October 6, 2014

What Does Your Child See?

I loathed sixth grade.

Each day when the other students and I walked into our math/science class, we found that Mr. Dizon had scrawled the page number and problem numbers for the math assignment in the upper left corner of the chalkboard. The rest of the space – which covered one complete wall of the room - was filled from top to bottom and end to end with notes and study questions for science. Our job was to jot down the math assignment for homework and then get to work copying the rest of the information. Mr. Dizon either sat at his desk behind us or leaned on a stool near the door. He rarely spoke and never instructed. We were simply supposed to learn and understand by copying the notes and doing the math problems.

By the third quarter, I could only muster D’s in both classes. I’d previously been a good student and continued to do well in other classes, but my inability to manage Mr. Dizon’s methods ate away at me. My father scolded me for my poor grades, wondering aloud what was “wrong” with me. He never thought to question why my performance had taken a sharp turn for the worse in just those two classes; it was just a foregone conclusion that I needed to “do better.”

By the fourth quarter, I was desperate because I feared I might get an F in math. So one night before a test, I scribbled answers all over my forearms, feeling I had no other choice but to cheat. When the test was passed out, I tried to screw up the courage to push up my sweater sleeves but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I lifted the top of the desk and pretended to root around for a pencil. The next thing I knew, several classmates were milling around my desk yelling, “Cheater! Cheater!” I felt suffocated, so I bolted toward the door, just catching a glimpse of Mr. Dizon’s smirk before I ran, sobbing, to the bathroom.

I scrubbed the ink off my arms and waited in a stall for the bell to ring. I spent the rest of the day ignoring the whispers and sidelong glances of my classmates. By the end of the day, my brother, who was two years younger, knew exactly what had happened, but I begged him to keep his mouth shut at home.

I never did tell my parents. If I’d told them I didn’t understand math and science, they’d know I wasn’t perfectly smart. If I’d complained about a teacher, they’d know I wasn’t perfectly good. If I’d admitted that I’d considered cheating, they’d know I wasn’t perfectly honest. I couldn’t blow their image of me. Instead, I suffered through that year and carried shame for years afterward.

I didn’t get from my parents what I needed. Home is the one place where a child should be guaranteed unconditional love. Love with accountability, to be sure, but the kind of love where the child knows she can be herself, weaknesses and all.

What does your child see in your home?

Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360


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