A tragic account of one parent's experience with the public school system in America.
Brightly colored posters adorn the walls, interrupted only by various bulletin boards displaying expectations for the class in one form or another. Symptoms of wear are apparent in the fading linoleum tiles and rusting pipes of the historic building.
Desks of various shapes and sizes litter the newly cleaned floors, while a multitude of chairs lay neatly tucked beneath the chaotic seating pattern. Several windows break the monotony of the schoolwork that is showcased on the walls. An effort had clearly been made to liven up the atmosphere; however, it ended up appearing as though the many decorations were just a mask for the peeling paint and years of graffiti. The school was built in 1905 and would greet its 99th class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders just as soon as the plain round clock read 8:00 a.m.
In moments, approximately twenty-three students would flood through the classroom door amidst echoes of laughter, whispering, clanging lockers and the sound of pencils being sharpened, repeatedly. Much the same as was taking place in nearly every classroom around the country.
Shuffling slowly, a young girl emerges from the shadow of the doorway and into the brightly lit room. Talking casually to another girl, she immediately glances towards her desk. Pleased with what she has seen, she makes her way to her seat and begins to hurriedly unpack her backpack. Struggling to put her belongings into her desk as quickly as possible, she sends several pencils scattering about the floor. She decides to finish unpacking before retrieving the dropped supplies. Shoving the objects into her desk, she grabs her backpack and walks away feeling as though she has won a small battle.
The feeling was replaced by a feeling of anger and resentment when she returned to her chair. A young boy in her 5th grade class had taken a seat at a desk located next to hers. She did not mind sitting next to him, but she wished that his desk did not have to touch hers.
She understood why her teacher sat him so close to her even if she did not like it. They had been sitting together for about three weeks and she couldn’t help but wonder if he even noticed that they were they only students in class that sat together.
The boy had been diagnosed with autism; however, the girl knew nothing about him other than he needed her help to participate in the classroom work. That was the reason’s their desks were together. That was the reason she had not been able to write in her journal since they had become ‘partners’.
Her teacher had noticed her above average intellectual ability early on. Utilizing the girl’s eagerness to please, she assigned grading duties to the girl, as well as occasional tutoring for other less able students in her class. Recognizing the fact the student far exceeded the national average and understanding that recommendations for school programs made by school staff resulted in the school districts responsibility to pay for any testing required to enroll the recommended student she decides to keep her recommendations for the girl’s enrollment in the gifted program unknown. Left with no real options, the teacher decides to utilize the young girl’s strengths to her own advantage. Justifying her decision by calling the new situation mentoring and awarding the girl with weekly soda, candy and other various prizes.
Voicing no complaints or similar opinions, the girl continues to do what is expected of her, pleased with the high esteem that she has been given by the teacher. Having experienced similar situations throughout her previous time in the public school district, she reassures herself that it will only be for a short while longer.
Recess is the only time the girl feels really free to run, play and giggle with the other children and as she hears the whistle call her to line, she instantly feels her step become weighted.
At home that night her parents learn of last years standardize test results. They mourn for the loss of their child with every drop in the graph. They could not understand why the gap between her and the other students her kept narrowing even though her grades remained the same. They wonder if the school has given their daughter the opportunity to reach her true potential. Deciding to talk with the school counselor, they are soon assured that the school curriculum is broad enough to educated students of all intellectual abilities. Instead, the counselor suggests that the problem most likely lies in the girl’s home or with her friends; He urges them to give it some time. Allowing themselves to adopt the same complacent attitude that the school has adopted, they decide to let the school district do its job and soon place the ordeal out of their mind altogether.
This process will be repeated several more times throughout her public school education. Graduating with a C average, she proves that one does not have to turn in most of their homework assignments as long as they are good test takers. Having grown accustomed to their daughters quarterly grades her parents know nothing of her missing work. They have no knowledge of their failure as parents. The girl has no knowledge of herself. From the districts standpoint, she will be an academic success since she will fall within the standard norms exactly the way the school taught her. Never mind the fact that her I.Q. was only five points lower than Einstein’s when she started!