Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lesson from a First Grader

I drove to work in tears yesterday.  It wasn’t because I had yet again failed to get a good night’s sleep.  It had nothing to do with the parent meeting scheduled for after school or the progress reports that I needed to finish or that general feeling of being overwhelmed.  I cried because of an email I received from my first grader’s teacher.

Over breakfast I had checked my email as I do every morning.  And there it was.  An email from Mrs. Cable with the subject line “Jack.”  She had written to request a meeting to discuss some “behaviors.”  I’m not going to lie, I had a pretty good idea what those “behaviors” might be, but given that I had no previous indication that he was having any problems in class, the email took me by surprise.

I’ll be the first to admit my son can be difficult.  He is easily angered and frustrated and has no qualms about expressing his emotions.  However, that applies to both negative and positive emotions.  I’m not completely sure we can teach him to suppress one kind without causing the suppression of the other.  I certainly wouldn’t want to lose all that is bright and beautiful about my child.  Jack can be the most excited, happy, and loving boy you would ever want to know.  He just happens to have an equally dark side.  On more than  a few occasions, I have  referred to him as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  His teacher evidently wants to discuss strategies to help him overcome his Mr. Hyde moments.  I’m hoping she has the ideas, because if she thinks I have some, she is sadly mistaken.  If I had it all figured out, clearly we wouldn’t be having this meeting.

As I drove by my sons’ school yesterday on the way to work, the image of my younger son excitedly running to class replayed in my mind.  That’s when the tears began to flow.  I have been so happy that he loves school and talks enthusiastically about everything:  playing with blocks during Fun Friday, buying hot lunch in the cafeteria, doing Daily Five.  I wondered if his teacher understood that one false move and she could destroy it all.

My biggest fear is that he will learn to hate school.  He often says when I correct him or chastise him, “You hate me.”  As unbelievable as that is for me, knowing just how fiercely I love him and how often I tell him, I know in that moment that is what he truly feels.  If he believes his teacher doesn’t like him, he will no longer see his classroom as a magical place.  His world will become dark and ugly and without hope.  School will be a place of misery.

As a parent the most important thing for me is that my child likes school, that it is a place where he goes and feels good about himself.  If he can go skipping off to class every morning and return each afternoon with a wide-eyed, loud-voiced story about his adventures that day, I am happy.  I want him to love learning.  So, my job today, as a parent, will be to advise his teacher to tread carefully.  To guide with gentleness and kindness and to be positive at all times.  To show my son that he is truly a wonderful kid and that she is there to help him.  To do everything she can to protect the magic of her classroom.

As a parent, I am saddened and fearful about what may come of this experience.  As a teacher, I am thankful.  It is a valuable lesson learned.

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