When my son started Grade 1, that’s when the real problems with his public school education began. First, I received an extensive note from my son’s experienced teacher telling me that he was basically stupid and was going to need extensive remedial help to pass Grade 1. The problem? My son had been given an assignment with questions like “_____, 8, 9” on it and had been asked to fill in the answers. He was supposed to put “7” in the blank to show that he understood number sequencing. However, the little dear did not understand how to read the commas in the question and so he put “88” as his answer because “88” comes before “89.” It took me all of 20 seconds to look at his work and see what the problem was. I wondered why his teacher had not taken the time to really investigate the cause of his errors rather than using her time to handwrite me the lengthy note I received instead.
On “Meet The Teacher” night, I was in for another surprise. My son’s teacher complained to me that he was painfully slow at completing all of his work. He has always been rather slow and methodical at going about things, and it seemed that this was affecting his schoolwork because he did not have enough time to finish any assignment before it was time to move on to the next subject. I asked where my son sat in the classroom and was shown his desk. It was in the back corner of the room — the farthest you could get from the teacher’s desk. His teacher told me my son sat next to another child who was also slow in completing work. By this time, I was aghast. Couldn’t my son sit in front of the teacher’s desk so she could monitor his progress? Oh no — those spots were reserved for the Grade 2’s and my son was only in Grade 1 (it was a split class). Well, couldn’t my son be moved somewhere else where she could keep a better eye on him? Reluctantly, yes. And so the move was made. I wondered why his teacher could not have thought of such a solution herself.
Shortly thereafter, I began receiving large bags of homework to do with my son in the evenings. It seemed he was not completing his work in the allotted time at school and would have to complete his daily work at home. The problem was that the amount of work was excessive. It was taking my son sometimes until 11:00 at night to finish his homework and then he had to get up the next day and do it all over again. The little dear was exhausted. After several weeks, I finally discovered why my son was getting so much homework. You see, instead of paying attention during class, which my son found to be boring, my son had been sneaking chapter books into his desk and reading them on his lap while he was supposed to be listening. Then, when he was given assignments to do, he had to try to figure them out on his own because he hadn’t paid attention while his teacher was explaining them. By this time, I was irate. Couldn’t his teacher keep an eye on him and make sure he was focusing on his work? Why was I sending him to school if I was going to have to spend every evening teaching him his day’s worth of lessons? Wouldn’t it be easier on my son and our entire family if we just cut out the middleman and taught him directly?
Our public teacher relative thought we were expecting too much from my son’s teacher. It wasn’t her job to monitor each and every child in her classroom that closely, we were told. And no, parents did not have a right to know what their child’s reading level was when their child was tested. And no, teachers did not have to notify the parents if their child was struggling in some area. And no, what happens at school is none of the parents’ business.
At this time, Providence smiled down upon my son and he was moved to another class. The schools regularly rearrange their classes in October or so each year to comply with government requirements about class size. Thankfully, my son was put in a class with a teacher he really liked. But by that time, the damage had already been done: My son had learned to think of himself as “stupid.” He had learned that learning was drudgery. He had learned that mediocrity was all he needed to aim for. He no longer liked learning and exploring. He no longer wanted to do educational things at home. He no longer wanted to try his best at anything he did. And worse, he no longer had a spark in his eyes or a zest for life.
To be continued…