Friday, January 25, 2008

born to be

One child was born to be good. He is one of those children who just knows what is expected at any given time and if it is within his power he will do it. Teachers love this child, they literally gush when they speak of him. Their eyes light up, their hands wave, and smiles burst forth. It doesn’t hurt that he’s smart, he picks up concepts easily and he excels but what makes them swoon is that he is so very good.

One child was born marching to a different drummer. She is one of those children who doesn’t have any clue what you expect from her and she dances away from you. Teachers are baffled by this child. She doesn’t respond to any of their usual tricks. When they speak of her, their gaze slips away, their upper lip’s crinkle, and a sigh ekes out. It doesn’t help that she struggles academically but what makes them shake their heads is her inability to fit.

Every day in the “good” child’s class they spend five minutes at the end of the day assessing their behavior. Each child rates themselves according to a metric they established a month or so into school. Each day the “good” child comes home with the highest score without exception. Often this is accompanied with a white slip of paper called a good news check. If he returns it with a parent’s signature, he is entered into a drawing for lunch with the teacher. It seems like he has eaten lunch with the teacher every week since school started. He is consistently rewarded for what he naturally does, for something that requires no effort on his part. He is rewarded for who he is.

Most days the child “who marches to a different drummer” wouldn’t even be able to assess her behavior, especially not to the teacher’s agreement. She doesn’t see herself the way that the world sees her. Rarely does she get rewarded, often though she is reprimanded, so often. She is sometimes punished for something she doesn’t understand or worse yet she is shunned for being who she naturally is.

And I am astounded because I see so clearly how ridiculous the system is, something I never saw until now. It is essentially the same system I moved through with ease because I am hopelessly like that “good” child. We praise the children who are naturally good, the ones who are good without even trying and we punish or leave behind those who haven’t got a clue.

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