By Misty Van Staaveren
Back when I was teaching Kindergarten, about ten years ago, I had this adorable little boy in my class. He was very young emotionally and seemed to lack any control over himself. He couldn't keep quiet. He couldn't raise his hand before blurting something out. He couldn't sit in his seat. Instead he'd be mindlessly dancing around the chair while he worked. Every day, he would "move his card" because he had problems with behavior in class. None of it was terrible behavior, but it was disruptive nonetheless.
One morning at recess, he was found playing on the road, which was above the school yard about 10 feet since we were in sort of a valley. When I asked him why he was playing up there, he told me that he had been running in the playground and was going so fast that when he reached the mountain leading up to the road, he just couldn't stop and ended up at the top. He was reprimanded, but later the other teacher and I giggled in secret at his silly story.
When he had the rare good day when he didn't move his card, we (the other students and I) would celebrate a good day. Overall, he was sweet, needy, and I adored him.
Ten years later, that is my son.
My son is five-years-old. He started Kindergarten this past August and I think his teacher has called his dad and I over after school about 70% of the times we've picked him up. Every day, he has to move his clip to yellow or red. Some days he isn't being a good listener. Other days he is spending too much time in the other students' personal spaces or not keeping his hands to himself. Sometimes he is "scribble scrabbling" his work. Other times he is playing too rough on the playground.
My son is the child the teacher tells the substitute to watch out for. My son is the one you want to keep your child away from. My son is the one that accidentally pushed your kid on the playground when they were playing tag. My son wants so desperately to be your kid's friend, but your kid doesn't want to play with him. My son is the one the others whisper about being on red card again. When I help out in my son's class, your kid tells me about all the times my son is in trouble.
My son is five-years-old, and he weighs 68 pounds. He stands to my shoulders. He looks like an eight-year-old and is often mistaken for one. When he was in the midst of his terrible twos, I would get "the look" from other parents who thought I wasn't disciplining my four-year-old properly when he'd cry in the store. I stopped being able to carry him before he was three-years-old. His physical strength matches his size. He is strong in will as well. He is an only child and will remain one.
My son is also very smart. He learned to ride a bike the first time he got on without training wheels. He can already read and spell his incredibly long name. He's been doing addition since he was three-years-old.
He is also very immature. He can't tie his shoes. He gets frustrated to tears at the drop of a hat. He still needs help in the bathroom.
As a mom, and a former teacher, I am bothered by the fact that he is in trouble at school on a daily basis. The teacher in me understands the student my son is, but the mother in me breaks when I see the look of disappointment and shame on his face every day that he comes home and has to announce that he didn't stay on green. Sometimes, most of the time, they are minor infractions. Tattling? Who gets on red card for tattling? Especially since a few weeks before my son was on yellow card for fighting back with one of the kids giving him a hard time. I told him not to fight back, to just let the teacher know what was going on. Now he's on red card for tattling. Last week, he moved to yellow for being overly excited and blurting out an answer. He got removed from the "sharing bag" can so now he can't be called to receive sharing bag, because he was being disruptive. He is no longer allowed to play football at recess. Every day he loses his recess for being on red card the day before.
I don't want to be one of those moms that sticks up for her child's behavior problems. But as a teacher, I think that there are better ways to handle my son's behavior. I never took recess away. I worked really hard and gave a lot of chances before moving cards. My biggest worry is that he will learn very quickly to dislike school. I've seen that too many times. I want my son to learn appropriate behavior, and how to interact with other children and people, but I also have to wonder why he is having these issues at school when he can get along with the neighbor children just fine.
I think I am walking a very fine line. I want to be my child's advocate, but I don't want to enable him either. I haven't figured out what to do. But until then, we'll give the same pep talk in the morning, and deal with the same wilted kid in the afternoon while we get THE talk from the teacher.
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