Monday, September 8, 2008

It's just a leaf, right?

This month Garrett is learning about Botony at school so I was not surprised to see this come home in his Thursday folder. Jensen had left and he & I were sitting together waiting for Daddy to come home. We were looking through his folder together and as usual I was asking him questions about his work.

Mom: So did you learn about a leaf?

Garrett: Yes, but Ms. Teacher did not like my picture. (said as a statement of fact)

Mom: Why?

Garrett: She said it was supposed to be green and I colored it rainbow. (said with a bit of pride)

Mom: Well, I think its just perfect, you did a wonderful job.

Garrett: Big Smile

I was shocked that it seemed that all Garrett took away from that lesson was that the teacher didn't like his work. But I also admired that he didn't seem to be apologizing for it either.

Being the sensitive parent that I am, the next day after Garrett walked to his classroom, I told the Director that Garrett said the funniest thing last night and relayed our conversation.

She explained that they were directed to color the parts corresponding with the key in order to learn the parts of the leaf. So, Ms. Teacher was probably just correcting him for not following directions. She then told me she was sure that Ms. Teacher didn't say she didn't like it but she would be sure to speak to her. I thankfully said that would be great.

It just hurt my heart that it appeared he walked away from that experience with feelings of inadequacy. I must brace myself for what is to come before me. The minute that little guy came into our lives my heart has been walking around exposed and I think last Thursday was a preview into people telling him something is not good enough. However, that little hint of pride regarding his rainbow coloring makes me wonder "Is that really what he heard?"

Trust me, I completely understand the importance of following direction from authority but that's just not what I took away from this.

Some of you reading at this point are saying "It's just a leaf, right?" but in my overactive mind I process this as a battle between having the courage not to conform and learning to follow directions.

This is actually a battle I'm intentional on choosing sides at home with every little interaction and I think it is appropriate to be on different sides depending on the circumstances. Hopefully we'll strike the right balance and end up raising an interesting and productive member of society. One can only hope.

So, that night I decided to celebrate his spirit of doing his own thing because at 3.5 who really cares what color your leaf is.....It's just a leaf, right?

I recently read a great post about breaking the cycle of conformity and find encouragement in both this post and this woman. She has a fantastic series on imperfect parenting that I have on my list to explore in greater detail.



Lee said...

Thank you for that shared finding - I"m all about imperfect parenting :)

twowritingteachers said...

what a beautiful post . . . and a beautiful leaf. it's a good reminder to me, an educator, of the importance of considering the child first and the assignment second.

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching for 11 years nows...currently in 5th grade, but having taught K, 3 and 4th grade. Thank you for reminding us all how powerful our words are...and how much trust parents are placing upon us. I do not have children of my own, but I have 4 nieces and nephews. I always think about how I would want them to be treated and spoken to.

We must be aware of how powerful our words and actions truly are...thank you for the reminder.

Also - my first thought of your son's leaf was...'what a colorful autumn leaf!' It made me happy for sure!

Thank you again.

ScrappingMomof3 said...

I so KNOW how you feel. My son's first grade teacher had the nerve to tear up a sheet of paper that she said he "didn't follow directions" on . . . what she wasn't aware of was that we're going through some screenings for learning disabilities, but nonetheless, OUCH . . . it's one thing to take a paper away and say "You need to start over and follow directions this time," but to just tear it up in front of him. WOW! My dad was one who drew a picture and he colored the sky yellow - showing his creativity - and the teacher told him he needed to do it over because the sky needed to be blue, not yellow. The sky isn't yellow. My dad still talks about that and he just turned 62. I think about how much impact that teacher had on my dad and wonder just how much our kids will take away from that. Big kudos to you for talking to the director!

debrennersmith said... We teach the child. We teach the writer, not the writing. We teach the reader, not the reading. DO we truly believe this or not? I do. Do you?