By CL Bledsoe
*These are some thoughts about my daughter’s schooling from a few years ago.
My daughter will be starting the first grade in about a week. She’s nervous and excited about a new school, meeting new people. She’s very social, so I think she’ll be fine. Still, it looms large in her thoughts. I’m proud of her for how well she adapts to change. I’m proud of how hard she works.
Whatever happens, it will be better than when I went to school. When I was her age, I lived in rural Arkansas, where corporal punishment was still in practice. I even wore a dunce hat, once. I don’t remember the specifics of that incident, but it was probably because I talked too much.
I was very bored in school. I was a creative, intelligent child, and they HATED that. I remember in the first grade. The teacher would ask a question. I’d raise my hand. She wouldn’t call on me because I answered all the questions. Half the time, no one else would answer. Repeat for a week, and I’d get bored. Eventually, I’d act up, and they’d paddle me. I got straight A’s through junior high and didn’t even know how to study. In high school, my English teachers would literally give the other students notes based on my class discussions, and I often hadn’t even read the story/poem/whatever. That sounds like a weird kind of bragging, but it’s true. (These were Honors classes, btw.) They paddled me so often in the first grade, I stopped talking completely. Then, they thought I was autistic, but I scored top-of-the-class on standardized tests.
Just in case anyone wants to victim blame, I’ll point out that I’ve taught high school and college for a decade. I’ve dealt with precocious — even possibly brilliant — children. I’ve had students skip multiple grades and go straight to early enrollment college programs. When you humiliate a child, that’s about your own insecurities, not the child’s behavior.
My classmates and I faced humiliation and abuse, but I know my daughter won’t have to face that. Of course, there’s then the concern that she won’t understand her own privilege, but that’s something we can work on.