Teach to the children, not to the classroom ~ Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)
It is ridiculous how long it has taken me to get this post written. I’ve been writing it in my head for months and months but I just couldn’t find the strength to actually write it down. The idea of baring my guilt, shame, anger, depression, frustration and grief about this has kept it bottled up. But, as is often the case, once I put something on paper (virtually in this instance), I always feel better. So, here it is. Our journey thus far through The World of Distraction *cue scary music*.
Earlier in the year, Logan’s school began sending us emails expressing anxiety about Logan’s level of distraction in the classroom. The emails were lengthy weighty missives noting “grave concerns” over Logan’s abilities (or lack their of) to control his fidgitiness and “self-distraction.” Remember, Logan is in Kindergarten. What he was doing to warrant an expression of “grave concern” is anyone’s guess. We were able to confirm that Logan had not hurt any other child, was not particularly disruptive to the classroom and wasn’t defiant in any way. It appears that what Logan WAS doing, was fidgeting during “Circle Time” and watching a family of squirrels in a tree outside the classroom window rather than listening to the teacher’s workplan instructions. Cause for alarm in this Montessori setting.
Greg and I began rescheduling our days to meet with Logan’s teachers and the head of the school to discuss what was going on. These meetings, like the emails, were long drawn out affairs filled with the Head of School expressing distress because Logan was taking longer than the other children to finish various workplans, was extremely self-distracted, rolled around on the floor during Circle Time, etc. We were stunned by the school’s description of Logan’s behavior. At home he is a very focused boy, able to sit for hours drawing, LEGO building, painting and participating in self-directed play without trouble, which we learned later, is just the other side of the AD/HD coin. He can “hyper-focus” as well as he can “hyper-distract.” The boy the school had described honestly sounded like someone else. Someone we didn’t know.
We initially wondered if this wasn’t being blown out of proportion to some degree. The extent of my memory of Kindergarten was napping on those brown and tan fold-up mats, fruit punch and Chips Ahoy during snack time. I don’t recall much in the way of Spanish, art appreciation, banking works or map making during that time. Nevertheless, I recognize that things are very different now. The fact that Logan wasn’t “on pace” with his classmates when it came to recalling his “sight words” on…well, sight, was clearly supposed to cause us sleepless nights.
Although it may appear I am making light of the school’s concerns and Logan’s clear issues regarding focus and fidgetiness, I am not. Logan is an only child of two lawyers who were the youngest of three children born to parents who were in their mid-thirties. We are otherwise known as The Forgotten Children. That classifies us as uber-Type A parents and Logan is indeed Le Petit Prince to whose every whim is catered. For example, one gas-induced allnighter when Logan was an infant was enough to relegate me to chief grape-peeler and soybean shucker for the next 4 years. If Greg could wrap Logan in bubble wrap until he turns 30, he would. We are those parents.
So, to tell us that our first and only born was (gasp) not perfect in every way caused the typical reaction of denial (get the heck out of here, my kid is freaking perfect); guilt (I knew my bad genes would eventually call me to task); anger (this school is full of idiots and fools, what the hell do they know?!); depression (we never should have had children, all we’ll do is screw them up); and acceptance (so what do we do now?).
To make matters worse, the Head of School made a pronouncement that Logan is not welcome back unless he is medicated. I know! We had a similar reaction as you, I’m sure. If we don’t go into the illegality of such a statement by a school administrator (contrary to what many Independent/Private school administrators think), let’s just consider the ethical considerations. Neither Greg nor I are reactionary when it comes to medication. However, the idea that a Montessori school of all places would demand that a child be medicated to be enrolled was (almost) comical. Isn’t that the exact type of school where a child who needed a bit more individual attention and allowed to pick and choose his work would excel? Also, Logan is six years old. That the school isn’t in any way interested in us (and by us I mean the parents, the behavioral therapist, the teachers and the administrators) working together with Logan to help him progress but rather is just interested in a compliant, drugged kid at any cost was quite telling.
Despite how we felt about the school’s expression of concern, Greg and I decide to do some independent research. No stone went unturned. We have read many many things on AD/HD, learning disorders, executive function processes etc. and have finally come to a place called the Hallowell Center for behavioral assessment. There, they have evaluated Logan and provided us with some ideas of how he learns. Regardless of their assessment, we are determined not to label Logan with anything other than “Logan.” That said, we’re still pretty worked up over this and feeling a bit lost, albeit on the right track now that we’ve discovered the Center. And like so many things in life, once we started talking about this with others, opening up and admitting how we feel, it was like finding a treasure trove of parents of AD/HD diagnosed kids.
At the end of this I realize my biggest issue has been an impending feeling of loss. Grieving what we fancifully thought/hoped/dreamt would be the perfect life for Logan. The idea that he’ll have enough on his plate just … being. So, the fact that he now will struggle with reading, learning, focusing, organizing overwhelms us with grief. Nevertheless, we’re trying to take this as we find it and finding support where we can. We’re reserving the right to choose medication for Logan (or not) and are going to move forward with the many behavioral therapies suggested.
That’s it. I’m glad I was able to get this out. Finally. I’m hoping that one day we’ll laugh about all of this as Logan becomes a well-adjusted successful citizen of life. I hope.