At the start of summer we received my son’s school report. End of Year 4 in the primary school, he’s ten years old. His marks per subject were pretty much what we had expected – very strong academically, just getting by in activities. But the overall commentary the teacher had written came as something of a shock. He was described as something of a sociopath (my word, not the teacher's) – "needed to be more tactful, uncooperative, a loner". We thought this might have been mentioned during the school year, at parent teacher meetings, in notes home to us, but it hadn’t.
I know my son pretty well. He’s a chip off the old block. Very attentive to detail, studious but impatient, strong with figures and language but reacts badly to criticism, mediocre at sports, not too interested in investing energy in friendships. A bit of a lone ranger. Well, as they say here in Ireland, he didn’t lick it off the stones. He and I, we may well both be somewhere on a behavioural spectrum but life has been, is and will continue to be good. After a few minutes of “that’s my boy” I asked my wife to pull out the previous year’s report.
The individual subject performance was virtually identical, although it had been a different teacher. The overall commentary was full of positivity, encouragement and hope. But it said exactly the same thing as this year. Except that, for last year’s teacher, the glass was half full. This year’s teacher was a glass half empty character. We asked our son what his opinion was of the teacher this year versus last: “She didn’t like me, the one this year. Last year’s teacher was much nicer.”
So, when we received a bad behaviour note home (a rare event) in week three of the new school year from the new teacher, we were on the case. He and another lad were accused of being disruptive during a visit to a local secondary school – one he might attend in two years’ time. When we took him to task over the note he denied the misbehaviour and insisted it was a misunderstanding or a case of mistaken identity. Discreet enquiries at the secondary school (which his elder sister attends) suggested he hadn’t been any rowdier than the other thirty kids in the room. We met with the new teacher and she said the note and punishment (confiscation of all points earned for good class performance) was based upon his admission of guilt. He had already told us he had admitted to whatever to avoid confrontation and embarrassment. Another story was related where the teacher had opened the last few lines of his homework poem up to the class of thirty ten-year-olds for improvement and he had "clearly felt uncomfortable about accepting constructive criticism".
We all smiled, nodded and decided to let life go on, no serious issues. By the end of the week we were receiving worried phone calls from other parents about various notes sent home and punishments meted out. A new teacher straight out of college. Strict disciplinarian. At least we know where we are. Glass half empty.
Last Saturday my son and I competed at the Best of the Best martial arts competition in Dublin. It was his first time and he won a gold medal for weapons (sai dagger form performed to Animals by Martin Garrix) and a bronze for points sparring. I was beaten 7 – 4 in sparring by a veteran black belt, enough said about that. As we got into the car to head back to Kilkenny my son said it was the best day of the year so far. I asked what he had enjoyed the most and he said the sparring bronze medal was his highlight as it was more of a challenge. He wants to compete in divisions where he has to push himself to achieve success. His glass is (at least) half full.
When half full meets half empty, two worlds collide. How full is your glass today?
C'mon and raise your glass.