Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The boy who asked questions

Tyler's 5th grade teacher didn't like him. She said he asked too many questions.
For the first time ever, Tyler did not like school.
Then he came home one day and announced he was put into the lowest reading group.
That would have been fine had he not been at the top of his class up until then.
Something was wrong. I didn't let Tyler know this at the time, but I went in and talked to Mrs. S.

This was 16 years ago but I remember when I asked Mrs. S why Tyler
was in the lowest reading group she said, "That is how he tested! I can only go by how he tested."
I asked if she would mind testing him again because I told her he was an excellent reader.
He read all the time, he loved to read.

She said something about how she can only test him once or twice a year and that was it.

It also didn't matter to her when I said Tyler had always loved school in the past
and something was wrong this year. I wanted to understand so I could help him.
I tried to choose my words carefully as to not put Mrs S on the defensive.

All she could come up with was Tyler tested low in his reading, and he asked too many questions.

When I told Tyler's Dad about this that evening, it did not set well with him at all.
He insisted we make an appointment with the principal. So I did.

It turned out to be the one and only time we had ever asked to meet with a principal.

The next day, both Bill and I, along with Mrs. S gathered around the principal's desk.
Mrs. S stood her ground that Tyler could not be tested again in his reading,
and that he asked too many questions. 
 The principal was basically the mediator and supported her teacher....
even with the ridiculous things she was saying.

I learned on that day that a principal, for a variety of reasons,
is going to side with her teachers. As much as I loved our principal.

So nothing was accomplished.

Two weeks later Tyler's Dad was killed.
Both Mrs. S and the principal, along with all of my boys' teachers and principals,
attended his funeral.

Tyler returned to school about a week later.
Life was a lot harder now trying to adjust to life without his Dad,
plus all the other issues that go along with grief.
The principal helped me arrange a private home teacher for Tyler for the remaining months of that year.
(He was back at school for 6th grade, and did well again.)

I later found out Mrs. S was going through a divorce at the time.
I then had more understanding towards her, and why she may not have been her best that year.
Then she later married the janitor, as did two of Tyler's previous teachers.
Not the same janitor I must add. At least I don't think so.

So yesterday when I read Tyler's blog post,
the year he was in Mrs. S's class came rushing back to my mind.

Here's a very condensed part of Tyler's blog post:

 "As a family, we attended the annual Math/Stat Fall Picnic in a local park this evening... 
I am considered staff because I am an instructor for a stats recitation course.

Karen got to meet Matt, my differential equations instructor from this summer, 
and we got to meet his wife and kids.

MATT to KAREN: Tyler is one of the best students I’ve ever had. 
No, he actually is the best. I have never been asked so many questions by one student before. 
He knows me better than I know myself.

Of course, how do you respond to something like that? 
I was embarrassed for a moment.

MATT: I mean, you know what his grade was. What was his grade?

KAREN: (slight hesitation) It was a 4.0!

MATT: Exactly!"

The moral of this story: 
Don't let one teacher label your child. 
And don't let your child allow a teacher to label him/her. 

And what one person may consider an annoying quality in a child, 
may turn out to be the quality that serves him well later in life.

Just had to say.


Anonymous said...

This is a story I hear over and over. Yes, avoid letting your child be labeled and set on a track that's below his potential! Jill, I like how you found a solution to deal with the situation and got Tyler safely through that terrible year with his self esteem intact. We parents know our children best. My sons also "asked too many questions" and they got the highest grades.... could it be that those children are actually interested in the subjects and want to know as much as they can about them? That's a great thing!

Kris said...

Wow! So interesting!

Stephanie Cozzens said...

My daughter Lizzy's fourth grade teachers (both homeroom and math) didn't like her either. I was told that she was FAILING - and that word was emphasized over and over again. Yet when I arranged a meeting to find out what we could work on at home, the math teacher had a hard time coming up with anything.

Her self-confidence took a beating, but her fifth grade teacher lavished encouragement and attention on Lizzy (and all of her students). We got a phone call a few weeks ago that she's been placed in the advanced math program, two years ahead of grade level.

I'm so glad that one bad year didn't affect her permanently (although it definitely taught her that adults aren't perfect). I'm glad you found a good solution for your son at such a difficult time in his life.

Heather said...

What a great post. I can't imagine a teacher disliking a student for asking too many questions, although I bet you're right that her divorce probably effected her teaching that year. And way to go Tyler, what a compliment from his differential equations instructor (just the name differential equations makes my brain hurt a little)!

Sue said...

Lots of wisdom here, Jill. Thanks for sharing the story.


Rebecca said...

Pshew! That teacher sounds lazy to me! I always tell my kids they can never ask too many quesitons!
Glad you took him out of her class!

Karen Mortensen said...

Good post Jill. I don't understand why asking so many questions was bad. I like kids to ask questions. It means they are thinking and it keeps me on my toes.

Darlene said...

This was a great post, Jill. I never had any of those problems with my kids, but I do know that parents need to stand up for their children, when they know that they have been wronged in any way. Teachers just are not what they used to be and every child deserves a good one. You were smart to take him out of that class. Parents know what their chilrens capabilities are and when teachers don't appreciate them, a parent does need to stand up and complain.

Mar~ said...

This was so sad to me when I read it. Perhaps because I know Tyler and I know his heart is as big as his brain! A sign of intelligence is knowing to ask questions!
You are such an awesome mom!
What a rough, rough year.

Tyler Heasley said...

I don't remember being in the lowest reading group, but it almost makes sense to me now. Because, as I learned during standardized testing and things like the SAT, my reading comprehension is terrible. I read a lot at that age, but I guess I never got out of it what others did. Long story short, I'm a math major.

Grandma Honey said...

Tyler, I never liked that whole reading group thing. But you always tested really high all through school. Then to suddenly go from high to low, I knew something was up. You would have thought Mrs S would have said, "Okay I'll test him again" just to make your mother happy. But no.