Monday, April 7, 2008

Seen, not heard

It was about a month or so ago when I received a call from my sons school. It was the vice principal, he manages all the disciplinary issues. This wasn't my first call from him. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and then he got right to the point "Tyler has been engaging in some inappropriate behavior at lunchtime." I was immediately gripped by fear, I grabbed a pen so that I could make notes should I need to make a report to a therapist or psychiatrist regarding this "inappropriate behavior." My imagination immediately began to play about a thousand different scenarios, the foremost of which was the image of my son standing on a cafeteria table proudly displaying that part of his anatomy of which he is currently most proud and shouting "I'm the king of the world!" The vice principle continued pulling my mind away from that somewhat amusing, somewhat disturbing worst-case-scenario. "Well, he has been laughing and moving around..." "O.k." said I, frantically scribbling and waiting for the rest of it...but that was the rest of it. Laughing and moving around, an 11 year old, yup that's just down right scary! After realizing this was the extent of the infraction I had to swallow laughter and sarcasm, "O.K...well...I'll talk to him, thanks for the call."

For the rest of that day I felt several things, shame for having expected the worst of my son, and guilt. When my son was first born I had insisted on living in this school district, I went to this school district and believed it to be the best in this area. After frequent "meetings" during which educators, psychologists and Principles have stared down their noses at me the "bad mother," I now realize that this school district, and I suspect many others are quite excellent, as long as each child conform and for heaven's sake, not behave like children. School is no place to have fun! My son walks to the beat of his own drum, he always has and Lord willing he always will. He is unfazed by the demands that he must somehow stop being who he is and fall into line with the other students. He is interested only in the classes he has use for, and the others he could take or leave. The work he does needs to be meaningful and relevant for him but most teachers will not adapt their style to suit him, not when they can get the rest of the students to conform quite nicely.

I loved that school district because during my years there, I was a conformist. I was every teachers dream. I carefully hid every quirk I now hold dear in a sad attempt to fit in and be accepted, especially by the teachers. My daughter who is now in third grade is a student more similar to myself, conscientious and quite the people pleaser. She is sweet and her teachers love her. Her experience with school has been a completely different one from that of her brother. While she maintains her individuality, Tyler blazes his own path and makes no apologies. While this means that the next several years will no doubt consist of frequent calls from the school, I will only encourage that he be respectful (which he always is) and that he try. But I want him to know that I'm proud of who he is, that I admire the way he knows himself so well at such a young age and that he won't pretend to be something else. I hope that the trail he blazes will leave a nice mark behind him, and make it easier for other students who are "different." I realize how difficult it must be sometimes for other students, any student who learns differently or moves differently or is "different" in any way. I'm sure I'm not the only parent who gets a call, but I hope the rest of the parents show more faith in their kids than I do when that phone first rings. Lets start embracing difference instead of trying to make people fit some misshapen, unnatural and certainly boring mold!

As I child, I was raised to be seen and not heard, the whole time I was screaming inside (anyone who knows me knows all too well how much I like to be heard). I refuse to impose this oppression upon my children, I want to play with them and laugh with them and encourage each and every dream! So, go ahead kids, laugh and move around at the lunch table, express yourselves, teach us stiff adults a lesson! Learn and have fun all at the same time and don't let the vice principals silence who you are!

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