Monday, March 16, 2009

Fritz loses a shoe

The children went to school, of course. It was a new school, and one with parents who knew their kids were the smartest ever. I knew that about mine too, and that meant there was no need to tell their teachers: I looked forward to their teachers telling me how great they were.

They were the new kids, and I was the new mom, and I had no time to hang out in the school parking lot and make friends. I had met the teachers about once apiece...

It was a year of budget strains at home, and when we got the news in November of that first winter that our taxes were to double, we stopped spending any money we didn't absolutely need to spend. It wasn't a tough decision, there just wasn't any to spend beyond the mortage, taxes, utilities - the basics.

Clothing was not a necessity, even for school. The children's bodies were covered decently, they had coats, and though each of them was beginning to look a bit ragged by Spring, soon they would be in a whole change of wardrobe of warm-weather clothes that had been stored away in the Fall. 

So even while we had challenges in many areas, school was going along smoothly and was a place where we as a family could count on success.

I did get one call from a teacher who wanted to discuss Fritz's reading with me. I was surprised, but expected the best. During the conference, though, she told me he was in the lowest reading group and hadn't really begun to get the idea of reading.

Given that he had been read to from birth, that was surprising, but this was only a half or so of the way through first grade when she had me come in, and I thought there'd be time...

Then I thought, well, he has just spent a half year of kindergarten doing what he pleased in a hotel in Switzerland, so he's probably behind on his pre-reading skills.

We discussed his lack of interest in sounding out and she suggested that he might be one of those children who is a better sight learner, and he could just learn words and soon he would be a reader. 

It seemed to me that the underlying idea was that he really wasn't mentally capable of learning to read.

I thought she was wrong, of course. I knew my boy. He was smart. Even though a good while before that, a person who did IQ testing professionally asked if she could experiment on him. I got the impression at the time that she thought he was a bit dim, but that was well after I agreed to do it. He sat on my lap and answered questions and answered and answered, and we never heard more from her. I was confident he would prevail again.

I agreed to let the teacher do what she thought best, and over the next many weeks asked him how school was and how reading was and got the usual answer, 'fine'. 

So when the teacher called me back in, I was again surprised.

Already doubting his intelligence, she was now a bit upset. She was ... controlled. She told me she had a little problem with Fritz and wondered if I had any idea what to do. 

Naturally I asked what happened. She told me Fritz had put his torn up old sneaker, one that had been in at least mud, on her desk. She wondered what I thought she ought to do.

That didn't sound like Fritz to me! He might have been oblivious of his schoolwork, but he wasn't the least bit interested in creating problems.

I apologized and went home eager to see if I could find out what had happened. 

Fritz explained. When he got to his class in the morning, he did what he always did, kick his shoes off. One got kicked too high and landed on the teacher's desk. He didn't know what to do. The teacher didn't see it fly up there. The class was laughing. She turned around and saw the disreputable remnant of canvas on her desk and asked the class who's it was and how it got there. No one said anything. But every student turned and looked at Fritz...

We went and bought new sneakers the next afternoon. I don't think it changed her mind about his intelligence, of course....

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