Problems in School

Right now, Andrea and I are having such a difficult time with Benjamin’s kindergarten teacher and it is tempting to pull him out of his current school and put him in the new school that he’ll be attending, anyway, now, instead of next year.  This not be the usual post I write and more of venting about Benjamin’s teacher, who I will call Mrs. X for the sake of this.

We first got a hint that there might be an issue when we went to the parent/teacher conference and we both got the vibe that Mrs. X was not a fan of Benjamin.  Anything nice she said about him seemed forced and the whole thing seemed less of a conference and more of a prepared presentation she had for us.  While we noticed the other kindergarten teacher was taking her time with parents, we noticed Mrs. X was shutting down discussions right at 15 minutes.  So, we thought maybe the vibe we were getting from her was just how she is with all parents.  However, it was obvious that she has forgotten what it’s like to be a parent with a kid in school for the first time.

The second quarter report card came a few months later and I was kind of appalled.  The report card itself looked like  it had been folded by the pre-schoolers and things were organized by the kindergarten kids (for example, numbers and shapes were listed under “Religion”).  Of course, we are new to being parents of a school age kid who thinks their child is perfect, so some of the marks got our backs up, but we tried to take it with a grain of salt.  What we got really angry at was that there was a single comment from his teacher: “Benjamin needs to learn self-control.”  That was it.  No encouragement and no sign of her giving any effort to give us feedback.  We put our precious child in her hands and this as all she could give us.  We get more detailed information from our daycare about the kids than we got from her.

So, Andrea arranged for a meeting with Mrs. X and she explained some of the areas that Benjamin needed to work on.  He was behind in reading and writing (which, I kind of felt was an accurate account based on what I have seen).  She also said he had trouble with numbers, citing an example of how she told her students to go to page 123 and Benjamin struggled with it.  The funny thing is that just a couple of days before, Benjamin had (without prompting) recounted the same story to me from his perspective.

It started with, “Papa, ‘a couple’ is two, right?”

“Yes,” I told him. “Why?”

“Well, Mrs. X told us to turn ahead in our book ‘a couple of pages’ and I did, but she said it wasn’t the right page.  She counted off ‘1-2-3’, but that is three pages, not tw0.”

Ben takes things very literally and knew that ‘a couple’ was two pages.  He also gets stuck on a thought and won’t move on until it is resolved.  So, when she then said, “1-2-3”, he then thought she was telling him to turn three pages instead of to page 123.  This was clearly a miscommunication that Mrs. X should have handled better, and instead, she labels Ben as having a problem with numbers and he was clearly upset.

Anyway, at the same time this was going on, Andrea had asked to have him evaluated to see if he might be gifted by the school district.  The school district sent Mrs. X a form to fill out.  When she was meeting with Andrea, she seemed offended that we would think Ben was gifted and went on to cite his reading and writing issues.  To use her words, she “just didn’t see it.”  (Also, note that Mrs. X set up the meeting for the 15 minutes right before school started so that there was no chance of it running longer.)

So Ben was evaluated by our new school district and the report came back…They confirmed what we had suspected and classified him as gifted.  However, they did also confirm that he was behind in reading and writing and that he might have a learning disorder.  They said that it isn’t rare to have a kid who was gifted but with a learning disorder.  To me, it makes sense.  Ben clearly has a focus issue and, yes, he does have problems controlling himself (“Sometimes I have a song in my head and it just has to get out, so I start singing it and I get in trouble.”)  Additionally, the individual that did the evaluation hinted at putting the blame for Ben being behind, on his school.

The icing on the cake was that in the report, they included Mrs. X’s comments about Ben, which were mostly negative or were backhanded compliments.  They also went on to note that Mrs. X decline to fill out the evaluation they asked her to do and that the principal of his school was okay with this.  This is the part that really got Andrea and I angry.  We are trying to do what is best for our son with this evaluation and his teacher can’t be bothered with it and his principle is fine with that.  What also should be noted is that Mrs. X gave conflicting information to the evaluator than she had given to us.

Our problem is that all Mrs. X sees is a kid that acts up in class and hasn’t made an effort to try to see beyond that, when clearly there is more to him.  I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she is overwhelmed (the school has larger class sizes this year because they took on students from a closed school), but sometimes, and I hate to say it, I think she is lazy.  She has been at this school forever.  She attended it as a child and her children attended it.  I can’t help but wonder if she has just become content in her job.

I feel bad saying any of this.  We have so many friends who are teachers and we know there are some great teachers out there.  They work hard and put in their own personal time and money to teach our children.  However, Andrea and I continued to try to give this particular teacher the benefit of the doubt, but the evaluation was the last straw.  Now, we can’t wait to show the evaluation to Mrs. X, proving what we had been trying to tell her all along (when she gave us time).

I also know, that as parents, we are emotional about anything regarding our son, but we sent him to this Catholic school hoping to give him the best start we could and I think that’s what bothers us as well.

Anyway, we aren’t ready to give up on Catholic schools.  We did some careful vetting of Ben’s new school for next year and, at the first sign of trouble, we will pull him out and put him in the public school system, which is very good.  After the school year is over, we plan on writing a letter to the diocese about these issues (highlighting their failure to fill out the gifted evaluation), copying the teacher and the principle.  I am doing everything I can to keep myself from marching into that school and giving them a piece of my mind, now.

It is just frustrating to see a teacher (and even a principle) that seems to have given up.  Benjamin is a good kid and a bright kid…it’s scary to see what happens when teachers give up.  It also solidifies in my mind why this country needs to put more money and more energy into our schools, rather than take money out.  We are lucky enough to have the means to give our boys options when it comes to education…Not everyone has that option.

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