Growing up, I fancied myself to be a cool older sister. I only had one younger sibling, and I believed that it was up to me to make sure that he was loved, nurtured, and taught. I liked to think of him as my responsibility, my charge, and to some degree, my child. I think all little girls must be like that. They like to be little mothers. At our house, I'm "Big Mama" and Gloria is "Little Mama".
When my little brother was old enough to have homework, I loved to sit with him and help. I realized, though, that some nights he would sit and talk and talk and talk and talk.... and make precious little progress on his homework. I determined that I would find a reason to leave and say something like, "I'll be back in a minute, Jake, and when I get back, I'll help you with number six if you make it that far. But I doubt that you will." Without fail, I would come back and he would be way past number six, just to prove that he could do it.
That experience served me well. I babysat a 10 year old a couple of times in college, and the same thing worked for him. Proving that he could work alone and work fast was a great motivator for him. And once I married my husband, I got to help his 10 year old sister with her homework in the evenings. One of the great perks of being married to him was that I gained 4 younger siblings. Megan, my 10 year old sister-in-law, could yack it up with the best of them. We talked about what she dreamed the night before, about the baby growing in my belly, about which boys pulled her hair at school. It was great... except that she wasn't actually doing her homework. So I pulled out the great motivator: "I'll be back in a few minutes. I doubt you'll be to number 6 by then, but if you are, I'll help you with it." Every time she exceeded my expectations.
Today, I needed a motivator for Noah. So, experienced as I am, I pulled out the same old trick. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Maybe you'll be to number 4, where you'll need my help. I'll help you with it, if you're there, but I doubt it. There's a lot of hard work between here and there." With that, I left. I went into my bedroom and closed the door. After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door, and a paper slipped under. My pride swelled up in me- it had worked and worked much better than I had anticipated. He was finished, and so quickly. I pictured my smiling 7 year old brother all those years ago, and in my mind, he looked just like Noah. I was a great teacher, and a great motivator. I sighed contentedly.
And then I looked down and saw this:
My son had simply written down random numbers to fill in the blank spots on his paper. He had not even attempted the problems. Now that I am the teacher, I noticed this. I don't think I ever even checked Jake and Megan's work. Did they do this too, knowing that I would never check the answers? The little sneaks... I feel duped.