I stopped by my son’s classroom yesterday. I’m the mom in charge of organizing the classroom gift basket for the school carnival, and I needed to pick up donations. I got there just a few minutes before his teacher left, and as we chatted, I casually asked how his day had been. My normally happy seven year-old had started out the day in tears, so I was just checking in. I wasn’t prepared to hear, “He’s had a few bad days.” Now, my first thought (as a mom) was, ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ and my second (as a teacher) was, “It must not have been that bad or she would’ve called.” It turned out to be several little things over the course of the week, but she mentioned that the ‘volcano’ was an ongoing issue. I knew what she meant; his questions and answers that sometimes spew out without consideration for those around him. I also know she loves him and is an excellent teacher for him, but, wow, those words still sting.
I need to explain a little about C. He isn’t one of those kids who skims over words he doesn’t know or glosses over details. He wants, no, he needs to know the answer. I once read that the average 3 year-old asked about 300 questions a day. At that age, I swear he asked 300 questions in the 15 minute ride from daycare to home. And they weren’t simple questions. He asked, ‘How are a mammoth and an elephant alike?’ ‘Why is blue a warm color?’ At that age, his favorite bedtime story was called something like, 50 Interesting Facts About the Human Body.
He gets numbers, calculating elapsed time when he was in kindergarten. We would get in the car. He’d look at the clock and then ask how long it would take to get to our destination and what time we were supposed to be there. Then he would tell me I had enough time or tell me I should’ve left earlier. 🙂
He wants to be a paleontologist, has forever. We’ve read Discovery Science books for years, and when we go to museums, HE reads the info around the exhibits.
His kindergarten teacher sent home a note the first week of school saying that sometimes kindergarteners are hesitant to share about the day, and she gave suggestions on how to engage them. Not a problem at our house. C would walk circles around the kitchen table while I made dinner, telling me every little detail, and if he didn’t get it all out before bedtime, he would pick up the next morning at breakfast.
We can’t watch an episode of SpongeBob, SquarePants without him asking what particular words or phrases mean. And heaven help us when we listen to the radio! I used to only listen to country music, thinking it was safer than pop, until the day C says, “What does cheap mean?” I explained that it was the opposite of expensive, and he replied, “No, mom, in this context. What does she mean when she sings, I might be cheap, but I ain’t free?”
He absorbs facts like there’s no tomorrow. Last year I asked him if there was room in his brain for all the new stuff he was learning, and he said, “Well, when it gets too full, I just forget the unimportant stuff.” Some days I think the ‘unimportant stuff’ is raising his hand, waiting his turn, and being satisfied with just a taste of a topic when he really wants to gobble it all up.
His first grade teacher once said to me, “I have to slow him down. He’s always in a hurry.” She was talking about walking in line, going to lunch, and other daily routines. But, I think he is always in a hurry mentally, as well. When an interest strikes him, he wants to know everything about it, and he wants to talk about it, A LOT.
He and I have a deal; if he doesn’t get to share everything during the school day or he still has questions, he can come home and ask me, and I’ll help him figure out the answers. That’s why we have conversations that start with, “Who in the world would camp in a cornfield?” which leads to a discussion about agronomy and hybrid/bio-engineered crops, and ends up with a lively debate about Newton’s First Law of Motion and bungee jumping off a jello house.
He doesn’t like to disappoint, and he hates getting in trouble. For all his ninja moves and karate chopping, he has a gentle spirit. Once at the ball park, some of the older boys were not playing so nice, and he sat down and cried. I sat with him and explained that he needed to suck it up if he was going to play with the big kids, knowing they would really pick on him for crying. He just looked at me with tear-stained cheeks and said, “But mom, I have a fragile heart.”
So, here we are, halfway through 2nd grade, and we’re still erupting at the not just right moments. We’re lucky, he’s had three amazing teachers who understand little boys, who love his enthusiasm, who want to help him learn, and who love him just as he is. But, all three have tried/are trying to rein in that energy without crushing that spirit, and I’m conflicted. There is a three-way conversation going on in my head between the veteran classroom teacher, the gifted and talented teacher, and the mom.
The classroom teacher is saying that he really needs to get the eruptions under control. Yes, his questions are important, but he has to learn to play by the rules. The GT teacher is asking when does this happen? Is it a certain time of day, a certain subject? And why does he have to hold in those questions? Shouldn’t we be encouraging him to go deeper with his learning? What kinds of services are being offered? And the mom is saying, he’s young for his grade (May birthday). Isn’t there a way to answer his questions? I do at home. Can’t you see him through my eyes?
And all three of those voices are worried, especially after reading things like this about boys and school: http://dcgmentor.com/?p=87. Don’t get me wrong, he absolutely loves school, but at what point will he not? How many unanswered questions will it take before he stops asking them? How much potential is going untapped because our school day isn’t structured to meet his needs, and more importantly, what can we do to change that?