Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ro has a teacher problem. She's always had her little blow-outs, ever since she was just a toddler, but lately it's gotten worse. Getting up for school involves wheedling, cajoling and eventually threatening with some sort of horrid punishment (like being without the DS for a week -gasp, it's the end of time). Getting homework done requires more of the same, and her grades have slipped. We've been trying to figure out what the problem is for weeks, but while Ro is great at asking questions about life, the universe, and the invention of chalk, getting information about what goes on inside that creative mind of hers is like trying to pry open a particularly stubborn clam. Last week the whole thing came to a head since we had an appointment for a parent-teacher conference, which, by the reaction we get from the kids, must be one of the most threatening thing that can happen to a kid. All we have to do is say, "I'm going to ask for an appointment with the teacher" and our kids disappear under their beds. I don't know what they think we talk about at those things, but they must think that we get together to conspire on how to make their lives miserable or something. I don't get it, even when their grades are fine and it's just a routine thing, the kids still quake in their boots. Anyway, with the conference looming over her head, Ro finally admitted what the problem was -her math teacher. I heaved a sigh of relief, because I had been afraid someone was bullying her or something like that. It seems this math teacher has quite a strong personality, to put it lightly, and that for Ro is like being a daisy up against a steamroller. Ro is shy, really shy, and it seems this teacher calls the students out to the board to do problems in front of the class. If they get them wrong, the woman makes a face and corrects the problem. This brings back memories of my own shy days. I suffered horribly whenever I had to get up in front of the class to do anything, and my husband seems to have had the same problem, so this is genetics at its finest.

I had the talk with Ro's teacher, but not the math teacher, and I explained how shy she is and that this whole business of getting called to the board is affecting every aspect of Ro's life. I suggested that maybe the math teacher could find another way to see if Ro knows her math (which she does, since I've seen what she can do), but she didn't seem to think that was a good idea. She's of the opinion that Ro just has to "get over it." Oh yeah, shyness is just like having a bad cold that you can cure just like that - right! It's so easy for people who aren't shy to say that, come on you just have to make an effort and get over it, but they have no idea how hard that is, and how bad it can be to force someone who doesn't want to change to do something they aren't prepared for in the least. I got over it (more or less - you won't see me giving an Oscar acceptance speech anytime soon, and not just because I'm not an actress). My husband is full-professor at the University and he teaches and gives conferences to hundreds of people all the time. Neither one of us was able to "get over" our shyness until we hit the university. I really don't think you can expect a kid to get over shyness by forcing them to do the very thing that scares the bejeezus out of them. How many 10-year-olds think to themselves, "Gee, I'm shy, but I really should just get out there and get over it. What am I a mouse or a man?" I only got worse the more people pushed me to do stuff. Once my dad and I were in the car and there was a woman selling flowers in the street, and my dad asked me to buy some flowers for my mom. I couldn't. I was paralyzed. Yes, I was that shy, and when my dad got upset it was even worse. After that I didn't want to go anywhere in the car with him for a while, just because I was afraid we might come across the flower lady again. At school we had to read a newspaper article each week, and I couldn't get out of it, so I always picked the shortest one I could find...sometimes it would only be one sentence long. My hands would shake, my legs were weak, and my heart would race like a greyhound chasing a mechanical hare. I didn't sleep much in those days, worrying about the dreaded thing I was obliged to do each week (which might explain why I like to sleep so much now, after all I have to catch up). But I couldn't have been any different at that time; I had to reach the point where I wanted to change and where I had the willpower to actually make myself do the things that scared me. When I was ten I couldn't understand why people were making me suffer, what good reading a newspaper article in front of the class could do me, or why I needed to buy flowers. And I don't think Ro understands it either, any more than she would understand Shakespeare at this point in her life. Why can't teachers understand that not all kids are the same? And hey, maybe doing math on the board isn't essential in life. At least Ro's math teacher is going on leave for a month, we don't know why, but who cares as long as she gets a reprieve from the torture she's suffered. When the teacher gets back we'll see what happens, but if things don't get better we sure won't be sending her any apples.

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