An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Loquacious Leta

Last week like most weeks was relatively insane with parent-teacher conferences that caused three half-days of school for Leta, and stuck in between all that mess she had to present a four-minute oral presentation on sedimentary rocks. Can I just say, thank god for wikipedia and google and entire websites dedicated to rocks that form the Earth’s surface. Back when I was in fourth grade we had to drive to the library, figure out where a relevant book might be using an insane Dewey Decimal System, walk all the way over to the shelf where the book had been stored and hope that it wasn’t already checked out. We DROVE and we WALKED and we HOPED. It was exhausting.

Kids these days just half to roll over on the couch and pull the iPad out from under their butt. And MAYBE wipe dried chocolate ice cream off of the screen in order to see the browser.

At least we hope that’s chocolate ice cream.

Leta killed the presentation. She memorized the page of notes she had researched and reminded me to have her practice it several times the night before. I got to sit in the back of the class to witness it, and the first question from one of her fellow students after it was over was, “WOW! How did you memorize the whole thing?”


She wasn’t expecting that question, and she hesitated under the weight of confusion. How do you explain memorization? I committed it to memory? I remembered it? I read it over and over again? I DONE LEARNED IT? She finally blinked a few times and explained, “It was really hard and I worked a lot to remember the words.”

Good answer. Totally adequate. But the right answer would have been “My grandmother is The Avon World Sales Leader. Her genes are strong.”

RELATED: oh my god. If you are an avid twitter user I challenge you to try to explain twitter to someone who does not speak English very well and has no idea what it is. The look on their face as you get deeper and deeper into the explanation has got to be one of the quickest ways to make you stop and think HOLY SHIT I HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED.

You will sound like a member of a cult.

And then… parent-teacher conferences. I’m never nervous when I go into these meetings because I’m there when Leta is doing her homework. I look at everything she brings home. Initially the workload in fourth grade was a bucket of cold water to the face, and it took a couple of weeks for Leta to get the hang of all the homework after school coupled with her piano practice. But I’ve been really proud of how she’ll walk in the door and immediately pull out her work and bury her head in a page of six-digit subtraction problems often while Marlo is trying to climb into her lap to “help.”

Oh, my sweet little Bobo. When Leta was her age she was reading paragraphs and this is what it looks like when Marlo practices the letters in her own name:


Leta’s teacher said she’d already noticed the vast improvement she’d shown since the first week of school and clarified that every kid has a tough adjustment to fourth grade. It’s the year they push the kids to learn time management skills and if they don’t learn how to be self-motivated they fall behind extremely fast. Leta is completing all of her work and doing so thoroughly and accurately, but she might want to work on chatting less when she’s supposed to be paying attention.


It hasn’t been a paralyzing fear of mine, just a small worry that my kids won’t be motivated to do their absolute best in school. And I call it a worry because my mentality toward school from the moment I ever set foot in a classroom, from my earliest memory even in kindergarten, was so rigid that I am going to have to twist myself into a pretzel to try and understand where they are coming from and how to help. It’s a challenge I’m totally willing to take on, but a challenge it will be. Chatting during class isn’t an indication that Leta isn’t trying her best, and it’s not like she’s drowning kittens, but it’s a behavior I would have never exhibited at school. So I have to figure out a way to approach this without the nine-year-old Heather rearing her frizzy head with IF YOU CHAT DURING CLASS THE COMMUNISTS WILL WIN.

In many ways it’s probably a good thing if neither of my kids is like me in school because I really needed to chill the hell out. But I’m interested if you’ve run up against this and how you’ve approached it. Are your kids a different kind of student than you were?

  • issascrazyworld

    The could work harder at not chatting comment cracked me up. I’ve heard this at every teacher conference (for both of my girls), written on every single report card and now it’s a near weekly note sent home about my nine year old. I tend to just nod and say, yeah they are talkers. Some days I think they just have a really really high word quota that they must meet each day.
    Forth grade homework is kicking my ass. I mean uh my kids ass. Okay fine, it’s going to be the death of me. My 7th grader has no issue doing all of her work but oh man my younger daughter has issues with getting things done.

  • Grace D

    Is she just bored? I used to get in trouble for chatting or being distracted, and my elementary school teachers kept telling my mother that I was a “problem,” until they received the results of my first standardized test. My teacher actually called my mother to apologize. Leta is clearly very bright, and it doesn’t take much for a bright kid to get bored with the pace of a typical classroom.

  • Heather Armstrong

    I read a study recently that all this homework our kids are doing is having little to no effect on their overall performance as a student. It’s just frustrating them and us and we all spiral into wanting to tear our hair out.

  • midddy

    My kids are teeny tiny still, but I’ll tell you what my parents did when told I talked too much in school and when I didn’t rush home and immediately start in on my homework. Absolutely nothing. I got awesome grades and in their view it just wasn’t a big deal. I mean, it’s important to just be a kid too. We seem to shove them right into adulthood and we expect perfect maturity 24 x 7.

  • Connie

    I was always ahead in class, finished everything early, and talked my fool head off. I was smart and funny, and my teachers loved me. They also had not problem giving me C’s in citizenship. Bit me in Junior High when I didn’t make Junior Honor Society even though all my other grades were better than my best friend’s. My talking in class stopped immediately. I am not a Mom, so don’t have that perspective, but I figure Lena will stop the very first time her talking keeps her from meeting a goal.

  • Kara

    Pamela – I’m struggling to find a way to ask this that doesn’t come across the wrong way and I hope you’ll excuse my fumbling if it does. It’s not meant that way. It sounds like your kids are older, so how did this method of time management work out for them in the long run? I know in the things I do every day at work, I don’t have the option of stopping to chat with friends and co-workers and “doing a couple more later”. How do your kids learn that in the “real world” time must be managed and sometimes you have to stop doing what you want and do what you don’t want.

    I’ve never understood this part of homeschooling, to be honest. I see lots and lots of homeschool parents say the same thing, and I just can’t help but feel that the child is not being prepared for the real world.

  • Heather Armstrong

    Good point. See my comment above about how I needed to chill out. I wish someone had slowed me down and told me to be a kid a bit more.

  • This.

  • I’m conflicted about how I will help support my son to do his best. I saw a ton of kids getting the “YOU’RE GOING TO DO GREAT OR ELSE” do exceptionally well and exceedingly poor during and after school. I want my son to be and do great things by his own estimation. I just he knows what he knows, confidently, and can create opportunities for himself. Everything else is a relay race of wealth and accomplishment that distracts from happiness.

  • Jo DeBell

    I used to get in trouble for rushing through assignments so I could read my book.

  • Sally

    I’ve noticed that my girls (who, as of this year, are both in college) had much less respect for their teachers than I did. Not like “Stand and Deliver” disrespectful, but just an entirely different attitude. For example, if my friends and I saw a teacher at the mall or elsewhere outside of school, it was like a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom moment where we studied their movement in the wild with awe and wonder. Now, kids just try to avoid eye contact and walk the other way.

    There also wasn’t a bat’s chance in hell that I would have ever blamed my failures (you know, a “B-“) on my teacher, or whether or not I liked him/her. But somehow it’s become okay for kids to do that.

    Most of all, my girls just didn’t seem as, well, uptight as I would have liked them to be. Needless to say, their grades and test scores weren’t as high as they could’ve been. Yes, they lived through it (only because I’m a pacifist). Yes, they got into college. And no, the things that were on their indelible “permanent records” didn’t come back to bite them. But I sure as hell would have liked for them to have obsessed about it way more than they did. Because now they’ve learned that they can skate through with little effort and even less respect, and eventually that will bite them in the ass–only now it’s going to be with bigger consequences.

    That being said, it sounds like Leta really has her head on straight–not uncommon for an oldest child. My oldest was far more studious as well. But if my younger is any indication of how Marlo is going to do (and from your stories…well, deja vu and I feel for ya honey), then save your strength. You’ll need it for future conferences.

  • Suebob

    Time management skills? In fourth grade? What is this newfangled schooling? They NEVER taught us time management skills. For evidence, see my To Do list, which has things to be done on it that are 9 months old.

  • Jennifer

    My niece is in fifth grade at an elementary school in Montana. This year…schoolwide…no homework. Everything needs to get done in class! This wasn’t because kids were tired, etc…it was because kids weren’t completing the homework and the school was tired of fighting kids and parents. Maybe they are onto something…

  • Jennifer

    Love your response…Bars are set so freaking high anymore and there is so much comparison. The need to chill is real indeed!

  • Leigh in TX

    Oh, yes, so much different, yes. My older daughter is about to pull a D in Chemistry on her report card and that’s if she’s lucky; my lowest report card grade in high school was an 89 and I cried over it. It is a constant struggle for me (and for my husband, who also was a straight-A student) to challenge her to do her best while still keeping in mind that her best might not equal straight As.

    My younger daughter, on the other hand, is smarter than I’ll ever be. That brings it’s own set of problems in that I don’t want to compare the two of them either in my head or out loud. It’s hard, and this was not in the textbook!!

  • I was coming down here to comment and say the exact same thing. I was always a very good student, but as I progressed through elementary school, my conduct scores started to tank (from Excellent to Problematic, whoops!) because I was finishing my work too fast and then being social (i.e., distracting the other kids). Made me super popular with my classmates! But was generally frowned upon by the establishment.

    The solution in my case was actually to skip fourth grade, which changed my social status/dynamics ENTIRELY. But that’s a whole different story…

    Given Leta’s nature, I would think a friendly conversation about respecting the teacher/class is all it would take for her to work to be more mindful of her behavior. She’s obviously a good kid and probably isn’t even aware of what she’s doing. I certainly wasn’t!

  • EmJay

    I have a 4th grade boy and a 1st grade girl. A little chatty is nothing to get worried about, if everything else is okay. My kids do well and are good kids. I am consistently frustrated with my son because “good enough” is okay with him, versus my uptight do it the best kind of vibe. I try to look at the all of his strengths and weaknesses and assess if the weakness is because of genuine difficulty or something else like carelessness or laziness. He gets a pass if he makes a good effort but doesn’t do well versus not really trying his best. It is a delicate balance, but we have had good conversations about it. My first grader wants to be the best, the top and will crush all who come close. She needs a little different attitude from me. For her, I have to have conversation about dialing it down just a bit. Who knows what my third child is going to throw at me. She is only three and I just called about preschool today. Help me.

  • I’m not yet a parent (until March), and may change my tune, but I think that’s kinda sad. For a kid to really spend time understanding a book and forming a well-written opinion with observations, she needs to spend more than the 45 minutes per day allotted to the language arts class.

    I applaud the administrators for being realistic and not setting kids up to fail if they don’t have the kind of support system/home life to turn out elaborate projects, but just saying ‘screw it, they’re not going to do it anyway’ is almost a reward for not meeting expectations.

    However, this is coming from a former self-motivated super student who cannot wrap my brain around the concept of just not turning in an assignment. The very idea!

  • Pamela Wik-Grimm

    That’s actually a great question! I think that misperception comes from the underlying assumption that time management is a skill that must be taught, and it must be taught at a young age. It actually appears to be part of what the brain is capable of learning in many ways and many ages.

    Yup, the kids are both in college — and both started college at 14/15. Never had their first test till they hit college and both had to have their professors explain the concept of homework. They figured it out pretty quickly and are both very independent adults who juggle lots of parts of their lives!

  • Pamela Wik-Grimm

    I hear ya’, girlfriend. We were radical unschoolers once we got the kids reading and doing basic math. So we removed the whole “let’s fight about school stuff” thing from our family life.

  • AL

    Hahah. That sounds super familiar to me, but instead of stopping, I decided that the Jr Honor Society was stupid, and carried on. So far so good, though. In my experience, the talking in class was not so much my failure, but the failure of the teacher to engage me. I usually talked when I was bored, having already mastered whatever the teacher was going on and on and on about. Disrespectful of the other kids still trying to learn? Surely. And the teacher trying to teach? Surely. So, I guess patience and compassion might be the keys to shutting up even when something is SO important it must be said right that minute during class. Also, passing notes was a good way to keep from talking – though perhaps not the solution the teacher will have in mind…

  • Kat

    I have the opposite issue in that my daughter is a perfectionist and beats herself up if she gets an answer wrong. It’s very difficult for me to explain to her that it’s not a big deal to get stuff wrong and that it doesn’t mean she’s not smart. The difficulty lies in the balancing act between not being too convincing that it’s not a big deal and trying to understand what that perfection feeling is like. I don’t want minimize her feelings, and at the same time, I can’t imagine what setting that standard for yourself feels like. I was a horrible student – I hated doing homework and my ADHD went un-diagnosed until two years ago, so basically, I was just called lazy my whole life. It was high-fives all around when I brought home a B. Having a second grader whose summer goal was to learn the multiplication table is the last thing I expected. It’ll be interesting in a few years, when I’ll be able to handle her four-year old sister who wears her pants on her head with more authority on the subject.

  • Montana is big and it depends on which part this school is in, but I can’t imagine this happened at one of the larger schools (class A or AA). This probably happened in a much smaller community where the kids are out chasing cows and feeding pigs until dinner time. The ranch and farm kids were some of the hardest working kids I knew growing up, so an administration recognizing that these kids are busy getting valuable experience elsewhere would be the sign of people truly paying attention to what their kids and families need. I’m purely speculating, but I grew up in Montana and knowing the culture, this wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

  • BBNS

    About the time my son hit the fourth grade, I started getting phone calls about every six weeks, telling me that he was flunking X class because he hadn’t turned in any of his work. When I got home, I would ask him about it, and he informed me that he had completed all the work, but had not turned it in, because he believed that the grading system was “arbitrary”, and it was not a good measure of intelligence. I would then inform him that regardless of his beliefs, it was a requirement to turn in his work. He would then turn in all the work and his grade went from an F to an A. We had him tested and his IQ was 162. From the 4th grade to graduation, it was a battle to keep him engaged. My suggestion is to set her down, discuss the “requirements” of the school, and just let her know that while it’s ok to talk to her friends, she needs to learn to determine the “right” time to talk, and when to listen. If she’s bored, then maybe the teacher can provide assignment enhancements that will be more at her level of learning. Good luck!

  • luckymom22

    I always got the same feedback about my oldest; she was/is a very bright student, but needed to talk less in class (the admonition was always given with a smile, since she was such a good student otherwise). I was told that she was too eager to blurt out answers during a class discussion instead of waiting to be called on. I was the same way myself (which is ironic since my kiddos were adopted). I have finally come to the conclusion that elementary school teachers, all in all, prefer their children to be quiet–I can understand it; class management is important. However, somehow my kiddo miraculously began earning all “outstanding” marks as soon as she began middle school, and this has continued through high school. Her personality did not magically change between 5th and 6th grade; my generalization (rightly or wrongly) is that teachers of older students value those students whose are enthusiastic and engaged (as opposed to being half-asleep, which many pre-teens and teens are), where some elementary teachers see too much enthusiasm as a bother. In contrast, all of my youngest daughter’s teachers just thought she was a model of perfect behavior and I never had any complaints. Well of course she was quiet–SHE COULDN’T TALK–she was receiving intensive speech therapy (through school and privately) for expressive (not receptive) speech delay! But by golly, she was quiet in class, had perfect citizenship marks, and they loved her. Whatever. She finally came home with a note in 5th grade that she had been too chatty during a project. I cried; I was so happy!!

    Fourth grade is tough. I understand the importance of getting time management and organization under control, especially for those kiddos who don’t have those skills yet. However, I remember consoling my oldest one of the very few times she had to (gasp) “sign in” because she had forgotten a flier (one of those annoying half-sheets) that I was supposed to sign and send back. I told her that for the rest of her life, she would have a loving family who would be able to bring or email her a permission slip if she forgot it; but just not in 4th grade. She felt better.

    Now that my oldest is a senior, my conclusion is that 4th grade and 11th grade are the toughest years. Hang in there!

  • JQ

    I wouldn’t worry about it. I honestly think they need to find some sort of “constructive criticism” for each child. If this is the best they can come up with I’d ignore it. I think it’s good she is chatting and I wouldn’t want her to stop! The same thing happened to me but my mom didn’t laugh it off and then I had a complex about how I would always get in trouble for things the other kids did ALL THE TIME but no one noticed b/c they did it ALL THE TIME. That’s not good either… so I’d let it go… and if she gets detention in 6th grade for exactly the same reason (like I did)… I’d laugh that off too. 🙂

  • Breanne

    I’m just going to agree with these three ladies. I was a talker. I was a bored talker. (I was also a bored read-books-under-my-desker.) I do agree that Leta may not even realize it, so starting there would be good… just like her summer “when I’m bored” lists she can have one for at school too.

    Also, maybe also another quick chat with her teacher in the frame of “do you have recommendations for what she can do when she finishes her work?”

  • Breanne

    I want say thank you for not wanting to minimize her feelings.

    I don’t have an answer or suggestion for you other than what it appears you’re already working to do (find the balance), but I have a vivid memory of coming home, locking myself in my room, and crying with a B+. My parents both joked that I was a terrible student because he didn’t realize that I was genuinely upset and that his joking made me feel worse and then later made me feel bad for feeling bad. I know that they didn’t mean to do so, but I also see where they had a point.

  • ladybug84105

    Mine is a totally different type of student than I was. We both are motivated by very similar things, but the effect is very different. I’m driven to “prove em wrong’ and she is more like “why bother”

    But we have her at innovations at SLCC and she seems to like it. Its more like online college courses for the graduation credits, but they don’t expect her to sit though a whole lotta stuff she doesn’t need, and then not help her when she needs a little more.

    Oh and no school fees!!! Its great. I think its like a charter school but not quite.

  • ladybug84105

    I agree. After all there are always going to be those college professors or bosses that say, “you’ll do it this way or you can leave” I know there is a balance but how do home school teachers address this?

  • Abby

    In related news, a fourth-grader is now authoring research studies!


  • adnaloy

    have you ever tried explaining a knock-knock joke to someone who isn’t from the US? you have to explain why you don’t answer “come in!” (but i know it is you, so i say come in!) or why you have all these other follow up questions. or why the effing thing is funny in the first place.

  • Heather

    I was totally a chatter. Until high school. When I got a bad review on speech team because I wasn’t a respectful competitor. That shut me up but good, right through til now. Maybe just talk to her about how if she wants to be heard and respected she needs to listen to and respect others?

  • kmpinkel

    As a mother of four, with three in each level of school, I will tell you that all are very different. One capable but unmotivated, things just come easy to him. The other unmotivated and struggles with most subjects, but is incredibly secure about who she is and the other, who is in 1st grade and he already has had 3 discipline reports for not listening. He is not disturbing anyone, just starts daydreaming. After a conference with the teacher we figured out that he was either bored because it was not challenging enough, or she was just the lamest teacher known to man. In regards to what to say to Leta? Let her know that sometimes other kids have a harder time in school and need to concentrate more, so she might be disturbing them. If she is finished with her work when it occurs, perhaps she can help a fellow student who is struggling. Keeps her trap shut and her self esteem soaring!

  • Kate R.

    From Kindergarten to Second Grade I never said a word in class. I was painfully shy and didn’t even tell the teacher in Kindergarten when I burned my hand when the class made popcorn. i just didn’t want to make a scene. In Third Grade my parents switched me to a new school and suddenly I could not shut up in class. I think I was just so much happier in the new school that I felt like I could chat a little. I wasn’t nearly as smart as Leta (hell, I’m not as smart as she is and I’m a grown up) but it sounds like she is getting her work done, and nailing it on top of that. BUT, I am also a stickler for BEING A GOOD LISTENER, so maybe chat with Leta about giving the teacher some respect and then let her chat an extra five minutes with her friends as pickup.

  • Vickster

    Fifth grade teacher, mom, and former chatty student here: The pressure that schools put on kids these days is enormous and much more rigorous than what we used to do. Given that she is happy, doing well, and motivated to succeed, I think a little chatting is in order. It means she’s not trying too hard to please the establishment so that she’s twisting her intestines into knots and frying her neurons. She’s being social and confident and busy. I would only say something if you sense it’s becoming a problem or if she starts throwing spit wads and putting tacks on the teacher’s chair. Breathe. Your daughter is just perfect.

  • Jen Wilson

    My 12-year-old is so much like I was as a student. Except she rushes through things and doesn’t do her best work, which I’m working with her on. Though I guess I always prided myself on being the first one done tests, leading to silly mistakes. But the wanting to be involved in EVERYTHING and the talking in class? Yep. I’m approaching it with her as a respect thing, to show respect to her teacher by listening to what he has to say, rather than talking with her friends, as she probably wouldn’t like it if her teacher ignored her when she tried to talk to him.

    My six-year-old, well, she’s the most unique human being I’ve ever come in contact with, is nothing like me, and I’m pretty sure I should buy her teacher a stiff drink every day at 3:30.

    And I’m so glad my girls’ school doesn’t send homework home. I would go bat-shit insane.

  • Leigh

    I was a serious overachiever all through school (yup, I was the one with the color-coded pens for each subject and her hand perpetually raised), but I was also always chatty, and my teachers did bring it up at conferences from time to time. Honestly, looking back, I really think I chatted in class not because I was bored but because I was just… happy. I loved school, felt like I was in my element in class, and was usually surrounded by at least a few friends. I paid attention and took notes, but class usually involved discussion and got me thinking about things, and that sometimes devolved into side conversations.

    It’s worth talking to Leta, as my parents talked to me, because it isn’t a great habit, but do cut her some slack. Sounds like she’s having a good time at school and feeling confident, and chatting may just be her outlet. I would just let her know that even if it seems like a minor thing to her, it can sometimes be distracting to her teachers and classmates, so she should try to be more conscious of it.

  • RubyGloom

    Both my kids were initially chatter boxes in school whereas I wouldn’t have dared talked out of turn. My oldest grew out of it and now cracks random one liners, and my youngest kid finally caught on that there are certain expectations in the classroom. Also, there are certain kids he can’t sit next to because they become a mighty morphin class disrupter when they are combined.
    I remember one of the events that halted the chattiness was a teacher telling them that not every child learns at the same pace and that their talking when they were bored disrupted how the other kids could learn. It sunk in!

  • Louisy

    I have strong feelings about this, and a lot to say. I grew up as a very uptight, high achieving student. I was lucky enough to have elementary teachers who had no problem with me reading books when I was bored or finished with my work. My parents kept me on a very intense, controlled schedule. I did not go to most parties, but kept up with extracurriculars. I had a strictly enforced “bedtime” of 10pm through my senior year of high school. I read and read and read way above my grade level.

    But I really did not develop the social skills to match. In high school, I took some classes with students at least one grade level above me, and college classes over the summer. And I didn’t chat with anyone in those classes. I got As in them, but I felt lonely and isolated. I had great high school friends, but my parents greatly controlled my interactions with them. I genuinely enjoyed learning, but had a couple of teachers tell me to stop raising my hand so much, or, as one teacher said, to “wait ten seconds before saying anything to give everyone a chance.” I still have that voice in my brain telling me to behave, to be quiet, to not to sound too smart, lest you hurt someone’s feelings. I was not good at just being myself, I definitely twisted myself to please.

    When I entered my elite college with scholarships, I made almost three semesters before I fell apart (My brother made it two semesters). I experienced the most debilitating depression I’ve had, before or since. I did not know how to manage my own time without someone looking over my shoulder, and I did not know how to accept help. I didn’t like my professors and some of my classes and I did not know how to just woman-up and force myself to do the work. I could not handle the ensuing failure. After being selected in freshman year as most likely to be taking over the world from her room, my grades tanked, and after a crisis, I went on medical leave from my college. I somehow still managed to graduate in 6 years with a plunging GPA.

    So, yeah. If she’s doing well in school, is truly self-motivated, and has friends to chat with, AWESOME. I always, always thought, when I was beating myself up over an A- or whatever, that I would so much rather have had a B average and been happy with friends, than have any A+. When I got to college, I realized that I had always defined myself by what my teachers and parents wanted. I was lost without having someone to please at every moment in college. Now, I’m grateful for everything I learned in childhood and for my wonderful college friends. But, I would not want my children to have to go through that much pain and loneliness for any brass ring.

    But that’s just my baggage. I know that you’re an awesome Mom with Leta, Dooce. And it sounds like she’s doing great. And I have plenty of friends who grew up with WAY more parental pressure than I did and it seemed to be great prep for their adulthood. So I have no answers for you. I’m sure Leta knows that even if she forgot every single word of her rock presentation and forgot to pedal during a piano recital, you would love her just the same. I bet if you just mention the chatting comment in passing, she’ll wise up, and make a better choice.

    I used to confuse approval with love, and to confuse silence with virtue. But happiness is messy, and I’m so grateful to have begun to learn that lesson.

  • misszoot

    My oldest and I were/are almost polar opposites at school and honestly? I had to let go. He sucks at math and science and I had to learn to quit getting angry the didn’t get it and just…well…let him suck at math and science. It was a ROUGH several years. Then he discovered a love and talent for writing and the arts…things I never excelled at. I had no idea how to encourage him other than to go, “WRITE MORE!” It’s tough when they’re different because it typically is super-frustrating in several different ways. But my biggest tip? Let them be different. When I stopped trying to make my son the straight-A+ student I was? He started to shine much brighter.

  • Emily Magdalynn

    Heather, I am an elementary general music teacher and can tell you, when we tell parents that their child is “chatty,” we’re sometimes looking at the bigger picture: a child like Leta might be able to chat and socialize while learning and not suffer any academic consequences, but that talking might be distracting to one or more other students who do suffer academically as a result. We cannot say things like, “Your kid is talking too much and it’s making all the other kids fail!” Typically, we try our best not to reference other students at all and keep the focus solely on the child whose parent we’re conferencing with. But sometimes we do need to address behaviors that may be inconsequential to the student in question, but are negatively affecting the learning of another child or children.

  • I was pretty studious when I was a kid, and fourth grade totally threw me for a loop. I had a tough teacher, but in the end she ended up being my favorite ever, mostly because she had a method to her madness and it worked. Tough love, for sure. That was also the one year I actually got disciplined pretty strongly for talking in class. I rarely ever got in trouble in school, but that year I did, to the point that my desk got moved “out of society”, as it was called. I was a good six feet away from the rest of the group, which solved the talking issue. It was fine, because it helped remove the distraction for me. It also felt a little badass to be the only girl among the troublemaker guys. As far as dealing with your situation, just have a heart-to-heart with her, relate her teacher’s concerns, tell her that you’re happy with all she’s done, but that you don’t want to see something like this undermine her success. Tell her to try a little harder to keep it under wraps, reassure her that you’re not concerned as long as she continues to perform, but that it’s not worth getting her teacher on her bad side. I feel like I’m not capturing that adequately, but I think you get the idea. She’ll get past it, one way or another. As for my kids, my oldest is in Kindergarten, and it has been a rough transition for a lot of reasons. He’s got some sudden behavioral issues, but he’s super smart. We’re on the way to removing gluten for suspected Celiac disease, and we’re hoping it will help the behavior, as well. We’re also in the process of him seeing a therapist for the behavior issues. We suspect ADHD, and maybe one other complication–possibly OCD or ODD. He’s always been quirky, but the past few months have been extra challenging. Corralling him for homework is painful. And since I was a kid that didn’t need that additional motivation, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around his disinterest, or figure out how to work through it. It sucks, especially because I know the intelligence is in there. This parenting thing is no joke.

  • nuclearboots

    Maybe try telling her that getting things wrong is part of the learning process, and that if you get things right the first time all the time, you’re really not challenging yourself or learning anything new. I know I used to be (and still am, at times) that person who’s like, “I got this wrong, I’m the worst ever, I’ll never learn this,” but really, what I’ve learned best, and the knowledge I value most, is the stuff I had to actually work really hard to learn, because it didn’t come as easily.

  • Short and Feisty

    I don’t think the issue is the kid being a kid–I, too, was an early reader/chatty Cathy (who the hell is Cathy?) because I’d finished all of my work early. I think the issue on my part was I would distract my friends who weren’t necessarily the fastest learners or the ones that finished their assignments. When my mom put it to me that way, that I was keeping my buds from learning even though I was already finished, I developed a bit of empathy and tried to talk less.

  • I don’t want to diminish your concern but REALLY Leta occasionally chats in class?! So what. She is social as well as smart isn’t this a good thing? Oh right, there is an appropriate time for chatting–like recess. If she doesn’t learn this now she could grow up and take over the senate floor. Could it have been that Leta is doing so well doing her homework, memorizing her 4 minute oral presentation and managing her time that the teacher had to come up with something for her to work on so she chose the most benign thing possible–chatting in class. Good for Leta—I hope she chats and plays the piano too 😀

  • Mrs.Brown

    Maybe the teacher said that because they’re not supposed to tell parents their kids are perfect. I once told a kid/her parents that the kid needed to “work on her penmanship” because she was light years ahead of her classmates in every way that mattered, and it was the only piece of constructive criticism I could think of. Kids chat, kids have messy handwriting. There’s always room for improvement, and with those kinds of things (chatting, handwriting, etc), a kid like Leta will work them out on her own given a little guidance. It doesn’t really mean she’s a particular “type” … I mean, she does her homework and works through hard things; that’s a GREAT type, in my book. I’m in my thirties and I struggle with that!

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    Dealing with this in First Grade right now. My girl cannot stop releasing her enthusiasm or talking or generally calling attention to herself. I never talked, except to the teacher (until about 7th grade, anyway). My husband was all over the place, but times were different. We’re trying to explain to her that she has to entertain herself IN HER MIND if she gets bored in class. It’s not sinking in.

  • Long time Reader

    They have to say something “constructive” and the way you describe it it sounds like chatting a bit too much is all she could say! I have 3 kids and two are Leta and one is Marlo. Leta isn’t the one you’ll have to worry about. It’ll be Marlo who is just as smart as Leta but wired totally differently. I say what someone else said, a very minor conversation with with Leta about respecting the teacher and others with not chatting too much, emphasizing all the good things the teacher said. And then hang on to your hat for your Marlo conferences!

  • Danielle

    My mother was always told at parent-teacher conferences that I was a bright student but I was too chatty. I didn’t ever really understand why this was such a problem as long as I got all my work done and continued to get good grades, until one day my teacher explained to me that even though I didn’t need to be listening in order to grasp the concept being taught, my friend did. And by me talking to whoever was sitting next to me, I was limiting their opportunity to learn.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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