I am beginning my first post with a chapter from halfway through my book. Have a read!
What would your reaction be if a person said this about your child? Enjoy! Lois
GUIDANCE OFFICER PROCLAMATION
January 1996: St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia.
A teacher sent the following note home with a six-year-old boy: “He is too stupid to learn.” That boy was Thomas A. Edison
—THOMAS EDISON (Father)
After six short months, we return to Brisbane where Nicholas must repeat grade two with his former teacher, Mrs. Wakefield.
The boys quickly settle into the school year. Nathanael moves to the fifth grade, and Isaac starts in the pre-school program.
“Hello, Mrs. Wakefield,” I cheerfully smile as I drop Nicholas off at his room.
“Good morning,” she says to me, waving Nicholas into her classroom. “Good morning, Nicholas.”
Nicholas averts his eyes, but I notice his lips move to a slight grin.
Wow. He is settling into school well. I leave the classroom and walk past the guidance counselor’s office. Susan is in with her door wide open.
“Hello,” I say lightly. I hadn’t missed seeing her these past six months.
She lifts her head up from behind her desk as she shuffles papers.
“Hello,” she says, with a firm voice adjusting a stray hair from her face. “How are you? How was your trip?”
“Ah,” I gush, “we had such a great time. Nicholas learned so much. He was excited about all the places we visited. I taught him at home and ended up enjoying working with him.”
“Oh,” she says, her lips tightening. Her voice drops, putting me on edge. “Well, I have spoken to the reading teacher. She tested Nicholas and tells me that he has gone backward.”
The smile drops from my face as my eyebrows rise. “Really?” I can’t believe that.
“My teaching was a little different,” I stammer. “I wrote poems for him. I wrote about Captain Cook and Christopher Columbus. Nicholas asked to see Cook’s original maps.” Words spew out quickly as I try to prove my worth as a teacher. As if I need the approval of this guidance counselor to know that, I, too, did a good job.
She looks at me with confusion and disgust, her mouth dropping open. She rises to her full height, all of five feet, four inches, plonks her hands on her hips, and in her most civilly hostile voice proclaims, “Well, he is the worst child I have seen in twenty years of teaching!”
I freeze. Her original testing results a year ago provided a well-lined coffin. Now, with these words, she pounds in the nails.
My gaze fixes on her face. The crow’s feet at the edge of her eyes magnify, and she morphs into an ugly beast before me. I search my brain for something to say, but I’m utterly speechless. How dare she?
“I tested him, and I know his learning ability,” she continues. “He may learn to read, but he will never write.”
She hammers more nails into his coffin, sealing his fate.
She doesn’t know my son. I squeeze my fists together, my nails digging into my sweating palms. It takes all of my fibers and then some to not fly across the desk and take down this monster.
If Chris were here, he would have the exact retort. He’s not, and I don’t.
The blood that pulses through my veins refuses to do its job. I don’t recall moving, but I must have. Circulation returns enough to allow me to walk somehow, shake my head, and stagger toward the car.
On my way, I notice Nathanael’s class taking swim lessons. I decide to sit on the bleachers and try to calm down. I watch as children churn up and down swimming laps. I see Nathanael swimming well. Noises from the pool and outside traffic all create a quiet rumble. I slump into the metal underneath me, allowing the slight breeze to ruffle my hair. A crow caws from above, and the distinct tones of a butcher bird ring out from a blue gum tree. I take a long breath. It is time to go home.
I amble to the car, put the key in the ignition, and begin the short drive. There are two stops signs between school and our place. I stop at the first, look for traffic, and push on sluggishly, carefully avoiding the cars parked on both sides of the narrow street. It is when I get to the second stop sign that I have my response. One hand hammers the steering wheel as I rehearse my answer at full volume.
A U-turn in the middle of the five-ways sends me back to school. Bewitched into a thundering bull, I make my way across the playground, head down, nostrils steaming, as I charge into Susan’s office.
Startled, she begins to rise from her desk.
“If this is the case,” I say with clenched fists, “if he is, ‘The worst child you have seen in twenty years of teaching,’ then change the teaching method.”