Well since we moved over the weekend, Wednesday was C’s first day at his new school. My son has always loved school (a trait that I am very thankful for, and proud of) and could not have been more excited to go back 3 days off was more than he could handle.
The area of the city we live in is a fairly residential area and the houses that surround us are all well kept and lovingly cared for. The school itself is a very international environment, and is built on self-esteem and strong academics the area surrounding the school is home to a very diverse group of people and different housing styles. There is everything from high-rise buildings, to large single family homes, all of which house members of the community from many different cultures. It seems like a wonderful school and when we went to register him the staff was very friendly and welcoming….
Now moving to a big city does have it’s major differences, everything in a city is just bigger. Bigger buildings, bigger buses, bigger schools and even (as my 7 year-old pointed out in awe one day as we explored our neighbourhood) bigger sidewalks. There are also many major culture differences. In the smaller city we left there were not many students of a different culture at C’s school, a few here and there, but they were the minority. And so, I had a long talk with him about how people come in all shapes, sizes and colors, but how we are all the same on the inside. I believe this is an important conversation to have with a child (children are often brutally honest, and tend to blurt out the truth in any situation, often pointing out the most obvious differences in a very uncomfortable way)
Because of C’s love for school, and friendly, caring nature, he was excited to make new friends, meet new people, and most of all to get homework!!! (Yes, my 7 year-old son is a little strange) See, every school C has ever been to has had a “no homework” policy. Apparently there is a government study going on in the city we used to live in that suggests children learn better, and learn more, when they are learning only in a classroom environment,a number of school in the area adopted this “no homework” policy and it just so happened that the schools C attended in our town did not have homework ever. (This theory may be true for some students, but my son is not one of them!!) I had even gone as far as asking that the school specifically assign him homework, because he was constantly asking for it… Their response was to tell me to create it myself for him… (sure I’ll just fit in time to create a full curriculum in between breakfast, lunch, baths, shopping, cleaning, dinner, more cleaning, and my other obligations… no problem…what exactly is it that I pay taxes for again????) I will go on further at another time as to why I personally believe this no homework policy is a terrible idea, but for now, on with my story….
Anyway, the most exciting thing for him was the fact that this new school was going to provide him with homework… Real homework that he was expected to complete (yeah, yeah, I am in the middle of writing my book of secrets to rasing the perfect, ‘albeit geeky’ child)
Dropping him off at school, I got to meet his new teacher. She is a lovely young woman, with brilliantly blonde hair and a perky attitude… she explained the classroom to C and when I left all seemed well. There truly could not have been a better teacher for him, she had a positive approach, and an energetic attitude… I liked her!
At 3:10 I waited eagerly outside the assigned doors for C to disembark his first day.. and waited…and waited… and waited… finally frustrated I wandered around to the front of the school and found him there waiting for me! (I forgot that I told him to meet me in front of the office to avoid any confusion… well that plan failed miserably, but no harm done, he hadn’t been there long and was happy to see me) As we began our walk home I was anxious to hear all about his first day….
Well apparently C’s first day was not at all what he (or I) had expected. The first thing out of C’s mouth was “My teacher yells!” He looked truly devastated. “She yells a lot, even when no one is doing anything, and I asked my new friend if she is always like that and he said Yeah Everyday!!!! I don’t like a teacher that yells” My heart broke a little inside, but I did not want to dwell on the negative so I told him that perhaps she was just having a bad day, and asked about the rest of his. To which he replied “It sucked, Recess here is a lot shorter, just as me and my friend got outside the bell rang to go inside” OK…. “well hunny you’ll get used to the difference in play time.. What else??? ” Each response that followed was a negative one, so I eventually gave up and told C that if you only see the negative in things, you will never have any positive experiences, just more bad ones (blah, blah, blah..positive thinking brings positive results…) “But mom….. it sucked.. oh and btw … I am the ONLY white person in my class!!!”
LMAO!!! What was I supposed to say to that???? I personally don’t see that as an issue at all… I have never been the type to care about someone’s skin color, and I truly don’t think C is either.. I think that the shock of a “yelling teacher” just caused a negative overload in his brain… “Who cares”.. is all I could manage to muster up, as I said we are all the same inside.
After a healthy snack and some “homework” time (which put him in a much better mood) C started talking about the good things, but still insisted he did not want a yelling teacher… His complaints about his teacher reminded me of a teacher I had in grade 3 (funny I was around the same age as C almost and living in the same city we just moved back to now!!)
My teacher from hell was Mrs. Bristo! (I hope by some strange cosmic fate she happens to stumble across this post) Mrs. Bristo had this purple tinge to her hair that seemed almost natural. She was serious and slender, with a face like Cruella Deville. She was strict and serious… And most importantly THIS WOMAN HATED ME!!!!
Now I am aware that a child’s mind can exaggerate a situation, and make things seem a lot worse than they truly are, but there is no exaggeration involved here. This woman hated me with a disturbing amount of irrationality. She set out to destroy me from the very first day of school and I had no idea why. I was not a “bad kid” I had always gotten good grades up to this point, I was well-behaved for the most part, but I had an over active imagination, and a talent for communication. (still strong traits I possess today!) Other than that though, I worked hard and I payed attention, there was no reason for her to dislike me as much as she did… And dislike is putting it mildly. This woman would single me out every chance she got, she assigned me excessive homework (sometimes 3 and 4 hours worth) personally, and never gave the same amount to the other children. She moved me to a desk that was next to hers and faced the wall so I could not see the classroom, and she was just harsh with me at all times.
The situation caused me misery, I had been a lot like C and I loved school, so when I started to complain and pretend I was sick my mother (who was always a very active parent) knew that she had to do something. She approached the school about the situation, explaining that for some reason this woman just did not like me. The schools only reply was how she was a great teacher. My mother (never one to back down from anything) had her own reply to them… She may be a great teacher, but NOT for my kid she isn’t the woman does not like her, and it borders on obsession, either you remove my daughter from her class, or I go to the school board!! (WOO HOO! This must be where I get my stubborn, go-get-em’ attitude. My mother was always standing up for us, sometimes even when she knew we didn’t deserve the support.) Needless to say, she was a force to reckon with, and I was switched classes, enabling me to finish off grade 3 peacefully, and with good grades!
To this day I don’t know what this womans issue was with me. I have friends who are teachers and many of them have said that there is always one kid that you just don’t like, but they also expressed that no matter your level of dislike you NEVER-EVER treat that child any differently than the rest!! Now there are people who were born to teach, (I can tell you now that I am not one of those people, trying to teach my son to read was an overwhelming experience that did neither of us any good. There was tears, yelling, and unpleasant words before I gave up and accepted that he would learn at his own pace. We truly take reading for granted, it is damn hard to teach someone something that feels so natural to us as adults.) and like me, there are others that are born to learn, or share in a different way. I don’t know if Mrs. Bristo was a good teacher or not, to me she was the devil in disguise. The worst part is that if it were not for my mothers headstrong, take charge attitude I would have had a miserable year, and could possibly have been turned off school forever. I truly believe that a childs teacher is the key to success, they have the ability to make of break a child so easily.
Long before evil Mrs. Bristo I had the most amazing teacher, Mrs. Phillips was my kindergarten teacher, and probably the reason I love learning to this day. She was kind and approachable, she took time to get to know her students and their personal needs. Sure, classes were smaller back then, and teachers often went above and beyond, but the care and compassion that was put into their jobs should still be an expectation today. Teachers now fail to communicate with the parents, they assume that the parents know how their children behave, but the reality of it is, the way your child is at school, and the way they are at home can often be two very different things.
Luckily C came home from his second day at school with the exciting news that his teacher didn’t yell at all that day, and that she was very nice. It makes me happy to see a child actually want to learn, to actually enjoy getting up and going to school. Education is one of the most important tools we provide our children, the least we can do is make this tool seem exciting….
P.S. Feel free to share your “bad teacher” stories and thoughts, I would love to hear about teachers who hurt or helped your school experience…
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