Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flowers in the window

Click photo and play song while reading post.

Every parent feels their child is special. And it is true. Our children are better than the above-average children of Lake Wobegon.

There's the seed of life in each child that was given to us, that was given to them, and that (with luck and hope) will be given to our grandchildren.

It is with no surprise then, that when we feel our child has been treated unfairly, without care, or with a tougher hand than needed, we are outraged, frustrated, and vigilant.

For those who have been following on my blog, Noodle has had a rough transition to the new school year.

Week 6, and minor improvements have been made, with some behavior modification at home, and hopefully at school. I got a rewards chart for Noodle to fill out, and to see her progress in a visual way, about how good she has been behaving not only at school, but also at home. I believe it has helped, and she is happier in the afternoon, peppier (if that is a word) in the morning, and no longer on RED during school.

But, do you know who makes the worst parents of school-age students? Teachers.

Yes, teachers, who think they know it all, come into their parent/teacher (or would it be teacher/teacher) conferences with their bag of educational lingo in tow, and their child psychology notes tucked beneath their arms. During these stand offs, the two generals fling empty jargon at each other while the other deflects it with theoretical education prattle.

I am one of those parents. I've seen the studies, done the research, know my spiel.

And so, I write notes. I write notes that tell the teacher it is unfair to isolate my gifted child from the other children because she is talking excessively or fidgeting too much. I say it with the kindness of ten thousand acolytes. But, what I mean is that my child is bored with your slow-paced teaching style and wants something else to do.

I write suggestions on moving my gifted child to the front of the class near the teacher, hinting that it will help my child focus (as other teachers have done, and had her become classroom helper since she always finished first). But, the teacher responds that my child needs to be alone at times to focus on her work.

So yes, the Noodle and I forge on, practicing at home, brushing up on her skills. Showing off her prowess to write neatly, think clearly, do addition and subtraction, and even brush her teeth.

As a teacher and a father, I've sometimes been too angry at a child. Mine, and others. But, I've always kept in mind that these are young people who are forming ideas about what life is all about, and I've never isolated a child by their self in order to keep my own cool. Sure, I've asked a teenager to leave the room before, but not for days.

I truly believe setting a classroom environment where one child is set apart can create low self-esteem, feelings of depression, and an unwillingness to learn. It also ostracizes the child from the other children who are potentially their friends, and this in turn can create that much dreaded clique formation. Plus, child are vicious and can make fun of each other in cruel ways.

So am I overreacting when I feel that this teacher may be treating my child differently? I'm sure there are other children in that class who act up. Yet, when I visited I only saw one desk aside, and that was Noodle's. It made my heart drop, my anger swell, and my "bad-teacher-radar" go off. Sure, tough teachers are needed. I'm a tough teacher. But patient and understanding teachers are important.

I've seen studies that suggest children of minorities, especially Asians because of their stereotype of high-performance, are treated differently in schools. For example, if children who don't meet the teacher's preconceived notion of what that child should do, the teacher is often harder on that child.

I do wonder if any of you have faced that type of high expectation frustration?

Either way, the note was sent in, and the teacher wrote back that she will be more sensitive to the needs of Noodle. I hope so. Otherwise, she's an aphid on my flower, and I shall send swarms of ladybugs to destroy her aphid colony.

You know, there are times when you water too much? And you just hope that the flower won't drown.

Of course, there is a new fear on the horizon. Seems the Noodle told her mommy, "I'm allergic to toes."

Tough actin' Tinactin!


Anonymous said...

I was a teacher too and am still very involved in education. I firmly believe that my background complicates the relationship between my boys and their teachers. I know that my boys behave differently when they are alone with me from when they are alone with their mother. I also know they behave differently with their teachers and peers. And I accept that it is a natural part of their social/cognitive development.

As someone who (1) doesn't know the compete details of the situation but (2) has some classroom experience with elementary and middle school children, I am not a proponent of isolating a child from the class. It has the potential for the opposite effect. Instead of getting the child to conform, it actually may worsen the behavior as the child believes that this is one way to get attention or to be "special."

As parents, the larger question here is when do we step back and when do we engage? It is our right to ask questions but how many questions does it take before the teacher's authority in the classroom is undermined?

That asked, I want to wish you luck with the situation.

Colorado Dad said...

Growing up as an Asian-American in a primarily Caucasian school district, I was certainly treated differently. Teachers expected more from me--to learn faster and help other students along.

At times I hated it, but it also earned me a little freedom to deviate from the curriculum a bit and study things which interested me more. Kept me from being bored all the damn time, but every now and then I saw it as a barrier to "fitting in" with the kids in class. I'm firmly convinced that it changed the rate at which I developed socially, in retrospect.