I know C.J.'s teacher has a good heart and would never purposely make my child feel left out, but today she did...
Mrs. S has a habit of rearranging the classroom almost every week. She keeps trying new seating situations to try and maximize learning. In the past, the changes have been innocuous. She switches who is sitting next to who or whether the desks are in a U shape formation or all facing the front. Today, however, when my daughter and I walked in, we were both stunned.
To give you a point of reference, I will share a few things about my daughter's class. We removed her from public school where there were 20 students to 1 teacher and put her in a half-day private school with a small student to teacher ratio. There are only 8 students in her classroom and it really has worked splendidly for her academically. She is doing far more advanced work than we thought was possible! However, she still struggles socially and is not a close knit member of the group.
Her class is comprised primarily of girls. She is good friends with the one boy in the class, but the girls will only play with her if she is the only child around - this has happened a few times when we stay after school on a nice day. Mostly though, she is ignored by her classmates. However, one child has actively excluded her by making up a pretend land called "LuluLand" and giving all the girls, except my daughter, a pretend drink to go with her. She told C.J. she was not allowed to go because she likes dinosaurs more than unicorns. I wish just one of the other girls would have stood up for C.J., but they didn't, so she really was being excluded by the entire group. This continued for a while and really hurt Caitlin's feelings. I told her to ignore the girl who was bullying her and to play with her good friend. She did, and moved on, but it still hurt. I tell you all this to give you a sample of the way C.J. struggles socially so you will see why I so aghast when I walked in the classroom door this morning and saw this:
Tell me, what is the message sent to C.J. and L.C. with this classroom set up? (L.C. is not the child's actual name, btw. I will always use fake names on my website to protect identities.) I will tell you that L.C. is another struggling learner in the class and probably the furthest behind academically in the group. In this classroom arrangement, L.C. is now behind her classmates both figuratively and literally; and my daughter is pushed out of the group just like she has been socially many times in the past.
My daughter's teacher basically set up the classroom into a clique with two ostracized students! L.C. is already on the verge of tears everyday when her mom drops her off, and now she is in the back of the class all alone. And, honestly, the main reason I send C.J. to school instead of continuing the homeschooling that was working last year is because she is so social and wants to be around people. If you ask her what her favorite thing about second grade is, she'll respond with, "Recess and being with my friends." However, this classroom set up says, "Sorry, you are different, you are not part of the group."
The truth is, yeah, she is different (aren't we all?) but that's why she needs to be part of the group. School shouldn't just be about academics. It an opportunity to interact with other people, practice empathy, and learn to appreciate each others' differences. If I just wanted my child to succeed academically, she'd be better off with me teaching her one on one at home. But my social, people-loving girl wants to go to school... or at least for now she does.
I know Mrs. S. is a kind person who cares about the children's' education, but how did she think this is a good idea? Maybe she's thinking that L.C. and C.J. will be less distracted with this seating situation... I don't know. I will try to catch a quiet moment with Mrs. S, ask her if she could rearrange the classroom again, and kindly explain the message that the current set up sends. I know that she wouldn't intentionally make my child or any other child feel left out, but, unfortunately, she did.
I am the mother of two beautiful, unique girls. When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I asked God to make the two of them different so they wouldn't compete and learn to appreciate each other's individuality. Man, did he answer my prayer. Honestly, they don't even look related!