Friday, January 11, 2013

Warping personalities

There's a storyteller, Donald Davis, who comes to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival almost every year who tells some delightful stories about his childhood and growing up pains.
He shares one about he and his friend getting into trouble for jumping up on the desks, tossing erasers and generally creating havoc in the class room.
The punishment included a spanking from first the school principal and secondly from his mother who happened to be his second-grade teacher as well.
One line stands out for me: "They didn't care then about warping our little personalities."
In retrospect, it makes for a slightly more dramatic story to include the spanking on little 7-year-old bare bottoms.
But I'm thankful that schools have come to recognize that swatting children with paddles or rapping their knuckles with yardstick, even setting them in a corner with a dunce cap on their head, is wrong.
Over the years, I had to fight many a battle to keep some teachers from "warping their little personalities."
I had head-strong kids (where do they get that from?) and so there were several instances where the teacher, my child and I came into conflict.
My firstborn, Dana, was so focused on doing everything perfectly so that his fourth-grade teacher decided he needed to learn he couldn't always get an A. She made it her mission to teach him about dealing with failure here and there. She gave him little black dots on his desk when he talked out of turn or laughed at the wrong moment.
For him, black dots were the mark of the devil. He was devastated by each one.
For her, it was merely a light kind of discipline designed to make him conscious of his mistakes.
We switched teachers.
My third child was busy and focused...if you could get him focused in the right direction, he could change the world. He was blessed with a teacher who understood his energy and needs. She asked for him for three years in a row and he blossomed. Today he's still busy and focused but also confident.
My fourth baby was dyslexic before dyslexic was cool. His teacher decided he just wasn't trying hard enough and she and I and he battled for weeks before I pulled him out of her class.
His next teacher recognized his needs and provided overlays and extra time for doing his work, bless her.
So now, as various grandkids come up against teachers who discourage rather than nurture, I say...
Get them outta there, now! You won't regret it.

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