The Problem with Colin
When I pick Colin up from school, I wait for him right outside the front doors - and he's usually one of the first to come bounding out, a huge smile on his face. But yesterday, kids started pouring through the doors and he wasn't among them. I saw a kid from his class, then another, and another, until his entire class had whizzed by ... and still no Colin.
Finally I saw him, after it seemed like 90% of the school had left. He came out, with his teacher (Mrs. L.) holding his hand. "Do you have a few minutes to talk?" she asked.
My first thought was, "I'm so glad I wore makeup" - but y'all, I was wearing a cheap black v-neck tee that tends to stretch out within an hour or so of putting it on, showing an embarrassing amount of
We sat down in the classroom, and Mrs. L. said, "Colin is doing really well academically. He's reading, writing ... he's very bright. In fact, he's been meeting with the gifted-and-talented teacher for a half-hour every Wednesday." (That was news to me.) "But he's having some problems socially ... some problems with not wanting to do what the rest of the class is doing." She thrust a pile of papers onto the table. "Here's today's work."
I rifled through it. He had sloppily written a row of M's - you could tell he was in a hurry - and a row of A's. He had completed a pattern correctly on a worksheet, apple, tree, apple, tree, but hadn't colored it. And there were a few odd circles and a strip cut out of one of his papers. I frowned.
"This is what he was doing when he was supposed to be doing his work," Mrs. L. said, and handed me the cut-out strip. It had glue on each end; I could tell it was supposed to be a bracelet. One side said, "FOR MOM" and the other side said, "I LOVE YOU MOM." My heart broke.
"It's gotten worse over the course of this week," she continued. "He doesn't want to participate. He wants to get up and do his own thing. He talks to the other kids while they're trying to do their work."
I watched him from across the room, his blonde head bobbing past the bookshelves as he showed his little brother the blocks. I wanted to cry. Like any parent, I had hoped he would get to school and excel. Obviously, though, that wasn't the case. "The gym teacher, the music teacher, the art teacher - they've all expressed the same concerns," Mrs. L. said.
I couldn't deny it. We have the same problem at home. On the one night of the week when he has homework, he just does. not. want. to do it. And it's always stuff that's easy for him - things he could do with his eyes closed. This week he had to write, "I am Colin. I am 5. I am a boy." Had he just sat down and done it, he'd have been finished in two minutes. And yet it was like pulling teeth. He had no problem drawing and diagramming the parts of an apple - something that he wanted to do on his own, that he came up with himself - but when it came to his assigned sentences, he didn't want any part of it. I guess, though, that I was stupid enough to think that attitude wouldn't transfer over into the school environment.
"So ... what can we do?" I asked Mrs. L. helplessly.
"Well, we can move him to a separate desk, away from the rest of the class," she said. "It might minimize distractions."
Yeah. It might minimize distractions. But it might also make him feel singled out, naughty, ostracized from the rest of his class. And that isn't what I want for my son.
That's how it starts: a separate desk. Then pretty soon he'll be out in the hall. Or in the principal's office. Or someone will be suggesting that we dope him up with Ritalin so he'll sit down and shut up.
It makes me sad and angry, all at the same time. I know my son isn't an ill-behaved child - he isn't doing the things he's doing because he's naughty. And he isn't suffering from some attention deficit: I have seen him watch a vocal cord surgery on YouTube, glued raptly to the screen the whole time, or spend an hour writing his own book. No one is going to tell me that he has an inability to pay attention. He just doesn't pay attention to the stuff he's supposed to be paying attention to - and therein lies the problem.
I agree wholeheartedly that he needs to learn to listen; to do what he's supposed to do, when he's supposed to do it. I mean, that's how the real world works - sometimes we have to suck it up and do things we don't want to. But there's a bigger piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing here. He clearly needs something different than what he's getting, and shouldn't have to feel wrong or singled out because he has a different learning style. He is, on all accounts, a special-needs child. And if he were special-needs at the other end of the spectrum - mentally disabled, or academically behind - the school would be bending over backwards trying to accomodate him: not trying to making him accomodate them. Obviously, the half-hour a week of gifted-program curriculum (which basically boils down to some accelerated reading) isn't going to cut it - but from what I can tell, that's all his school offers. It's pitiful. Don't even get me started on who "No Child Left Behind" really left behind.
I'm not trying to sound over-dramatic here, but I can see the flame of his love of learning being snuffed out before my very eyes. The more Colin is made to conform, the more he's going to hate it. He's going to hate school. And he's got so, so many more years of school to go. I want him to blossom ... not wilt.
I get so much valuable advice from you guys - and I know that as parents and educators, some of you have experienced this type of thing before. I need your help. Colin needs your help. His parent-teacher conference is next Thursday, and I want to gather my thoughts before then.
Thank you in advance for all the wonderful words of wisdom I know I'm going to get ... and I promise, I'll be back on Monday with something funny. :) Love y'all!