My mom posted this, this evening. I thought it would be interesting for some of you following the debate that’s been going on here over parenting, authority figures and teaching lessons to your kids, to read what my mom has to say about my fourth grade “You’ll never amount to anything” incident…
Well, here’s Jake’s Mom at last.
Of course I remember the story somewhat differently. The set-to with his 4th grade teacher was only one of a series of misunderstandings between Jake and his teachers. Several of Jake’s teachers had trouble with him. His kindergarten and first grade teachers were fortunately experienced and accepting of kids many variations. They saw him as a bright ,sensitive, generous child and gave him the respect and encouragement he needed and deserved.
His second grade teacher was new and young and didn’t know how to listen to her students. She wanted them to compete and play motivational games rather than just learn. She didn’t understand his urge to read just one book, on reptiles, 200 pages, from cover to cover. “Don’t you want to put lots of leaves (representing appropraite 10-15 page 2nd grade books) on the tree and win the prize?” His honest reply – “No.” She wept in frustration because he wanted to read rather than win and got so upset she accidentally broke his potteryart project by hiting the desk with it. He was frightened and upset. too. I know that she grew more preceptive with maturation; he has too. But when he was 7 and she 22 (so young) she was supposed to be the grown-up and he the kid.
What about the “He’s just like you….” statement? I remember that as distinct from the outline episode, but most likely in the same year. We were in a scheduled parent-teacher conference with his TAG teacher, Jan. I remember workbooks as the immediate issue. I don’t remember anyone shouting, but adult disagreement is out of line and may seem loud to kids. I also don’t remember my response to the statement …he’ll never amount to anything.” but I think it was, “Now that we’ve established that, what shall we do next?” Sarcastic, yes, but hardly scathing. Jan backed me up by asking whether he has a grasp of the concepts that were being taught and the teacher replied, “Yes.” “Then let’s just throw the workbook away and let him do something else,” Jan suggested.
The most important lesson I learned was that advocacy for your child is the essential element of parenting. Don’t abandon them to the system. Instead, help the system understand their indivudual needs, find additional expertise to back them, and you, up. Listen to them. Help them. Commiserate when you can’t change the circumstances. Kids are vulnerable, easily intimidated. It’s unlikely that yours is the worst in the world or that he will never amount to anything. Care of your children is your most important responsibility; don’t abandon it just because an authority figure asks you to.
He’s just like me; he amounts to a great deal.