There’s a reason why people advise, “Don’t ask a question you don’t want the answer to.” The truth can seriously hurt, especially when it’s coming from a loved one.
But the truth can hurt even more when it’s delivered by a loved one, about another loved one.
The OP, a teacher, found herself having to deliver a difficult truth on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor properly_roastedXOXO was surprised at how poorly her friend took her advice.
So much so, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she should have held back.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my friend her child may not be as ‘gifted’ as she wants him to be?”
The OP’s friend reached out to her because of her profession.
“I [31 (Female)] have a friend [35 (Female)] with a 14-year-old child. No, this kid is not in any class I teach, nor do they attend the school district I teach in, but I do teach 8th grade ELA (English Language Arts).”
“One of my classes is gifted and this is the subject the kid struggles in.”
The OP’s friend was frustrated at her son’s progress in school.
“My friend was lamenting yesterday on the phone to me that their kid’s grades in this class were low. I won’t say the grades, but let’s say it definitely wasn’t great.”
“She blamed the teacher, saying it was too much reading and homework, which is why he was behind.”
“I asked her if the other classes gave out a lot of homework, and she said yes, but ELA was too much reading and writing. Her son was sometimes doing two hours of homework a night just for ELA.”
“I asked her for his assignment that particular night and she said that night, he was to read Chapter 8 from Lord of the Flies and annotate. He was also to answer one discussion question on Google Classroom.”
“This is a novel I’ve taught myself to my gifted class 1st quarter, so I looked at Chapter 8, and saw it was 20 pages. The class was given 15 minutes in class as a headstart.”
“I asked if that was it and she said yes, but this chapter was only 20 pages, and it shouldn’t take even a Gen Ed student that reads on grade-level 2 hours to read, annotate, and answer one discussion question.”
“I told her this and she got annoyed with me, saying I was only taking the teacher’s side because I am also an ELA teacher.”
“But I told her this is a standard gifted text, and it will only get harder as he gets older. She said he doesn’t struggle in any other gifted class except ELA and the teacher shouldn’t be so harsh.”
The friend also didn’t appreciate the OP’s feedback.
“She asked me what she should do.”
“That’s when I asked her if she was sure he should be in a gifted in ELA.”
“This wasn’t meant to be rude, but he was identified at an early age like most students are. Most of the time, kids are not gifted in every area, and it’s usually the middle years where that begins to show.”
“She told me that was incredibly rude and that her son isn’t stupid.”
“I told her I didn’t call him stupid because I don’t think he is, but according to her, he’s stressing over this class and frequently has anxiety. And he was this way last year and didn’t get a good grade in the class.”
“Next year he will start 9th grade where his GPA will matter for college and I told her she should consider advanced for him (one step under gifted) for ELA alone. It’ll still look good on transcripts but he won’t stress so much and the GPA won’t suffer.”
“She said she didn’t know why she bothered calling me and hung up.”
“So AITA for honestly answering her question?”
The OP also clarified:
“He (the student) is not dyslexic. He struggles with deeper meaning, not comprehension, and he reads at an above-average speed.”
“The annotations have specific guidelines and discussion questions are not meant for comprehension but to look beyond the surface meaning.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some pointed out the OP’s teaching advice was useful, rather than hurtful.
“NTA. The info you gave was v (very) helpful. And if mom doesn’t stop prioritizing the label of ‘gifted’, the kid is going to tank his GPA.” – AnotaCocktail
“The mom also needs to realize that 10 years from now, maybe even 5, that gifted label isn’t going to mean anything. It may seem important now but as life goes on, no one cares if you took gifted classes or regular classes in elementary/ high school.” – cashycallow
“I teach 7th grade ELA. Your answers and comments were absolutely spot on! NTA. Dealing with clueless parents is the worst part of the job.” – Feeling-Fab-U-Lus
Others wondered if the student was so “slow” because of feeling pressured.
“I’m actually wondering if the kiddo is taking so long because of the pressure on him.”
“2 hours to annotate 20 pages and answer 1 discussion question is a lot. If he was doing a Ph.D., that might make sense, but regardless of how gifted the curriculum is, he’s still a kid.”
“Thinking back to my own gifted 8th-grade experience, annotation meant underlining a bit and writing ‘example of character being stubborn’ and call it a day.”
“I wonder how kiddo is spending his time. A lot of people in my family get anxiety paralysis. I wonder if he’s not staring at the page and feeling frustration and dread for 45 minutes at a time.” – Neurotic_Bakeder
“I think that constantly telling kids they are smart really does not help them and can hinder them. I remember the shock of getting to university and realizing how meaningless my ‘smart’ label was.”
“I remember seeing kids who weren’t straight A students doing brilliantly because they were motivated, hard-working and enthusiastic. These were also the people who often did well in the workplace.”
“I know so many smart students, myself included, who did badly because we had not learned any study skills and weren’t used to working hard. I think the things that get you labeled as smart when you are a kid don’t necessarily have as much importance at university or in the workplace.” – YawningBagPuss
“I’m honestly wondering if- since this kid was gifted all-around. Maybe he has a learning difference, anxiety, depression or a hint of dyslexia or something.”
“Some of the smartest people I know have dyslexia and they were able to “get by” until they couldn’t anymore. It didn’t make them any less gifted- they just needed accommodations.”
“Also, performance-related anxiety is extremely common in schools and really starts to pick up as kids age. It can cause an otherwise bright student to fall behind or get overwhelmed with racing thoughts and make it hard to concentrate.”
“The kid might need to be evaluated for one or both and the parents might need to take said evaluation for the truth.” – Potential-Trouble-54
The truth hurts when it isn’t something we want to hear.
But this teacher being honest about her friend’s son’s preparedness for the classroom may have helped him, rather than hindered him, in his future success.