When my son went to kindergarten at age five, I wasn’t worried that he wouldn’t do well. He had been to pre-school, and was pretty smart. He seemed to understand things taught to him quickly, and was a pretty well-adjusted, happy kid.
I wasn’t worried at all walking across the street to the school for the first parent-teacher conference. Everything was well-organized when I got there. We parents were all given an appointed time to meet with the teacher, and we were instructed to bring the student with us. The parents that were ahead of me were in the room with their child, and were all smiles as the exited with a fistful of drawings and gold stars.
When it was my turn to go in, I was a little perplexed when the teacher asked if my son could wait outside the room for a few minutes so she could speak to me alone. Hmmm…. What did he do?
You can’t even imagine my shock when she sat me down and looked me dead in the eye and said: “Mrs. Gilbert, I believe David may have some learning disabilities and I want to have the Child Study Team evaluate him to see how to classify him.” I thought to myself: “ Um…what? Learning disabilities? Seriously? I don’t get it, he was five, how much did they want him to know at five?”
So, of course, I asked what exactly the problems were. She went on to say that he couldn’t seem to even grasp the smallest concepts or follow the simplest instructions. I felt like I was in some kind of an alternate universe. I didn’t think he was a genius, but I thought he was at least average, for heaven sakes!
As she was droning on about “special classes”, and how some kids just really need a lot of extra help, and how if we didn’t get a handle on this now, then he would surely get so frustrated by the time he was in high school that he would be a drop-out, yadda, yadda.
I was expressing my dismay at this shocking news, and she, of course, went on to say that many parents go into denial when hearing news like this, and that is why the Child Study Team assessment is so vital.
Nope. I knew there was way more to this than what she was saying, so I asked for specifics. I wanted to see his work folder and proof that he was having problems. She sighed, and as I looked into the hall, I saw David turning himself upside down in the chair as he tried to sit still. What did I know? I was only a mother. Maybe she was right.
She pulled some papers from his folder, to show me his coloring. The papers were a mess. He had literally just scribbled all over the papers rather than try to color the pictures nicely. The next papers she handed me were in shreds. It was a picture of a mamma duck and her two little ducklings. The assignment was to color them and then cut them out. It was an exercise to teach them to use scissors.
I asked her why she accepted such poor work from him. Why didn’t she make him do it over? Why was he allowed to hand in such a hot mess? She looked me with pity and said: “Ms. Gilbert, he can’t use the scissors and he can’t follow directions. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s very frustrating for him to watch the other children do their exercises when he just can’t do it. I don’t even give him the assignments anymore”.
The fog was starting to lift. He was manipulating her for something. I explained that it was odd that she thought he couldn’t use scissors, because he could unscrew a door knob and put it back together practically before he could talk.
I asked her what he was doing while all of the other kids were doing their assignments. “Oh, he always asks to look at the books. I let him go to the reading corner and looks at the pictures in the books.” Is that so? Looks at the pictures, does he? Imagine her face when I told her that one of his favorite past times was reading, as he was reading since he was about three years old.
I went to the door and brought my son into the room and showed him the folder with his artwork. I asked him why he refused to do the assignments and color and cut with the scissors. While fidgeting, he told me that the stuff she was making them do was for “babies”, because he did all of that in pre-school. He wanted to read. He wasn’t looking at pictures in the books, he was reading them!
The teacher couldn’t believe it. I had to make him go get a book and read it aloud to her. She told me in all of her twenty plus years of teaching, she had never have a kid pull such a snow job on her. She had felt so sorry for him, especially because some of the other kids would make fun of him. She was used to having kids fit in, not purposely try to opt out of the stuff all of the kids were doing.
As angry as I was at him that day for being deceitful and not following teacher’s instruction, there was a part of me that thought he was pretty cool. I was glad that he didn’t care what the other kids thought of him. He was finding a way to march to his own drummer. Of course, I never told him that.
Conformity: it is the need we feel to fit in. If we just act like the others, wear what they wear, laugh at their jokes, then we won’t become the brunt of them.
Really, I think, it’s the lack of trust of other people. We don’t want them to see our “real” selves, for fear that they won’t treat that knowledge well, but instead will make fun of us, bully us, and isolate us. It can be uncomfortable and hurtful when we let down our guard and choose a direction outside of the status quo. We will do anything to avoid it, so we conform. We become imitators of other’s, and fall in line to march to their drum. Feeling secure in the group overshadows the nagging feeling of being different. It’s easier to express someone else’s thoughts and feelings, rather than expressing our own. It takes courage to not conform.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Roman 12:2
We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He knew us in the womb. He made us in His image, and gave us our desires, our abilities and capabilities. He knows what interests us, and how to bring out the best in us. He did not make us to be conformists, imitators or someone else’s life.
Instead, He challenges us to be, transformed, to be completely changed from the influence of the world around us, by the renewing of our minds. Why? So we can test and approve God’s will for us! Think about that a minute: so we can test and approve God’s will for us. He doesn’t require us to imitate Him, He welcomes us to weigh out His will for us, and decide for ourselves who we are.
He has never desired to have a people who are puppets. He gave us free will, and wants us to use it. He wants us to come to Him on our own, not by coercion or fear tactics, but because He loves us.
My son was wrong to deceive his teacher and not carry out instructions. But, even at five years old, he was finding out who he was, and taking a stand to do his own thing, no matter what the other kids thought. He chose to ignore the snickers of the other kids in order to pursue his desire to read.
He was wrong to act on his desires the way he did, but he was not wrong to have those desires. The end result of what he did forced the teacher to think outside of her twenty year old teacher’s box. She told me later in the year that she was grateful that he had fooled her, because it made her realize how comfortable she had become in her pattern of teaching. Somewhere along the way she had stopped looking at her students as individuals, but looked at them as her “class” of kids. David’s antics was a wake-up call for her, and she re- evaluated her teaching techniques. She began to look at the kids as individuals again, and had the most fulfilling year in many years, as she was able to stir the creativity in the children, and watch them evolve into who they were. She was not only challenged to think differently and creatively, but she was rewarded by seeing the results in the kids.
I think this is the lesson God wants us to learn: don’t be satisfied with everyone else’s status quo. Instead, He wants a relationship with us, based on getting to know Him. He knows us; He created us. As we allow our minds to be transformed by the knowledge of Him, not conformed or brainwashed, we will discover exactly who we were created to be. Our lives will be full. Not always without problems, but full.