Monday, October 29, 2007

Story About a Boy

I was reminded today of a story about this boy of mine. This boy has always marched to his own drum, and has an uncanny ability to see through people's sugar-coated sh*t. It's a humorous quality, especially when you get to watch the varied reactions.
It's a lucky thing he doesn't have to go to school. He'd be forever labeled a difficult child because he needs to circle the room and tap (and sometimes nearly stab) his head with a pencil to figure out something difficult. Because he likes to be silly. Because he doesn't care for condescension, the MO of many-a-teacher. If you patronize him, he'll give you this look.

And that's the look he gave the psychologist oh-so-many years ago during his preschool screening. I took him for screening when he was about 3. I was still teaching at the time, his brother was in kindergarten, and even though I knew it was an exercise in early labeling, I was still compliant with mainstream educational expectations back then. I don't recall most of the screening techniques, though I'm sure it was the usual round of eye exams, hearing exams, fine-motor control exercises, etc.

Things were going along swimmingly, when the woman asked him to stack a set of five blocks. He shook his head no. No fuss, he just didn't particularly feel like stacking blocks, apparently. The woman persisted. "I'll do it first. Like this, see? Now you do it!"

No go.

The woman wasn't particularly offensive, just sweetly coercive. But he stood his ground. There would be no stacking-of-the-blocks today. Not from THIS 3 year old, anyhow. I offered, "If it means anything, I know he can stack blocks." But she wanted him to do it.

After a few more attempts, she gave up and moved on. (Who knows what got marked on his file.) She finished the rest of the screening and left for a moment to retrieve some paperwork. I took the opportunity to look around and observe the myriad other toddler responses to the screening - some crying, their moms red-faced; others stacking blocks like good little future sheep.

When the woman finally returned, there, on the table, was a perfectly stacked pile of blocks. Jonathan was looking away, as nonchalant as ever. "Oh! You stacked the blocks! That's great!"

He never flinched. He never looked at her.

He never went to school.


Melissia said...

I had a very similiar experience with my dd. We went to a private school to look around. They wanted to assess her. I was compliant- damn. She was sitting there with a bunch of toys and the lady was asking her things like, "can you find a toy that is yellow?." She found the first toy that matched the color and then started to refuse to do what was asked. Not loudly but in complete silence. Then she looked up at the lady and said, "Do you know?" She did not like the way the teacher was treating her as if she were some one to be ranked or put in to a certain bucket by whether or not she could name her colors. As we walked to the car I said, "you knew those answers what happened?" She said, "Mom I don't want to go to school." And she never did. Thanks for reminding me- I needed it today.

Mrs. G. said...

About four times a year (usually related to some seismic hormonal shift) I get frustrated and tell my kids that I am taking them to public school RIGHT just go get in the friggin' car. I teach at one part time so they know I know the way. But they are used to me, and they just smile sweetly and continue on with whatever their doing...sometimes they will make me a cup of tea or bring me a cookie. All this aside, I treasure these years we have grown and learned together and I'm grateful that the system never got to label your son, because labels they love.