Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not bad

This year has been so wonderful for M.  His first grade teacher is amazing: she understands him, differentiates for his gifts, and has taught him so much, both academically and beyond.  Under her teaching, good days have been the rule instead of the exception.

Earlier this week, M came home from school bubbling with excitement.  His teacher had asked him to stand next to another student who had been having trouble keeping his place during their class readers' theater.  She trusted him to discretely help his classmate without losing his own place, and without detracting from the show overall.

His exact words as he shared his special responsibly: "I don't think I'm one of the bad kids in the class anymore!"  

I'm thrilled for him, but sad that he had to think he was ever a bad kid in the first place.  I guess you're bad if you can't pretend to learn the alphabet along with your classmates for two whole years, after you're already reading novels in your free time.

Only bad kids are not content to spend 3 weeks "learning" a number that they already know how to multiply.

If you can't sit silently through the same mind-numbing circle time questions every day, you must be bad.  (What day is today?  What day was yesterday? What will tomorrow be?  This would have entertained him for a few weeks at age 3.  But by kindergarten, he got no more out of those daily questions than you or I would.)

Poor kid.  It's not that we don't value classroom skills.  It's not that we don't see the point of lining up, waiting your turn, raising your hand, or being a good listener.  It's not that we think he's a special snowflake who should never have to be bored or sit through a lesson he wasn't interested in.

It's this.  That five days a week, for two years, M was told he was bad for something that he couldn't change.  He was constantly getting time-out, losing his sticker, or moving his bee because he was left with nothing to do for hours at a time but entertain himself.  And his teachers refused to change anything to meet his needs.  It was easier to just punish him dozens of times a day.

It's a rare adult that can sit through hours of redundant lessons (or meetings) without something to distract himself. I've seen plenty of adults pull out a phone after less than 15 minutes of something they already know.  M had to sit through it for 7 hours a day.

Why didn't I take him out of school?!  I regret that. I also could have transferred him to my room last year, instead of sticking it out in his classroom.

I thought he was learning self-control, but there could have been other ways to learn it that wouldn't have been so harmful to him.

Now I know better.  I will not make that mistake in the future.  We've seen how good he is with a teacher who lets him work at his level.  He is not a bad kid, but there are teachers have the power to turn him into one.

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