FILED IN: Parenting

Welcome to the Seventh Grade Language Arts!

Dear Parents (and guardians, I suppose),

I am Mrs. Humorless, your child’s language arts teacher. Thank you for entrusting me with your child for this school year. I know you didn’t have a choice, but thanks anyway. I look forward to a wonderful year of diagramming sentences and trying to instill in your child a deep love of gerunds. Somehow, I find the strength to return to this job, year after year.

Please read through this handout so you are aware of the rules of the class. I understand you thought you were finished with the hell that is middle school, but that is not the case. It’s expected that you will hover over your child continuously throughout the year.

At the end of this form, to ensure me that you have read and understand the rules I have outlined below, there is an area for you to sign, along with your child, as well as any extended family members, the dog, the mail carrier, the grocery store checkout kid, and anyone else who has ever had any contact with your child. Learning is a community affair, and we must support our children. THEY are the future. (Please note the area for the notary’s stamp. Do not sign this without a notary present as a witness. This is for your own protection.)

The main aspects of this class will be writing, spelling, vocabulary, reading and grammar. A separate 3-ring binder is required for each. Your child will be expected to bring all of these binders to class every day, which of course will mean buying a much bigger backpack, as well as chiropractic care for your child he or she starts listing backwards in a worrisome and painful way from the backpack’s weight.

Failure to bring these materials to class will earn your child an “unprepared” mark for the day. If your child accumulates six (6) of these, a note will be sent home to you, demanding you take a day off from work to come in and speak with me (at an inconvenient time) about this non-issue. If your child misplaces the note, which he or she undoubtedly will, and a conference is not scheduled because you are blissfully unaware of the situation, understand that your child will earn an F for this marking period.

The writing portion of the class will consist of a weekly essay on a subject of your child’s choice (excepting any topic that involves the discussion of “Guitar Hero” or Chuck Norris), and will follow my standard essay outline guidelines (found on handout 13-B, which your child has already lost). You will be expected to act as your child’s editor, creative consultant, research assistant and general muse.

You will need to purchase a special notebook for writing, which is different from the 3-ring binders already mentioned. I will describe the properties of this mysterious notebook to the children in class, but they will forget to tell you. By the time they do, it will likely be sold out at Wal-Mart anyway.

Learning good writing skills is essential for every child, so you should model good writing habits and share them with your child. Even if they only watch you write checks to pay for their therapy and for PTA fundraisers, it’s better than nothing.
Every Monday I will hand out a list of twenty spelling words. Your child will have to copy them onto a specially folded piece of origami paper in his or her notebook for Tuesday. For Wednesday, your child must write them on the paper again, but in some other sort of arrangement, which I will describe in a whisper, with my back turned to the class. For Thursday, your child will need to show me that he or she has written the words twenty times, backwards, so they read correctly when held up to a mirror. Every Friday we will have our spelling quizzes. You will be expected to drill your child in spelling for at least thirty minutes a day, excluding Sundays, Shrove Tuesday and Arbor Day.

I will be using Vocabulary, Shmocabulary! this year, which is a new teaching tool that makes vocabulary learning part of everyday conversation. Every week we roll out a new list of vocabulary words, and you will be expected to use these in your daily conversations at home to support the lesson in school. This week’s words are perfunctory, subterfuge, tribulation, clandestine, lugubrious and execrable. Use these words often, in your nightly lighthearted dinnertime conversation, for example.

My goal for the reading portion of the curriculum is to completely crush whatever joy of reading happens to remain in your child after years of having to keep track of minutes read, summer reading clubs, and other well-meaning but heavy-handed programs that turned reading into a chore. Your child will be expected to turn in a book report on each novel or short story that we read this year. It’s up to you to hound your young scholar constantly about how far he or she is in the book and what exactly he or she needs to complete the book report. Despite your interrogation, the details will remain sketchy right up until the night before the report is due.

There will be books available for your child’s use within the classroom, but some can be signed out and taken home. Since these books will undoubtedly be lost and you will have to pay for them, you might as well write me a blank check now and I will fill in the total at the end of the school year.

Additionally, each student is required to turn in four (4) research papers this school year, the topic of which I will assign, and which will likely be way too complicated for seventh graders to research on their own. This will force you to take over the management of the project. As parents, you will be expected to do this while making the end product look like you didn’t help at all.

We will be emphasizing grammar this year. If your child is unable to distinguish between a direct and an indirect object at the end of the school year, you will be held personally responsible for this appalling lapse of parental support.

In addition to academics, I emphasize proper behavior in my classroom. By signing this paper you will acknowledge your understanding that the rules of common courtesy, good grooming and decent social behavior will be the norm in my classroom, regardless of the kind of barbarism you allow in your own home. Clearly some of you parents are not doing your jobs if I’ve got to make you sign a paper like this. The following behaviors are prohibited in my class:

  • Nose picking
  • Giving someone a “flat”
  • “Cutting” in line
  • Armpit farts (and all other forms of genuine or mimicked flatulence)
  • Other disgusting bodily functions, including but not limited to: annoying coughing fits that last a little too long and make the class start snickering, any sneezes louder and wetter than the smallest little girly sneeze, halitosis, and itchy scalp/dandruff.
  • Giggling at classic geography double entendres like Lake Titicaca and Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

These rules are my own arbitrary regulations. By signing this paper you acknowledge that other teachers will have other, often completely different expectations for academic work and classroom behavior, and there is no way you will be able to keep track of all the various deadlines and special assignments, especially if you have other children in school also, and/or any semblance of a life of your own.

It is also understood that the amount of parental involvement required is way out of hand and completely different from your middle school days, so it’s a waste of time complaining that your own parents never had to sign these needless, stress-inducing learning contracts.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this memo. If you sign it and get it notarized tonight and your child remembers to return it tomorrow, his or her name will be entered in a drawing. The winner receives the chance to have lunch with me, in the cafeteria, in full view of his or her friends.

But if you sign it after giving it only a perfunctory (vocabulary word!) reading, don’t blame me if your child has a miserable school year, has his or her spirit crushed, goes on to become a failure at all he or she does, and winds up living in your basement with a lot of cats.

Let’s get this school year off to a great start! Learning is FUN, dammit. You’d best remember that.