My son was both pleased and proud when we found out that he was one of the select few fourth graders at his elementary school to be enrolled in both advanced reading and math classes. My husband and I were as well. We were proud that his hard work (and our nagging attention to homework) had paid off, but it was more important to us that he would be challenged to learn and grow in these classes. The classes came at a great time for Noah as a student. He had always enjoyed school but was just starting to get a bit bored with it and there were times in third grade when he got in trouble for talking or goofing around because he was done with his work ahead of most of his classmates. He loved his new classes and teachers and we were pleased that the lessons focused on exploring advanced material as well as taking a more in-depth look at reading and content. He didn’t achieve straight As but he was learning and working hard while engaged in challenging projects and lessons so we were happy.
Following Christmas break, Noah came home from school with the news that the advanced classes would be cancelled and he (and the other advanced students) would now spend the day taking classes with his fifth-grade classmates. Now, for the first time in his school career, Noah doesn’t want to go to school. He is bored and often left with nothing to do but read or draw because he is done with his work or they are covering material he has already completed. If his attitude has deteriorated so quickly in just two weeks I dread the remainder of the school year.
I was very proud of my son’s initial reaction to the situation. He wrote an email to his principal protesting the policy and met with the principal to discuss the situation. Not many 10 year old kids would stand up for themselves and their education like that. I only wish his first official protest had ended on a more positive note.
Now Tod and I are left with more questions than answers. What can we do to make sure our kid is challenged and engaged in school? What can we do to foster and encourage his love of learning? This is a kid who regularly asks me questions about history and current events then carries on an intelligent conversation with interesting opinions about those events. This is a kid who taught himself to write HTML code over Christmas break and keeps a journal and started his own production company with a friend to create videos and games.
I don’t want my son to hate school and not just because it makes my life a lot more difficult. I want him to love learning as much I do because I believe very strongly that curiosity and quest for knowledge are keys to success in life. I don’t want him to see school as some sort of purgatory where he is simply serving time.
As an educator I have been increasingly distraught by the direction that U.S. schools have taken. I cannot believe how many hours of my child’s education have already been spent preparing and taking standardized tests to the detriment of real learning and engagement. I continue to be appalled at the many ways that administrators and politicians undermine the ability of classroom teachers to teach and meet the needs of their students. Until this most recent incident I was able to take comfort from the many wonderful teachers who were able to work around, through, and under the system to engage their students in the fun and thrill of learning, but now, as a parent, I fear that my son has learned the ultimate lesson of his education and that my child will be left behind.
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