More talk about the schools but this time I’ll try to just focus on Noah. Noah is a very tender-hearted, accident-prone, smart but absent-minded 8-year-old boy. Yes, I know that some of that description is developmentally normal for his age. Noah attended a 3-day preschool program for one year. His preschool teacher knew him from church so she wasn’t objective, but she praised him constantly and the only problem we had was his constantly forgetting to wash his hands after potty. Noah started Kindergarten at our zoned public school and has been there ever since. During the first few weeks of Kindergarten we asked for a conference with the teacher to discuss Noah’s progress. When I mentioned that Noah is left-handed the teacher said “We’ll see about that.” I was appalled and despite my persistence the teacher remained cool and quickly changed the subject. For the next several months we had almost weekly complaints from the teacher about Noah’s behavior. My paranoia about this teacher was confirmed at an assembly when one of the other mothers confided that the teacher “didn’t like my child and one other boy.” In January we had mid-year meetings and the teacher announced “I guess Noah really is left-handed so I’m going to let him use his left hand from now on.” I was so flipped out by this statement that I have no idea what was said the rest of the meeting. A few weeks before the end of the year the teacher called us in to tell us she was recommending that Noah be held back and repeat a year of Kindergarten. I refused and had to sign off on several papers that I would not comply with the school’s recommendations. Let me clarify here that Noah had excellent academic work but consistent problems in conduct. I will never forget what the teacher said at that meeting. “Children from disadvantaged homes need more time to mature and learn. You will regret this decision and come back to me someday and tell me that you should have listened to me.”
I can’t prove it, because parents aren’t allowed to see everything in their child’s records but I believe with all my heart that teacher put something in Noah’s files declaring him a behavior problem. He has gotten the strictest teacher every year since. If any child ever needed a nurturing and kind teacher, it is Noah. This child cries if you just tell him he has done wrong. Further punishment than words is never needed. He talks in class when he shouldn’t because he is bored and finished with the work. He doesn’t pay attention to the teacher because he gets so completely immersed in his books that he can’t hear anything but the words on the pages. It doesn’t help that even though they know he reads at a high school level they insist on giving him simple chapter books for assignments. But, for being so naughty he gets checks and loses cards and clips and all the other complicated, multi-layered behavioral management plans that are in place.
We are now 2 weeks into the third grade and Noah already has so many ‘checks’ that he will not make honor roll. It is time to schedule a conference. Yesterday Noah wasn’t paying attention in gym class and he ran into another child. When he did he bit through his front lip and it started bleeding. He began crying because he thought he was having another nosebleed. Noah’s nosebleeds are severe and the amount of blood is frightening even to adults. He called from the school clinic asking to come home and I asked him to wait an hour and see if he felt better. He called an hour later and we brought him home. He didn’t need to come home physically but emotionally he needed to and I let him come home. If a teacher had been allowed to give him a hug and tell him it would be okay he might have made it through the day, but teachers aren’t allowed to do anything more than put their hand on a child’s shoulder. Even that much they don’t want to do without a witness. How sad is that?