Letter to Young Mother About Her Son

October 6 , 2017 /

Letter to Young Mother About Her Son

I had a phone call yesterday from a young mother whom I know fairly well expressing concern about her 5th grade son.  I also know the son and have had occasions to relate to him, to observe him in different situations so I am not without some hard data. Fifth grade boys are an anomaly to start with because they are on the precipice of adolescence.  Hank Pellissier, in what I regard as a brilliant article, refers to the 5th grade as “a savagely swirling frog pond….”  https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/fifth-grader-brain-development/

I listened carefully to the mother, one who like many others, cares deeply for her son and wants only what’s in his best interests.  The problem is, for numerous reasons, some of which will become apparent here, Sam doesn’t always fit it.  And therein lies the rub.  Many schools want kids to fit in, to follow the norms set for the majority, and they still tend to treat kids in a wholesale fashion and offer the one size should fit all.  Some of that is not the school’s fault, it can also be laid at the feet of an average teacher trying to cope with above average kids.  Here’s the letter I wrote to the mother:

Dear Kate,

Both of my boys were “different” from the norm when they were very young, each also different from the other.  We always tried to find the “right” school, the “best” teachers and each of them, after several years that included some struggles, was successful against the odds.  They did not conform to the group, they had their own opinions, saw things differently and were often on the edge which was sometimes uncomfortable but we tried to be sure that they had all the support and encouragement we could provide.  Punishment was not acceptable, limits were.  When they crossed a boundary, they lost privileges but it wasn’t extreme.  They learned, they grew up, and they went their different ways.  Each of them, I am sure, paid a price along the way but in the end they came out OK.  They even had a few bumps as adults and have managed now with their own children to navigate those waters rather well.  I am proud of them and their sister for all that they have accomplished.

Your son, Sam, is a kid who refuses to be put in a box with everyone else and why not?  He is not like everyone else. He knows it and he needs and really wants to find ways to make the most of it.  It may seem at times like he doesn’t care if he’s not like everyone else and why should he?  He should be able to care and be very glad that he is not like everyone else.  He is unique, he is very smart, wonderful, creative, loving and a great kid.  That’s what you, and any good teacher, should be able to reinforce, celebrate and find ways to keep him engaged in stimulating and challenging learning experiences.
I don’t know if he’s ever been tested but my hunch is that he fits the profile of a gifted kid with a high level of perception, understanding and intelligence.  That makes him “different” to start with and special kids need special kinds of attention, not the ordinary, every day, bland, sit down, be quiet and get your work done approach.  That is precisely the wrong recipe for him.  Let me know how I might be of further help.
Love to you and Sam,

Comments (2)

  1. Love this. Our children are not one size fits all yet many teachers I know still teach to the middle. My child is in a 5th/6th class and there are two teachers (who have never worked together before) and there are 47 children. Your message to Sam and his Mom is critical for parents everywhere to hear so we can pass it on to our children. I’ll be sharing this one on line and off.


    1. Thanks, Alli. I thought this might resonate with you. What’s interesting to me is that so many parents have to deal with these situations when in fact, the school should be the one taking the initiative on behalf of kids. They’re supposed to be the “experts” in learning for all kids but many are still stuck with what Sir Ken Robinson calls the factory model of education. Assembly line, move them along in batches. His illustrated lecture on that topic is terrific. You’ve probably seen it but many others have not. Herewith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

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