At first, he went through an adjustment period as he got to know his current teacher and understand what she expected of the students, learned the classroom routines and began to make a new group of friends. In the beginning, there were some ups and downs as he found his place in his new environment.
Fortunately, we had met with his main teacher before the school year began and were able to have the chance to discuss some of the problems he had during his four years at his previous school. First grade through third grade, his classroom experience was a fairly positive experience for the most part, but for some reason that we never were able to understand, in the fourth grade everything changed. Even though he had the same teacher, her attitude towards a handful of the students changed from supportive to almost outright hostile. By the end of the fourth grade, our son was coming home at least once a week in tears because of demeaning comments from his teacher as well as from other students. We had meetings with the school administration and the teacher, but there was no change in the situation. Talking later with other parents, I discovered a couple other students were receiving the same type of treatment from the teacher. It was then that we decided to change schools.
His new teacher understood his trepidation about entering a new school environment. He was worried that he would once again have to deal with a teacher who was not supportive and a handful of classmates who might be as cruel as the bullies in his former classroom could be. Fortunately, she was welcoming and warm and went out of her way to help him get settled into the school routine. The children in his class were curious about him and his mother, who spoke oddly accented Turkish. Within a month or two, he was relaxed and actually looked forward to school.
It has been a relief for us to see the changes in our son and in his attitude towards the education system. Previously, his old teacher had insisted to us that there were no problems in the classroom and that his average and sometimes less-than-average grades were the best he would ever be able to achieve. However, his new teacher took the time to speak with him, listen to him in the classroom and watch his interactions with other children on the playground. She discovered that the difficulties he had in a couple subjects were due to the fact that his Turkish was not at as high a level as most of the class. Somehow, over the years, he had not understood the explanations for important terms and concepts, which resulted in low grades in both Turkish and mathematics. The teacher and I have met several times since the beginning of the school year to map out what we both can be doing to help improve his language skills. He has extra books to read and write reports about and she provides extra instruction and assistance when necessary to ensure that he completely understands what she is teaching. She has discovered that he is actually good at mathematics and, with a little extra assistance from her, he is quickly catching up to the same level as the rest of the class.
One of the most surprising developments in his life, though, since changing schools is discovering that he has a great deal of artistic ability. At his previous school, students were required to draw exactly the same way the teacher did, with no personal expression. The result was that our son developed a dislike for art, convinced by the teacher that he had no talent. However, his new art teacher allows students to be creative and find their own voice in art. The class covers different styles and techniques, but it is up to each student to experiment and find their own unique form of art. Art class is now the highlight of the week for our son because he has finally been allowed and encouraged to try new things and create art that is meaningful to him instead of only copying what the teacher shows the class. His new fascination with art has also increased his interest in visiting museums and art galleries, where he can examine a variety of art forms, find inspiration and become even more creative and expressive.
It is unfortunate that we did not see the warning signs that his previous school was not the right fit for him. From that experience, we learned to watch for changes in our son’s behavior and attitude and to not always believe glowing reports from a teacher. All of his new teachers encourage us to come and meet with them at any time and they are very open to discussing problem areas. They suggest solutions that we can work together on and we feel that they provide a much more honest progress report. We have seen our son blossom since changing schools and, while we regret not moving to a new school earlier, we are relieved that we did make the change.
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