I’m confronted with the fact that not all teachers are competent or considerate when dealing with their students. In the past week, my son Noah has had two incidents with his first-grade teacher that have involved a complete lack of communication skills. On one, I ended up sitting with Noah in detention for something Noah shouldn’t have been in detention for in the first place. On the other, Noah was accused of cheating — yes, a six-year-old was accused of cheating — on a math quiz because he didn’t put his pencil down immediately after time was up.
We contacted Noah teacher and one of his principals, because the teacher overreacted on both occasions. But now, I feel as if Noah is dealing with a problem that I had the pleasure of dealing with in second grade, ignorant teachers. By ignorant, I don’t mean stupid or dumb. I mean teachers who are ignorant of context, whose level of world knowledge is limited, who understand the letter of the law only slightly, and the spirit of it even less.
The first teacher I had who was like this was my second-grade teacher at Nathan Hale Elementary (now Cecil Parker) in Mount Vernon, Mrs. Hirsch. One of only two White teachers I had in all of elementary school, Mrs. Hirsch was extremely impatient with all of us. She snapped at us for violating any rules at all. “No talking,” she’d yell, and very loudly at that, for any whispering whatsoever. Our single-file lines in the hallway were the straightest in the school in all likelihood. I thought that Mrs. Hirsch was mean.
And she proved it one day during a spelling test. I was already upset that day, as my mother and father were divorcing, and the stress of it had landed my mother in the hospital. I wasn’t feeling well, and was a bit stressed myself. We started the test, and I, with my usually disgusting self, dug a booger out of my left nostril, which landed right on my paper. I wiped the rest on there as well. Another student said, “Ill, Donald!,” and I said something back, something like, “I couldn’t help it.” Mrs. Hirsch came over, looked at my paper, and gave me a zero on the spot. “Shame on you, young man,” she said.
My crime was cheating. At least according to Mrs. Hirsch. But what I’d really done was disgusted her with my booger, nothing more, nothing less. That was it for me as far as Mrs. Hirsch was concerned. I hoped that she would melt, like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
Noah’s issues of late are even more innocent than me digging up my nose during a test. He talked too much to his friends last week, so he and I got to spend ten minutes in his teacher’s classroom during the Dine with Dads event last Friday while she’s eating lunch in the teachers lounge? Or going overtime on a math quiz constitutes cheating? That’s ignorance, plain and simple, unacceptable and unbecoming of a teacher dealing with students as young as Noah.