William, our nine year-old has hated school for two years.
He’s this sparkly, funny, creative, curious, energetic, athletic and impish kid. But, every school day he’d say, “she’s just going to put me on the rug (time-out area)”, “she doesn’t like me”, “I’m scared she’s going to send me to the principal’s office”, “school is so boring – do I have to go” or “school is so dumb, you don’t learn anything for real life.”
Now, I’m fully aware he’s no piece of cake to manage…but it broke my heart. With private school applications on my desk and the crazy notion of homeschooling dancing in my head (maybe I can pay Tara, my wonderful homeschooling friend, to teach William too – really, how hard would it be for her to take on one more boy?), I was preparing to say goodbye to traditional school. I simply had to do something about the negative feelings William experienced each day. I hardly cared about the content of his learning – if he memorized his multiplication tables or identified the parts of speech. I just couldn’t bear to see his joy of learning slip away any longer.
But the other day William came home, and I knew I wouldn’t have to convince Tara to take on my son…at least not yet.
“Did you know there was a guy on the Mayflower named John Billington who had two sons that almost blew up the ship with gunpowder? He murdered someone and then was hanged. I’m pretending I’m him.”
Visions of explosions flashed through my head. William must have seen my face, because he added, “I’m writing his journal and I’ve already written three pages.”
This may have been the first time William told me something positive about school other than the number of goals he scored at recess. Later, he asked if I’d help him soak his carefully handwritten journal pages in tea water to make them look brown and aged and then light the edges with a flame to give it that special 1600’s antique look like he had observed his brother doing for another project. Until then, he had never put more than minimum effort into an assignment.
Why the change of heart?
My theory is William genuinely feels his teacher appreciates him this year. She isn’t bothered he’s talkative, competitive and likes to crack bodily function jokes. She knew he’d be fascinated by Billington’s sordid story. She’s a teacher who thinks all the kids are pretty terrific and have something worthwhile to offer. And isn’t that the attitude God has about us? Isn’t it how we’re supposed to feel about each other? Wouldn’t life be so much better if we all remembered and acknowledged the good things about each other rather than focusing on the negatives?
After William gushed more about school and how his teacher had even taken him aside and pointed out she thinks he’s a leader, I said calmly, “I think your teacher likes you William.” Outside I’m matter of fact, but inside, I’m bubbling over with excitement and gratitude.
“Mom, she’s the nicest teacher in the whole school so she likes everyone. But I’m really glad she likes me.”
Maybe he’ll flunk and have to do third grade twice – a mom can only hope.