was a teacher telling her she liked her and just being interested. I hope for the same rebound for String Bean.

    • We are going to a sit down meeting with the principal next week to figure out about next year. I don’t know what is up with his teacher this year – it was so odd compared to all of our great experiences with the school.

  26. Rock and a hard place for sure! What a lovely boy, and so hard to see them lose their joy for learning…we’ve watched Little Man sink lower in some respects each year, with severe ADHD and a system that often punishes him for having it, and makes success very hard! That said, he’s managed to keep some self-esteem and will be a junior next year. Hope your little guy finds his groove and 5th grade is much better!

  27. Pingback: To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine | jeandayfriday

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