When your kid is the one who (almost) always follows directions in school, he is bound to be stuck with the kid who (almost) never does. I understand the concept. I’m quite clear on the theory that the rule follower will steer the other student in the right direction. After all, classroom time is most effective when students see a good model to emulate.
But, what if the rule follower is ALWAYS put with the rule rebel? Generally, the rule follower isn’t going to be influenced by the rebel, but he is bound to be distracted and, most likely, irritated by his peer’s behavior.
I generally strongly dislike when people use the terms “fair” and “unfair,” but in this case, as the parent of a rule follower (four, thankfully), I genuinely think this practice is unfair when not balanced with opportunities to work with other rule followers.
The real trouble arises when kids move around from teacher to teacher for different classes, but are stuck with the same irritating kid in every partnered activity. I realize that kids have to learn to work well with others, but shouldn’t they also have the opportunity to not have partner work be such a challenge? To not have to bear the brunt of the work? After all, working together actually requires two willing partners, each carrying his own weight and each being able to discover his strengths and weaknesses. When a student is forced to work with the kid who is not only not carrying his fair share, but is a detriment to the success of the project, the students both suffer.
I’m teaching my boys to advocate for themselves in situations like these. I don’t like to be the mom who is butting into class business. I know every man and woman who teaches my boys is doing a great job and working hard to help all of his or her students. As a teacher myself, I would never want to make another educator feel as if I am questioning his or her abilities.
When one of my boys was made to work with the same uncooperative partner in three different subjects yesterday, I told him that the best thing to do is to stick up for himself by talking with the teacher. I told him to explain what was happening during the partner work, to be sure to tell the teacher that he has partnered with the same child in two other classes, and ask if he might be able to work with someone else next time, if not this time.
After school, my son told me he was able to just “deal with” the other boy, and didn’t need to talk to his teacher. He took initiative and dominated the robotics project and the other boy only mildly interfered in the second hour of the class.
We are reading a book together to help him learn the tools to advocate for himself. It’s called, Stick Up For Yourself. I’m not getting anything for mentioning this book, I just think it’s a good tool for many situations kids deal with on a daily basis. Rather than helicopter parent, I like to try to prepare my boys for whatever obstacles they may encounter at school and after school. These are lessons that will help them long into the future.