Monday, June 6, 2016

How the System Failed My Son: Part Three -- Experts

Having already been to the administration in an attempt to have my son promoted when he was in 1st grade, I knew not to try that again; there was no way his 2nd grade teacher would recommend him to be skipped to 3rd grade. Not that that would have mattered, because he would have had the same teacher. I did go talk to them about having him switched to the other 2nd/3rd grade class. That the woman, his teacher, could tell me that my son was "slow" because he did things at his own pace showed a complete lack of perception on her part (see last post). And, to be honest, she had already demonstrated (and would go on to demonstrate repeatedly) her own lack of actual intelligence. I didn't want my son in her class.

What I found out was that there was no place to move him to. The other 2nd/3rd grade class was the lower level class; he was already in the advanced group. Sure, I could move him to that class if I wanted to, but it would have made the issue of him already knowing all of the material even worse.

And there was no way to advance his progress beyond where he was without support from the teacher. It always came down to teacher recommendation. From the school's perspective, that's what they had to go with, and I get that. I would have had the same kind of standard had I been in their place. Most people have unreasonable and irrational expectations.

I'm just not most people. And neither is my son.

It's like this:
When my wife was pregnant with him, we got up one morning, and her water broke. We were about two weeks away from his due date. We, of course, went to the hospital. The admitting nurse was, shall we say, skeptical that my wife was correct in her assessment of her condition, including asking my wife if possibly she had just peed on herself. My wife, having actually worked in health care for a while, was understandably insulted. The nurse was not at all contrite when it turned out that we were correct and that my wife's water had, indeed, broken.

The thing here is that the nurse was right to be skeptical. She wouldn't have asked my wife about urinating if there was not a proven need to ask women in the same condition about urinating.

So, you know, I understand that the school needed to be skeptical with parents proclaiming the brilliance of their kids. I'm sure it was something they had to deal with all the time. The problem here was the refusal to even really listen or to look at the evidence. They just dismissed me out of hand because, you know, the teacher was the "expert" and surely she would take the appropriate action if it was called for.

It's a good thing the hospital actually checked our claims and didn't resort to the same "the nurse is the expert" way of operating.

In retrospect, it probably would have been better for us, for him, if we'd put him in some other school, maybe even any other school, but he had an older brother and a younger sister in this school, and we liked the school. We figured we could tough it out. It was only 2nd grade, right?


At the beginning of his 3rd grade year, I put in another request for him to be promoted. I think that one didn't even get a response.

Things got worse, and my son started asking to not have to go to school.

After a few months, I put in another request. At some point, they actually did a review of my kid's performance, including his standardized test scores, and they wavered, but, in the end, the principal told me it was policy to go with the teacher's recommendation, and that is what they were going to have to do. He stayed in 3rd grade, and he stayed in that horrible woman's class. By the end of that year, he hated, really and truly hated, school.

[Many years later, the school would actually "invite that teacher to leave," which, while satisfying, was much, much too late to make any kind of difference for my kid.]

[I just want to add in here because I forgot to mention it earlier:
My son taught himself how to use a computer... at the age of two. In fact, we couldn't keep him off of it. His older brother, who is five years older, had a bunch of educational games, and Phillip wanted to play them, too, especially the Sesame Street one with Elmo. It's not that we had something against him using the computer; we just hadn't even considered the possibility that he could use the computer. So he figured it out on his own. At two.]


  1. It really is amazing how a child's school experience is totally teacher dependent. One teacher can make all the difference- positive or negative.

    1. JKIR,F!: That's true. My 6th grade science teacher had a profound impact on me in ways that still shape me today.

  2. Good thing he had a home life that could make up for the problems at the school.

  3. What a crappy teacher. She didn't leave soon enough for your son, but hopefully her voluntary dismissal saved other kids.

  4. Why is this teacher teaching multiple grades? That's the part, from this particular entry, that I don't understand. The other big question would be, and not overtly answered, is whether your other kids had this teacher, too. It seems like they didn't, or couldn't have, based on your lack of acknowledgment, but I guess you just never know.

    1. Tony: The school had a two-grade block set up, which allowed more flexibility on their placement. So, for instance, 2nd graders who were a bit ahead got to do 3rd grade work while 3rd graders who were struggling could step down to 2nd grade work. In general, it's a good system, because most kids are only a little ahead or behind.

      My oldest kid did not have this teacher. She was on sabbatical when he would have had her and had just returned when my younger son was going into 2nd grade. We had no idea about her. The younger child had her later, but she was the kind of student that teacher loved (she did all o f her work as quickly as possible), so we knew there weren't going to be issues with her in that class. And there weren't.

  5. While he hated school at this point, I'm assuming that that awful teacher did not completely kill his love of learning. I never experienced it personally, but I did know a few kids growing up who just stopped trying to learn altogether because of teachers who were holding them back and making them feel stupid because of it.

    1. ABftS: Oh, no, he's a really excellent self-learner, and he reads all the time.