Baby’s first F

By Mir
September 12, 2009

Have I mentioned how much Chickadee loves middle school? Because she does, so much. She loves her teachers, she’s made a bunch of new friends, she’s enjoying the challenges, etc. It’s all been great.

Or, it was, until first quarter progress reports came home.

97, 100, 98, 96, 100, 100, 65. Sixty-five. SIXTY FIVE. As in, a big fat F.

But sure that 65 would be in some class she hates or in band or something else non-academic, right, on account of she’s got that big beautiful brain and she’s brilliant and all?

Nope. Her 65 is in… English. Too bad she doesn’t have a parent who’s a writer or anything….

I wish I’d taken a picture of the look on her face when she handed it to me. I thought she was trying to trick me, surely she was feigning fear so she could make a joke about all of her great grades, afterward. But no. She was pretty sure I was going to kill her on the spot with my bare hands.

“What… what is THIS?” I asked, nearly at a loss for words, pointing at the 65.

“I… uhhh… there’s a note,” she replied, handing it to me without looking up from her shoes.

Turns out that Chickadee hasn’t handed in her reading log, like, EVER. It’s due every week. Though somehow she’d missed that, she claims. The teacher is graciously allowing her until Monday to hand in her back work for reduced credit. (The kicker, of course, is that she reads several hours a day. It’s not even like she didn’t do the work, she just couldn’t be bothered to log it and turn the paper in.)

I read the note. I nodded. “You’ll get your logs done for Monday,” I said. She nodded. “You’ll also do the extra credit summaries. For every week you’ve missed.” She nodded again. “And you’re grounded for the weekend, and on dishes for a week.” She nodded. We looked at each other for a few seconds.

“Is that…” her eyes searched my face. “Is that… it?”

“Are you hoping for more punishment?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

“Well… I just… I’m kind of surprised.”

“Okay,” I said, “you know how once a year I’ll bring your forgotten homework to school or run your lunch in or whatever? It’s your one freebie?” She nodded. “This is your one freebie. It’s just a progress report, and you’re going to make the work up, and I trust that we will never, EVER have this conversation again. Correct?” She nodded so vigorously, her hair bounced around her face. “Okay then,” I said.

She exhaled in a giant whoosh. “I thought you were going to yell,” she admitted. “And really freak out on me.”

“Nah,” I said. “No yelling. There won’t be any yelling if it happens again, either. I’ll just kill you in your sleep, quietly.”

“Gee, thanks,” she said, leaving the room.

“Love you, honey!” I called after her.

Somehow, I don’t think it’ll happen again.


  1. StephLove

    This is so going to happen to my son someday. It took him almost until almost two weeks into the school year to turn in his summer reading log and then only on the day I sent him to school with “Reading Log” written on the back of his hand in permanent marker did he remember to turn it in.

  2. steff

    That’s awesome! I hate they are bothered with such mundane tasks…there are far more exciting aspects of English than remember to turn in a reading log.

    Just added …on dishes for a week…to my punishments arsenal, thank you!

  3. Shawn

    As a special education teacher, let me say that reading is never a mundane task. If reading was made more important in homes, there would not be such a need for special ed teachers. I have had students that reading is their biggest stumbling block. Reading has to be a priority and if a reading log is part of the grading process then maybe parents and students will realize that reading is important. Maybe not every student or parent needs this type of accountability but let me say that the majority does. Sorry, I don’t mean to get on a soap box, but I hate it when the importance of reading is downplayed

  4. Rachel

    Welcome to middle school!! Same issues here, but it was math last year… only 3 weeks into school here, so no official progress report here. They do have online access to grades updated weekly, hmmmmm, maybe I should check that! = )
    Also, my 4th grader, (1st year they give out letter grades) came home with his 1st D in spelling (always 100% + bonus words other years). His excuse was the teacher makes them write in cursive & he spelled the words right, she just couldn’t read his writing. And that his penmanship may be poor because he is out practice having just come off summer break… Can’t wait until he’s in middle school (ha!)
    Good times!

  5. My Kids Mom

    I was expecting to hear that one of them had dropped the F-bomb in front of you…

  6. Patricia

    I have to say I hate reading logs with a passion that burns. I hate them because I see no point. With all due respect to the special ed teacher, the kid who loves to read will read without a log and the kid who hates to read and doesn’t want to do it; the log is an added level of punishment hell to the process. I put high weight on the importance of reading — and despite my love for reading today, I hated it in school — half due to the forced nature of it and half because of the books forced upon me. Anyway, I have an avid reader on my hands — which is delightful — but logging the books the books he/we read breaks me out in hives.

    But because I think it is pointless, busy work — doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to be done. As my daddy used to say, you don’t fight with the person with the red pencil.

  7. Ani

    Right spelling, bad writing? Check

    Read tons of books, didn’t fill out a single book slip? Check.

    Grades? Still good…maybe my little urchin needs a nice wake-up call like that.

  8. beth

    I really hate reading logs. I think they are an excellent way of discouraging reading. And of teaching kids that privacy is not allowed. My kids have complete approval for faking them.

    Of course, my kids also read a lot. Maybe they have use for kids who are reluctant readers. I haven’t met anyone who have been helped by them, though, but my sample size is only a few hundred. But this would be a good chance to talk about how grades aren’t about learning, and school is a big game that kids should learn how to play, but if they have time left over, learning stuff is really OK. I really wish our school year was shorter, so that my kids would have more time to learn things besides how to do school, a skill with a very short shelf life.

  9. Sara

    Hmmm…had the very same conversation with my daughter last year over a “D” because of…you guessed it–a reading log. She also claimed misunderstanding, and due to the fact that she started at her school mid-year and also that her teacher was um…evil, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She got her freebie. She has a big, beautiful brain as well, and knows that if another one shows up, life as she knows it will cease to exist.

  10. Susan

    Hahahaha! When I saw the title, I thought for sure “Baby’s First F” was what my baby’s first F was… the word!

  11. feefifoto

    Well played. I’ve observed that sometimes they pay more attention to quietly-spoken sanctions than yelling, I guess because it’s unexpected.

  12. Sara

    Ugh, the reading log. My kids both have to be prodded to do something OTHER than reading, and my second-grader flies through books at a rate of one a day over the weekend. For “number of pages,” I just write “all of them.” ;)

  13. Lucinda

    As a former middle school teacher I assigned reading logs and hated them all at the same time. They were a necessary evil. Yes, kids that read will read and kids that don’t often won’t. But as a teacher, especially at the middle school level, you have to encourage outside reading and you have to hold kids accountable for that. It’s a study skill. The reading log is the assessment. Somehow I doubt Chickadee will miss this one again! lol

  14. el-e-e

    Oh, man. You were so calm. Impressive.

  15. Wendy E

    Reading logs? I am soo glad we don’t have to turn those in for my Middle Schooler. She hates reading. However, during their homerooms every day of the week they are required to read a book. Maybe that’s why we don’t have to turn in logs.

    We don’t have progress reports, but we do have online access to grades. I check hers daily. Her grades are all A’s and B’s except her Science grade which is currently a D. She has now been warned, one week to bring it up or you won’t be playing volleyball until it is up. She informed me she has papers to turn in on Monday, so that should help bring it up.
    The bad thing about being able to check her grades, is that I see every grade, even the bad ones. In some ways it drives me nuts, but yet I try to remember to look at the whole picture and not just one or two grades. Very hard to do for someone who hated getting anything wrong.

  16. NJula

    Nothing scarier than a calm parent…

  17. Alicia

    Ahh the first bad grade. Mine was a D in Spanish nextled in there with all the A’s. I sobbed so much when I handed my dad the report card that he said “Well, I think that’s punishment enough” (Did I mention he’s my step-dad and this exhibits his awesome-ness?)
    He told me years later that he felt so sorry for me that it would have been an excellent time to ask for a car (I was 16). If I’d only known….

  18. Catherine

    I am a middle school teacher, and I do not assign reading logs. My students will read 6 novels in class this year (of which a few are quite lengthy). In addition, we read short stories, mythology, folkore, poetry, and drama.

    To encourage outside reading, I allow my students to get one free quiz grade per marking period for writing a book review on their outside reading. We have teacher generated suggested lists, but anything goes. I have two huge shelves of my personal literature–both young adult and adult. We’ve only had three weeks of school, and several of my students have read numerous books of mine.

    Our middle school has its own book club that meets during lunch. This also encourages reading, although admittedly reluctant readers don’t attend.

    I teach in an independent school. Maybe my method wouldn’t fly in the public school. But it works with my students, and then I don’t feel like I am forcing my students to “get their ticket punched” for what should be an activity that they choose.

  19. Lylah

    I detested reading logs when I was in school, and I detest them now. I’ve always been a voracious reader. And I grew up to be a writer and an editor. So I understand the importance of reading, and the importance of showing that you’ve digested the information. But I think a 3-minute explanation, out loud, in front of the teacher and the class, would probably be way more effective than a standard reading log.

    A couple of years ago, one of my now-teenagers had to turn in a weekly reading log. Turned out the teacher didn’t even read it. Where’s the incentive to get it done after that?

  20. joaaanna

    It seems to be a trend lately. Not just with my step-son (who BARELY graduated) but with friends’ kids and my niece who are completely smart, and who do the work, but don’t actually turn the work in?

    What sense does this make? You go through the effort of doing the homework, or reading logs or whatever… but don’t turn it in? What?

    The worst is that I haven’t a clue as to how to turn it around. Special folders, reminders, notes, etc… nothing works? What is that?

  21. meghann

    I’m kind of snickering because I had that same feeling as Chickadee when I brought home my first “B”. Yeah, I totally started off as one of those kids. By my senior year in high school I was totally coasting by though, thanks to the joy of being so far ahead in what classes I was taking, that I could have failed every class that year (except band) and still graduated. Heh. I got a 37 one report card that year in Calculus. Getting a grade that low takes skill.

    /pointless ramble by me.

  22. Tracey

    Oh goodness, two topics close to my heart. Thankfully reading logs haven’t taken off here as a grading requirement. In my 10 yr old’s primary school they are the latest things for extra awards, but I’m in the “hate them” camp. As far as I’m concerned they are awards for making lists, not encouraging the joy of reading. I’m lucky, my kids are avid readers, but I won’t endanger that by nagging them to make a list of everything they’ve read each day. But I can’t see how they’d make a reluctant reader keen on reading either!

    On the ‘disappointing grades’ front, I’m having real issues with a 16 yr old who does well in every subject, except that she’s decided to hate maths and not try. When we express our disappointment we are told we are unreasonable – we expect her to be perfect – and that now we are causing her to be stressed.

    What does a parent of a reasonably smart kid do when they’re not doing their best? I have no chance of having a ‘bad grade’ situation go like yours did.

  23. Brigitte

    Back in my day, a 65 was a D! Not that you’d be much happier. My parents never cared what my grades were one way or the other, so kudos for caring!

    We never had reading logs, but I remember having to hand in our geometry notebooks to be assessed every so often. I slaved over it the first time, making it readable and well-organized and all, and got an . . F. After that, I handed in a few sheets of illegible scribbles and doodles at a time, and got As and Bs. WTF? Great way to teach someone not to bother expending any effort on homework.

    Oops, sorry I ranted.

  24. Elaine

    With a daughter in high school who’s an organizational train wreck, but otherwise quite smart, I have complete empathy for parents of students with ADHD or other executive functioning challenges.

    This perspective is what has kept me sane for the last few years years: It’s my job to help create structure and, as she gets older, offer tips for getting organized. It’s her job to follow the advice or not.

    This approach (which I was forced to embrace after almost daily meltdowns – hers and mine) allows me to feel like I’m doing my job as parent and keeps her responsible for her grades. It’s a great way to get off the emotional roller coaster (frustration b/c assignments are not turned in or frantic panic at the last-minute realization there’s a project due tomorrow.) She gets to ride that roller coaster all by herself.

    She still forgets things and procrastinates – that will be true throughout her life. But she is much, much better at organizing. And life is much, much more peaceful.

  25. Nicki

    Ug. Been there. Done that. And it was English, too. Your daughter can’t be bothered with reading logs, my daughter thinks vocabulary is beneath her since she reads the dictionary and thesaurus FOR FUN.

    I feel your pain.

  26. Caroline

    My niece did the same thing, only it was her weekly history assignment. After my sis-in-law handed down the punishment “you will complete all the back assignments etc”….niece came out of her room 20 minutes later with ALL of the missed work! She’d forgotten to turn it in…each week.

  27. Linda Sherwood

    When my kids were in elementary school, I refused to fill out the Pizza Hut reading logs. The prize was a free personal pizza, but the closest Pizza Hut is more than 30 minutes away. I would never remember to have the coupons with me when I did go. It was easier to never even receive them. Then, during a parent teacher conference, a teacher told me that it was a problem that my children didn’t read every day. She based this wrong assumption on the lack of Pizza Hut logs. They did, and do, read. My son was 7 when he read the entire Harry Potter series. He didn’t have to. He wanted to.

    I prefer book shares. It doesn’t take long. The children verbally share information about a book they read, and it has a bonus because it helps other students identify books they might like.

  28. Lori N

    Ah, this takes me back to 7th grade and Spanish partners – we were suppose to call each other and practice Spanish 10 minutes a day. (Insult to injury – I was assigned A BOY partner. Horrors!) All of the other parents just signed off on it, but my parents wouldn’t — even when my partner’s mom did!

    Needless to say, I didn’t pass the class (big fat F) & I didn’t take Spanish in 8th grade. BTW, I got an A when I took it in high school because I knew everything already – take THAT Senora Sparks!

  29. Leanne

    Ah. My baby is in her final year. I get that type of progress report ALL the time – she NEVER hands her work in. For ANY of her subjects. Hopefully, Chickadee figures it out and you don’t have any more battles! :)

  30. Grace

    A reading log? At our school, we parents have to log into the school website every night & record that our kids have done their 15 minutes of reading that afternoon/night.

  31. mom, again


    actually, learning how to ‘do school’ isn’t a skill with a short shelf life: it’s a skill that translates directly into ‘doing work’. The habit of keeping a log translates directly into the habit of saving your reciepts, filling out your daily/weekly/monthly reports, your reimbursement forms and all sorts of other things that are communicated in the workplace via paperwork.

    In almost 30 years in the workplace, I’ve yet to have a job that didn’t require some sort of tracking form that had to be filed, turned in, checked up on or otherwise managed. Currently, I’m a chef, so, at certain times of day, we must check temperatures all around the kitchen. Are refrigerators and freezers at the correct temperature? Are ovens heating properly? Are foods being held on the hot or cold line actually at the expected temperature? Back when I worked in offices, we had to keep logs of certain types of problems, certain sorts of customer calls, etc.

    More importantly, it’s important to keep track of some details in order to report them on your own behalf. When it’s time to create a new resume and prepare yourself for job interviews, it may be too late to have the opportunity to look back through the records the office has kept in order to get the numbers and stories you need to prove yourself. Either you are too busy finishing projects before you go, or, you’ve already moved, or been on maternity leave that turned into staying home for two years. The records aren’t yours to look through unless you’ve kept track of projects and problems, accomplishments and resolutions for your own sake.

    So, there, reading teacher and all you parents, THAT’s the info you need to share with your kids.

    (Truthfully, I started out to agree with Beth, but realized as I was typing that I so very didn’t!)

  32. MagaMama

    Yeah…same stuff going on here. Except my daughter’s F was in science. And when I asked her what was going on she was like “I really don’t know Mom,l i thought I was doing really good in that class.” So she was given strict instructions to talk to the teacher and find out what was going on. Tues, Wed, Thurs come and go – Friday we leave school early to go out of town for family emergency…Monday is Labor Day. Following Tuesday she calls me at work to say “Good News! I don’t have an F in any of my classes – I have a B in science the progress report is wrong!”

    I’m all like WTF in my head! Sure enough the teacher finally gets back to me and she is a border line A – missed assignment. Which she DID – she just didn’t have her name on it! Because we all know that’s way too hard! URGH!

    She was grounded for a whole week for getting A’s and B’s! A little help here people! Needless to say I did let her take two dollars and go to the volleyball game that night!

    It’s okay though – she was surprisingly content with it and now she knows what’ll happen if she does slip up in school – and she definitely needed to get more organized anyway. She had several bumps with loosing papers so far, which is why I assumed the grades were correct – that along with the fact that the school sent them home!

  33. Tracy

    Good grief…when my mom was calm and no yelling took place, it just meant it was gonna be really, really bad the next time I got into trouble. Not the same mistake but any “next” mistake, it was gonna be really, really bad. I’m just sayin’ BE AWARE, Chickie.

  34. Katie in MA

    Added to my growing list of saved posts filed under, What Would Mir Do?

    (Also – how old were the kids when you implemented the “One Freebie” rule? Because my newly minted kindergartner has already forgotten her lunch once.)

  35. Stacey

    Since when is a 65 an F. That is almost a D+ in our school district, lol

  36. Traci

    Here’s my contribution to “the problem with reading logs” discussion. My son was a great reader in 2nd grade and over the summer (the type of kid you had to yell at three times to PUT DOWN THAT BOOK when it was time for dinner). He just started at a new school this year and is required to fill out a reading log. He puts it off…then insists on knowing if his “time is up” once he starts reading. He now reads for EXACTLY 10 minutes every night…no more. And he says he hates reading. Way to pull the joy out of books! Just the same, I do make him do it, just as you will with Chickadee. Sincerely hoping it doesn’t have the same effect on her.

  37. Kim

    And yet… every year that I taught, I heard from parents asking why I didn’t require a reading log, because their kids needed the accountability. The homework sheet listed 20 minutes of reading, we talked about the importance of it in class, they were assigned book reports, but there was always at least one family that wanted me to track it.

    I once failed a class because I was sloppy about the assignments and generally being teenage stupid (I’ll show you, Mr. Idon’tlikeyou!) and was tardy one too many times. Literally. He knocked points off every time, and didn’t give D’s. Details matter in academics, and in jobs.

  38. Sarahd

    I thought a 65 was a D. Not that it really makes much of a difference but still!

  39. just beaux

    I’m expecting to see something like this from my daughter in algebra.

  40. Clarissa

    I remember being in your daughter’s shoes! Whenever I got a bad grade I would be SOOO afraid to tell my mom. But, in the end it taught me to work hard …. and get good grades!

  41. Lorraine

    Thanks – I needed this! My fifth grader hasn’t turned in a reading log since 1st grade, because I couldn’t see any value for him since he loves to read. I didn’t think it would affect his grade or that I would care if it did. Now I realize that if I can’t help him get this system down, he’ll end up just like me (not a bad person, but an organizational MESS!). I really appreciated this post and these comments. Mark me down for 10 minutes today!

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