Friday, October 20, 2006

Bad Teacher

When my oldest son started school in kindergarten my wife and I were feeling the same emotions that, I'm sure, most parents feel at this time. At five years old he was quite a handsome lad and, although he was quiet around other people, he was pretty witty and intelligent for a five year old. So we sent him off that first day to start his education, knowing he was going to do great. We hadn't had the money to send him to pre-school so he hadn't been exposed to a room full of kids quite like a classroom setting, but we weren't worried. We knew he would adjust soon enough. The second day of school - the second day- I got a call from the school principal wanting to meet with me. I thought "gosh he's in trouble already!?". When I went to the school (my wife was working that day) I met with his teacher and the principal. The teacher wasted no time expressing herself. "Your son isn't participating in classroom activities like he should. He just sits there and doesn't talk". I told her that he was quiet by nature and hadn't been around kids like that. "Well I can't take the time to try to bring him out of his shell." She said. "I have a whole classroom and a schedule to keep, I cannot stop everything for him!" The class consisted of eleven kids total. And she couldn't take time out to help one.The principal offered "we'll let him go at his own pace for a little while and see how it goes." Me, being a parent for a mere five years figured a teacher of twenty years surely knew what she was doing. As the year went on it was apparent that my son was falling farther and farther behind, and that the teacher had intentionally left him and one or two others like him to catch up on their own. This didn't become obvious to my wife and me until the school sent home a video to all the parents showing an activity that they were working on. In it all the kids were at the front of the classroom actively participating while my son and another boy sat at the back of the room watching. That was when the anger hit me. Not only was he being cheated out of his education, but by keeping him separated from his classmates like that the other kids developed a view of him, and the other one or two kids, as outsiders. Not a good way for a shy kid to build a camaraderie with his classmates. I had another meeting with the principal who assured me that once in first grade things would be different. Evidently he knew what the teacher was doing but lacked the courage to intervene. Being more trusting than smart I went along with things for the whole kindergarten year, eager for first grade to start and bring a fresh change.
When first grade came things were actually a little better with a new teacher, but the seeds of eager learning that never got nurtured in kindergarten were slow to grow in first grade, and he was behind in all subjects, not to mention being looked at as different, slow, stupid and all other adjectives kids come up with to describe someone who's not an active part of the class. From then until he graduated high school he had trouble learning. He was 'diagnosed' with a learning disability then ADD and put on Ritalin for a time, put in Special Ed. classes,but nothing helped him to reach the level of learning where the rest of his class was, and he graduated high school with less than the normal amount of accumulated knowledge that a graduate has. He is struggling to make adjustments to adult life without proper reading and writing skills, but the inner intelligence that he possessed all along shows through more and more now and he is handling things quite well, considering the start he got in school.

I write this now because I saw his kindergarten teacher today. She looks just as cold and heartless as she always has, and I doubt she has any remorse for failing to reach the students who needed her the most. A few years after we took the kids out of that school ( a Catholic school) and put them in public school that teacher was fired for slapping one of her students. We also from a lot of parents who had experiences with her similar to ours. Even though she was only my son's teacher for one year I can't help but blame her, at least partly, for him not adjusting well to school. I hope one day I'll see things differently because nothing good ever comes of harboring hateful feelings.


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