The other night I sat at our kitchen table, listening while my son started explaining why he won't talk in his Spanish class. He used to, so I knew something new was going on.
It was awful, sitting there, watching him tear up and choke on his words. Finally gathering himself enough to spit out that the last time he was called on in class, he answered every single question incorrectly and everyone laughed at him. Even his friends. I felt sick. I wanted so badly to swoop over to him, wrap him in my arms and tell him he never had to go back to that classroom again.
But instead, I looked him in the eye and told him how smart he was. That I knew there were other kids in his class that didn't know the answers either. Sometimes people just go along with a behavior because other people are doing it.
Was that the right thing to say? I really don't know. Deep down I was fighting with my own sudden anger at the insensitivity of his teacher. How many questions was he going to ask him in front of the classroom, knowing he didn't know the answer? Is that really how it played out? I wasn't in the room, so I will never know.
Then I was reminded of the first introductory meeting for the Spanish program in his school. He was in Kindergarten then. They told us to expect tears, frustrations, and maybe even anger. The children didn't choose this path, we did for them. It wouldn't be fair for us to expect eagerness and enthusiasm.
Can I tell you, we were thrilled when that's what we got. I remember feeling so relieved that my son was embracing this new language and culture, and truly seemed to enjoy the process.
So sitting at the table, watching his red, watery eyes, my heart sank. I knew this day was coming, but I didn't want it to be like this. I don't know what I thought would happen. Maybe that it would be all roses and sunshine, him skipping across a field with his sisters, all of them speaking Spanish to each other. If one of them was struggling, the others would help the other out and then they would easily understand and hug. As I type this out, I realize how ridiculous that sounds.
Then I started asking questions. Didn't he ask for help? Was there a teacher's aid to assist him? Did they do fun activities to help reinforce what they were learning?
I will not share the answers I was given, because I don't think that is fair. But I will say this. I grew angrier and angrier with each answer. I felt like my son was being mistreated and I was ready to march my angry little self right into that man's classroom, armed with every injustice I could think of, and I wasn't going to back down. No way! That's my son, and I am his biggest advocate!
That's when I noticed my hands were balled up into fists and my chest was tight. I had been pacing around the room, looking up all the suggested references and resources provided by his teacher, all of which were disappointing.
I stopped. This is when I know I'm over-reacting. This is when I know the instinctual Momma Bear is showing her teeth and I need to take a deep breath and step back from the situation.
I looked at my son. I told him that we would figure out a solution, but in the mean time, the best way to prepare himself for the classroom was with knowledge. We agreed it would be good to sit down together for an extended period of time weekly to discuss and review everything they were learning in class. This is in addition to his regular work. We spent about two extra hours reviewing the language that night, so his willingness to do that proved to me that he does want to learn. That Chris and I didn't make a mistake enrolling him in the program.
I'm glad I didn't send off a nasty, accusatory email. I started looking at it from another perspective. I'm sure there were reasons things were done the way they were. It wouldn't be right, or fair for me to fly off the handle without all the facts.
So instead of marching into the classroom yelling, I arranged to help out for the afternoon. To see for myself just how the class was run, and what his teacher's style and availability really was with the children. And, to see how my child really was in the classroom. I know in reality, he is not perfect, so before I go pointing fingers, I want to make sure the injustice is real.
I felt so much better leaving the classroom that afternoon. Was everything perfect? No, far from it. But, after speaking with his teacher and explaining why my son suddenly stopped participating in class and discussing alternative ways to handle situations and the actual work, we both have new view points on where we should go from here, and that feels good.
I'm still questioning if I handled the situation correctly. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens. This parenting thing isn't easy. I guess I'm starting to understand better the statement "bigger kids, bigger problems". We all want what's best for our children, and we all want to protect them from life's unfairness. It's just knowing when to take a step back or take action that poses the most difficult for me. Hopefully I'm on the right track.