“I Hate School” Part I

These were the words I dreaded hearing from my youngest son. And yet, that’s exactly how he feels about his third grade class.

Since September 26 – – nineteen days into this school year – – my child has been isolated from his peers.  Through a series of rearrangements to find the optimum classroom temperament, the teacher has determined that my son was a detriment to the learning environment. She wrote:

“I continue to speak to him on a daily basis about constant talking and interrupting during my lessons, when other students are answering questions and during read aloud and independent work sessions.  He has changed his color a few times.  It does not seem to bother him.  I have changed seats around so hopefully this will help.  I would appreciate it if you could speak with him about his behavior. I would not want to start off the school year in a bad way. I look forward to your response.”

He has come home daily with his calendar day blazing yellow.  On several days it was blue.  It’s no wonder that he is not phased by changing his “color” on the behavior chart, as he is so rarely on green.  He has said that he doesn’t even have to misbehave and he is told to get up and move his clip.

Obviously, not every word he has spoken about his conduct is a full disclosure of how his being has affected the class structure.  I know my son.  I know that he likes to participate and can be tenacious in his discussions.  But in all his six years of class enrollment (because, you know, he was in a learning school at two years old), he has never been that child.

By September 6 – six days into the school year – he had already moved his clip to blue. I inquired as to the meaning of this color code, and was told it was behavioral and that

“Classroom procedures and homework will be explained more in detail at back to school night on Wednesday evening.”

And I waited for clarification.

I had no indication that the blue code was more than a parental notification.  I had not received a call or note about the behavior that warranted the two step shift.

According to “The Handbook for Third Grade”:

Yellow is a first warning with 5 minutes taken off recess

Blue is a second warning with 10 minutes taken off recess and a note sent home to a parent requesting a signature and returned

Purple is a third warning with 15 minutes taken off recess. Parents are contacted with a phone call and a behavior form is filled out by the teacher and student. A sign and return notice will be sent home by the teacher.

Red is the last warning with a privilege taken away.  The principal and parents are notified and a conference may be requested.  A discipline referral is sent to the principal and parents to be signed and returned.

My son, then, was being punished daily in school.  Privileges are important to people – – we value positive rewards and lament negative consequences (especially those publicly pronounced).  And so, I read the agenda and noted the anythingotherthangreen color, and withheld going outside to play with friends.

Allow me to recap his day: quiet time in SACC from 6:20am until breakfast; silent classroom for instruction; silent lunch (because the kids who arrive first are loud and the cafeteria monitors have lost all patience and hearing); reduced or non-existent recess; silent dismissal; and silent bus ride (or risk sitting road-side until silence is achieved).

As a result of his “behavior,” he was moved around the class.  He sat trial with several student clusters before being moved to complete isolation.  He moved on a Monday, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that he mentioned he couldn’t see the board to copy his notes and that he was facing a wall.

On back to school night, Yadon peaked into his classroom and his face lit up.  His desk was back in genpop!  I waited through a lengthy read-to-us PowerPoint about SOLs and daily procedures before the teachers dismissed us to the students’ classes.  Ya hovered at his desk waiting for me to see the portrait he’d drawn of me as a “Quality Parent.” His desk was tidy. His work was in order. And his seat was adjoining other students’.

I wanted to speak to Mrs. Miller about the class privately. But when she began reading the handbook and schedule again and managed to completely skip mention of recess, I raised my hand to inquire.  I was assured – with the half dozen parents in witness – that the noted 20 minute break was a daily segment.  Except not when the weather was coded or it was raining.  She forgot to mention that it was also withheld for slow progress on the morning lesson, for failure to return from lunch on good report, or for any other delay in the learning schedule.

I waited for her to acknowledge me as the parents walked up for brief introductions.  She too waited – until every other parent said their peace – before even looking in my direction.  Thank goodness I packed my patience, because I was internally boiling.  “I see Yadon is seated in a table cluster. Is this where he usually sits?”

She delivered a calculated response: “No.  Yadon’s desk sits…” her voice trailed off as she raised her arms up, bent at the elbows, with palmed hands facing one another and fingers pressed together pointing outward as guides “…over…. here.”  She walked to a cabinet, shuffled right, and froze in front of an inset table ledge and shelving unit.   Pleased, she turned toward me.  “One of the other students was worried that the desks being separated might upset her parents, so we rejoined them with the other desks.”

Frankly, the facade of normalcy in the classroom that the evening upset me.

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