Once upon a time there was a little boy. He lived on an island and like the rest of the world he wasn’t able to attend school for two years as a result of a global pandemic. During the time that he was at home, he was introduced to online school where he was able to see his teacher and his classmates and follow through with schoolwork as life had to go on. It was a challenging time for him as he wasn’t able to meet and play with his peers as he would like. Some days it made him very sad.
Now the online work given by his teacher consisted mainly of her going through the topics at hand, showing a YouTube video and then leaving the work projected on the tablet screen for the little boy to write in his book. Each day was the same, each subject was the same, writing was the main priority. “All my boys must know how to write and write quickly and neatly”, his teacher continually remarked. Now while he sparkled in all the other skills that little boys his age would learn, the pace of his writing was his weakest area as he often paused to imagine, stopped to remark and complained of how tiring it was. His mother tried her best to help him, giving him writing games, coaxing him along, bribing him with snacks and even downright threatening him on the days when she felt short of patience. Some days she really lapsed as she was also a teacher and had to conduct online classes of her own. Eventually she had to return to work and leave him at home because while her students were back out, the little ones were not. His grandmother had to take over the tutoring and while some days she was able, it was clear there were days she was not, and this weighed heavily on the mind of the little boy’s mother. It was really a difficult time for them and particularly for the little boy because getting him “ready for primary school” while he was very comfortably at home was quite a strange thing.
Eventually the pandemic eased, and the little boy was finally able to physically go to school. He was very excited, masked up and smart in his little uniform he was off. He returned home the first couple of days deep into the “first day jitters”, crying and anxious because naturally he was extremely sensitive to the change in environment but thankfully, he eventually settled and seemed happy. His mother breathed a sigh of relief as just getting him into a normal school rhythm after the pandemic was the very thing she had hoped and prayed for. She noted however that from jump, it was business as usual at the school. Her son had work to do from his various subjects, he had notes to write in class and most days he got homework. “Damn,” she told herself. “they’re not even going to give the little ones some grace to socialize and get accustomed to each other and whatnot, especially after a pandemic?”. She asked the question but was made to understand that Miss had “a syllabus to finish as so much time was lost”. This didn’t sit well with her, but she continued, sending the little boy to school who eventually had less and less to say in the afternoons, sometimes he just repeated things that he thought his mother would have liked to hear.
One day an incident arose where the little boy could not be found when it was pick up time. After a frenzy he was eventually found after what was termed as a ‘mix up’. His father, angered, demanded he could have slipped by unseen. His mother distressed, queried the school’s afternoon protocols. The principal apologized. The teacher claimed that he does not listen and everything went downhill from there.
Every single matter at the school pertaining to the little boy, the mother was called by his teacher. He kept losing pencils, he was not writing, he was crying, he was too loud, he was running, he was not listening, he was not doing his work, he was too rowdy, he was shouting at the other boys, he was not writing, he was not writing, he was not writing, he was not writing…………The little boy’s mother wondered if her son was an absolute monster in the classroom causing major upheaval which would leave his teacher with no choice but to not deal with him as a student in her class but then Miss caught the virus and had to be out of school for a quarantine period.
The little boy’s mother became very nervous and expected the substitute teacher to call her in the same rhythm that his teacher did. Days passed and no call came so she took it upon herself to go to meet her. She eventually did and asked the substitute how he was going in class to which she replied, “ok, nothing much to say, he’s going ok, just the writing a lil slow but that’s about it”.
The little boy’s teacher returned and so did the “touching base”. She called meetings and kept up the mantra “he’s not listening, he’s not writing, he shouts at me, he has no behaviour…”. At this point the little boy tells his mother the other boys have started telling him the same thing, “you writing too slow!”, “you’re not a baby, stop crying!”, “hurry up and do your work!”, “you don’t have any behaviour!”, “you better write fast or you’re not moving up to the next level!”. A little boy who sits behind him whispered things to him and teased him causing him to get angry. He was even tapped with a pencil and he told his teacher who just told the other boy to behave, which wasn’t much of a deterrent to him as he continued. The little boy now had everybody bothering and harassing him about the same thing every day. He really became sensitive to it and lashes out so now his mother understood why there was such a stark difference between how he behaved at home and how he behaved at school.
Summer came and went.
When the term opened in September, the little boy’s mother was nervous as she understood the position that her son was in where the school is concerned. He did not “conform” to what his teacher expected of him, she was not changing to meet him, nor was she encouraging towards him. She had her syllabus to teach she did not have time to coddle. Again, he was having a challenge with the pace of his writing. In his books she scrawled “Did not do his work!” and “No work done!” with time stamps in red pen and sent them home. The little boy’s mother was tired of the calls and the passive aggressive WhatsApp responses and decided not to stress over things and people she could not control. She comforted her little son, told him what to do if he felt bullied, gave him strategies to write faster and affirmed him every morning so that he knew he was loved no matter what. He was not coping well again and said that he felt sad and alone. His teacher starts keeping him in during recess because he was not writing fast enough, and he threw tantrums in the classroom because he didn’t understand why he kept being punished by not being allowed to play with his friends. His teacher called his mother again and said she wants another meeting, this time with the Guidance Counsellor. Both parents attended and expressed their concerns for him and what was expected of him in the classroom and what they think should and should not happen. The teacher seemed resigned to the case, the Guidance Counsellor offered suggestions.
The next morning the little boy’s mother was teaching her class and received a call from the teacher who said that the little boy is not listening, made a disturbance and threw the mother of all tantrums. The mother immediately flew into a rage herself as her own frustration peaked. She could not understand why his teacher was so hell-bent on recognizing the outcome and not the genesis of the little boy’s frustration in the classroom. She couldn’t even hold back the tears (she cries when she is mad) and as much as she tried to hide it, her own students noticed and were worried. She called her husband and her mother, she felt she was not in a level-headed place to retrieve the little boy from school as she felt she woulda cuss ‘way somebody. His grandmother went for him and observed the little boy so distraught as he was kept in for break yet again while another boy, also a slow writer was sent out to play while he remained isolated. She said her heart broke as she felt his teacher had no heart or concern for him. He was just an unruly child and his teacher was doing what she felt was the correct thing to do so that he would write faster.
That was the last day he went to school.
His grandmother continued with her own version of home-schooling. The little boy’s mother felt it was so fucking unfair. She kept looking at little uniformed boys all over chatting, laughing and playing and felt wronged for her son, that after a pandemic it still wasn’t a “normal” school life for him because he didn’t “conform”. She reached out to friends who were psychologists, teaching colleagues and even DM’ed mothers and professionals in an Instagram community just so she could get an idea of where she went wrong or if she was crazy. She went to school to get his books. She told both the teacher and the Principal that the little boy now hates school, hates to put on his uniform, hates the boys in his class and hates his teacher. The Principal said she is shocked that he used such a strong word as ‘hate’ and that his parents should pray for him……….
The mother officially withdrew him from the school and indicated to the Principal that she communicated with the higher-up who advised her on this course of action. The Principal then proffered that the mother return to see her once the little boy “matured” and “showed progress” with his work. “By that time he would have a different class and a different teacher”, she said. The little boy’s mother however did not require further discussion on the matter, she collected the remainder of his books and left.
Now although the little boy writes slowly, he is an excellent reader, sometimes surprising his parents with the words he is able to recognize. He is a math whiz, can talk his mother into a corner when it comes to science and can create worlds with his hands. It is sad that these strengths were never identified in a tangible way to help his weaknesses while at the school. He was just told to write. How was he educated then? Largely at home! He was nurtured to discover things, think critically, ask questions unabashedly, use his hands to play and learn and of course, write what he needed to according to a child at his level since the days in pre-school. The little boy just didn’t “conform” to the traditional rote of the primary educational system through his terrible experience at that particular school.
It’s ok though, after careful deliberation his parents found a school that recognized his potential and would educate him as he deserves. He will be all set for January and his mother could finally exhale and trust that everything would be alright for her little boy.
N.B. Characters, events and incidents are the products of the author’s mind and the rampant overthinking that occurs within. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental or whatever.