Some weeks ago, David brought home a math test. It was a C which was bit surprising. He's been doing second grade math with his older brother without problems and loves math. I looked closer and noticed that the teacher had been marking answers wrong that were in fact correct. She'd written a question mark next to them as if she couldn't tell what the numbers were. The numbers, apart from one, were perfectly legible. Not neat, not nice, but legible, and the answers were all correct.
I don't like confronting teachers. I come from generations of teachers on both sides and I respect their work and I always assume they know more than I do. But this, I didn't like. I had been suspicious for a while at this point. David had been losing weight. He has dark circles under his eyes. Other weird stuff happened that should not be recorded for all eternity but I knew something was up with him. I thought I would start with this math test. I had no idea just what nasty worms I would find in the can I was about to open.
Tuesday morning before school, I went with David to ask the teacher for a couple of minutes of her time after school. We live right across from the school, and I thought it would be nicer to ask in person instead of sending a note. I had no intention of having a conversation with her at this time.
She asked whether this was "about the numbers" and when I concurred, she said it would be no use talking about this. Her decision was irrevocable, and she really detests it when kids don't write their numbers correctly from the get go. I answered that David had been working hard on his numbers, hardly ever wrote them backwards anymore and just had problems with the "8", like in this case. She said, no, no discussion about this and her colleagues would back her.
And, by the way, she was having massive problems with David. Which, of course, prompted me to say, what?
Then, she started ranting about how bad David was. He refuses to participate, he is obstinate and unsuited for school. His social and mental development is delayed. He is a social outcast, anti-social even, and of course the other kids can't help but notice that something is wrong with him. None of the kids was his friend.
Why she said this, I don't know. I do know that it is at least a massive exaggeration. His little cousin is in the same class, they love each other madly. They fight, too, just like real siblings. David spent last weekend with him, complete with sleep-over. David also had an invitation to a birthday party the next day. I had watched him being hugged by class mates that same morning. So, not true.
So I told her that we get the very strong vibe that she just didn't like David. I said that I don't care whether or not she does but David cannot ever notice this, nor the other children, nor, really, we. This made her furious. She denied it completely but added then that all the other children also didn't like him. Note the "also". She used some very vulgar language at this point.
When I said, uncomfortably eyeing the children who were crowding the open door to the classroom only a few feet away, that I didn't think this was the time nor the place for such a conversation, she barbed that she also couldn't know what was wrong with David's social environment. Only later, at home, did I realize that she was insulting me.
She said plenty more, and all of it unpleasant. We agreed to meet again on Monday, to talk in a more private setting. This was subsequently cancelled - the teacher took sick the next day for a week.
I went home and cried. Then I brought my younger kids to daycare and asked the director there whether she had ever noticed that something wasn't right with David. I know that David can be difficult. He's very single-minded and very, very stubborn. I can imagine the situation very well -- David, once you get him up against you, does not relent. The director sat down with me and David's preschool and Kindergarten teacher and they were appalled, and very upset. They urged me not to let this sit but go and do something.