So, first parents are expected to shape their children. Fair enough. We bring them into the world, so who else should have the responsibility of making them viable members of society? Well, the second most important influence on our children should be their teachers. And of that group, a child’s first teacher is the most important.
It is that teacher that shapes the child’s learning experience for years to come. It is his or her influence that will dictate how the child perceives school from their first day on. I should know. I have just gone through an insane school year with my daughter.
Now at first, we planned on home-schooling the child. The schools in the area we lived in were not what we felt was conducive to learning anything above basics. So, in our naive way, we opted to not enroll her in pre-K. I’ve never understood what that was anyway. I mean, isn’t kindergarten where you start learning?
This is the public library in Bay Shore, NY. Where we lived. We took our daughter there every weekend where she learned to read. Voraciously. Then we moved to Florida, land of opportunity. We love it here and everything is perfect. By the Gods, we even got our daughter enrolled in a Cambridge “A” school!
Then we met Mrs. Rodriguez…Grumpy Cat as I call her.
We spoke to her, letting her know that our daughter had never been in a classroom of any kind. We told her that she could read. She said “Oh good. She can read simple children’s books?” We answered “No, she can read the Wall Street Journal.” The teacher gave a condescending smile and explained to us that kindergarten was far different that what we expected. From what I gathered, kindergarten was the new third grade.
My daughter’s handwriting was atrocious to say the least, but her reading skills were phenomenal to say the least. Every day, my wife would pick up my daughter and Grumpy Cat would berate her, saying that my daughter’s writing needed improvement. We worked hard with her and we were seeing improvement coming steadily. Grumpy Cat apparently wanted it instantly.
So began a year of misery. We couldn’t understand why the teacher never saw any of the good. The above-average grades in everything, and the improvement of her handwriting. Instead, Grumpy Cat chose to continue harassing her about her writing, even in front of the class. Soon enough, my daughter was ostracized from the rest. They made fun of her, refused to sit or play with her and then, the bullying started.
She came home one day without her juice cup. When we questioned her, we found out finally that another girl took it away from her and threw it out. Then we found out that she was being pushed by some of the children.
We were furious.
We went to Grumpy Cat who casually told us she never saw anything like that. But, she did remind us that her handwriting needed work.
So we decided to go above her and spoke to the assistant principle. She in turn directed us to the counselor. The counselor investigated and a few days later, assured us that any bullying would stop immediately and that my daughter would be tested. It seems that Grumpy Cat said she was a disrupting factor in the classroom now. Perhaps, the problem was that she was bored in class or it may be something else.
According to Grumpy, she was in need of some child-restraining drug like Ritalin. Her report said my daughter was hyperactive, disobedient, disruptive and rude. A prime case of ADHD.
My wife cried for days as we waited for the doctor to examine her. My wife works for the best neurosurgeon in Miami. He checked my daughter over and gave my wife this diagnosis. “She’s five. She does what every normal five year old does. I’m not prescribing anything for her. Nothing is wrong.”
This was the beginning of a long battle with the Cambridge “A” school.
For the rest of the year, we fought with the teacher. Her gems of wisdom started with “Kindergarten is not supposed to be fun! It’s for learning!” and ended with “Maybe if your daughter didn’t show she was smarter that the other children so often, they would like her better.” Yes, you read that right. The teacher suggested we dumb down our daughter to make the rest of the class happier.
Meanwhile, my daughter was getting worse. She would complete her work, long before the other children, and with nothing to do the trouble started. She would get up and go to the bathroom and decide to go check out other things along the way. We suggested the teacher give her something to do to keep her in her seat and were told “I don’t have time to see to one student.”
Testing showed that Alexa…my daughter…read at almost a fourth grade level. Not only could she read the words, but she understood what they were. Therefor, all of her other subjects were coming easily to her. The only problem, it was almost the end of the school year. There was less than two months of school left. No point in moving her to gifted now. Grumpy Cat had been refusing to do that all year.
Yesterday, we went to Alexa’s graduation. Each teacher got up and gave awards to the children in their class that excelled. Grumpy Cat’s turn came and she started handing out awards. When it was time for “Excellence in Reading”, my wife and I sat up a little taller. Then, we watched another child get that award. We watched Alexa’s shoulders slump. The teacher herself had admitted many times that Alexa was far beyond any of the other children in reading.
I wanted to write this as soon as we got home. There would have been way too many f-bombs had I written it then. I was angry. The first teacher of any child should understand that they will shape the way that child sees school for the rest of their days. Grumpy Cat didn’t care. She showed my daughter that school is not the fun place we had led her to believe it was. It wasn’t the place where she would learn so many new and exciting things.
It was the place where she would be ridiculed for the single area she wasn’t proficient in despite her advances. It was the place where other children would ostracize her and the teacher didn’t care. Finally, it would be the place where the teacher’s spite would cheat her out of an award she deserved.
I know a lot of very good teachers. Teachers that understand exactly how important they are, especially to children just starting school. I respect and admire these men and women that take on this responsibility. They are underpaid, underappreciated and overwhelmed most of the time. They take money from their own pockets to help their children. They work long, tedious hours for them. They are everything that is good in our school systems. They are what insures our future in this world.
I wish my daughter had one of them.