The last time I took Kendall to school for the first day of a new year, he cried and told us over and over that he hated school. He hated learning. He hated reading. In fact, he’d been telling us that for weeks leading up to it.
I scheduled a conference with the VP before the school year started, and spontaneously burst into tears the minute I started telling her about his apparent sadness and anxiety. Although she was very kind, I was basically given a pat on the head and a “there’s nothing we can do about it right now, let’s wait and see” and sent on my way.
It never really got better from there. The best I can understand after trying to look at it through many lenses (his, his teachers, mine), he was bored, and he likes to push boundaries, AND he was not a good personality fit for his teaching team (2 teachers).
I always tried to work with his teachers and be the best parent I could be, but I think where I got things wrong that year was I was afraid to look like a helicopter mom, or like I was babying my special snowflake. I told Kendall I was totally “Team Teacher” when he got in trouble, and unfortunately that was quite a bit.
The behavior mark-downs seemed to set off a downward spiral. He was bored in a class that seemed to focus heavily on learning how to take a test. It’s worth noting he qualified for advanced placement in every part of his rubric EXCEPT the part where he had to take a test. So he was kept away from more challenging activities to, I guess, teach him how to sit still and look at a paper longer.
He was coming home every day feeling like a “bad kid,” and he eventually seemed to not care. He was going to get in trouble no matter what, so why bother. It was a really, really hard year not only watching him develop a deeper disdain for school, but also feeling like I was failing him in every possible way.
While I think that travel did have something to do with neutralizing our last public school experience, there’s something else at play that I think may be an even bigger factor in what’s been – so far- a refreshingly positive school year.
Kendall is in 6th grade now- middle school- and he sees 6 teachers a day, each for only 45ish minutes. Not every teacher is a good fit for his personality. There are 1-2 he doesn’t look forward to seeing, BUT he has managed to make it through their classes each day, getting his work done, knowing after the end of the period he can move on. We haven’t had any behavior issues with these teachers or any others so far.
As I played out all the scary and anxiety-inducing middle school scenarios in my head before the beginning of the school year, it never once occurred to me that maybe some kids are actually better at this part than they are at elementary. Maybe the change of scenery and faces, and the higher expectations of middle school are exactly what they’ve always been missing.
I’ve reflected on that 3rd grade year, and I know now that I needed to be Team Kendall, always. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t there to support his teachers. I could help correct bad behaviors without being a part of making my son feel like a “bad kid.”
Last week, one of Kendall’s teachers called me just to tell me he’s a great leader. I waited for the shoe to drop- for her to say “but… here’s what he’s doing wrong…” and that didn’t happen. She just called to tell me something good. I cried happy tears. She’s one of his top two favorite teachers, and she teaches language arts. He used to hate reading.