So here’s a story I bet a buncha parents can relate to. Of course it has nothing to do with any of MY children – after all, some of them can read and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them. Yeah, uh, this story is about someone else’s child for sure. It’s just that the mom told me about it in such a way that I feel as if I lived it.
This mom, let’s call her Jane, has a daughter, let’s call her Vernette, who is in Grade 2. Vernette’s not a big fan of change. She craves routine and becomes anxious when it is altered. The transition from summer holidays to school is particularly rough.
This year was no different. There were tears. For the first two weeks poor Jane faced each day fielding a litany of traumas: Vernette was soooo sick. There was no possible way Vernette could go to school. “Take my temperature! Check my throat! I should go to the doctor!”
Each day she grit her teeth and dragged her seven-year-old drama queen off to Alcatraz. Each evening Jane endured heartbreaking tales of woe. The kids were mean. The work was hard. It was horrid! Horrid! Horrid! “How can you make me go?”
Jane knew Vernette would probably only be satisfied with an announcement indicating Jane was quitting her job and home schooling her precious daughter forever. Not gonna happen.
She did, however, start to get a little concerned when Vernette insisted repeatedly that she was really having a hard time understanding the work. “I don’t know what the teacher is talking about. It’s too hard!” And there were more tears.
So, she made an appointment with the teacher.
Jane says this teacher, let’s call her Miss Smith, is a godsend. She’s new in the business, but actually worked in Vernette’s classroom the year before while she was a student, so she is, shall we say, familiar with Vernette’s work.
When they met, the first thing Miss Smith said was: “What a difference with Vernette between this year and last year!” She then went on to describe in detail how things that would have bothered Vernette in Grade 1 were no problem in Grade 2. She is coping much better and problem solving and just, well, much more at ease.
“Really?” Jane said. “Well. Let me tell you what she has been saying to me.” Jane recounted the tale of woe – everything from how much school is akin to jail to how impossibly difficult the work is.
Miss Smith’s mouth dropped to the floor. In fact, the look of surprise on her face cracked Jane up.
“I would never have thought for a minute that Vernette is a kid who doesn’t like school,” Miss Smith said incredulously.
She then went on to show Jane some of Vernette’s work – the printed sentences, the math, the drawings – and told Jane that Vernette’s group is usually one of the first to finish the work and that Vernette actually volunteered to speak in front of the class a couple of days earlier.
“This has been very enlightening,” Jane said, smiling wryly.
So Jane went home and sang Vernette’s praises. “Miss Smith says you are doing sooo well in school! Isn’t that great?”
“Yeah,” Vernette mumbled weakly.
The next morning Vernette didn’t complain about going to school and when she came home there were no tales of woe. She didn’t, however, bring home a library book again.
“Why don’t you ever bring home a book on library day?” Jane asked.
There was some muttering about not finding anything interesting and then, “They will only let us bring home Franklin books.”
“Really?” Jane asked, surprised. Franklin is a popular series about a turtle and his friends and family and is usually geared to Kindergarten set. “Hm. That seems weird. I think I will write a note to Miss Smith and ask her why that is.”
Short pause. “Oh, um, I’m just kidding, Mom.”
Uh-huh, Jane mused.
She is so on to you, Vernette!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just one more example of why I believe parents need a psychology degree to raise a child.
(Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 13/09)