Photo by Adelie Freyja Annabel courtesy of flickr
His quiet entrance alerted her to his mood, as did his avoidance of the kitchen where she sat.
“Ben?” No answer.
Roz sighed, and followed him upstairs into his room. His schoolbag was dumped in the corner and he already had his nose glued onto the computer screen, his jaw clenched tight.
Ben’s fingers moved the mouse and clicked, slaying all the villains on screen.
“What happened, Ben?”
She walked over and shut the screen. A wail went up. “Mo-o-o-m!”
She made eye contact and spoke softly but firmly. “When you come in, I expect you to say hello and fill me in on your day. Only then, computer.”
Ben muttered an okay and dropped his eyes.
She bit back another sigh and asked again, calmly, “What happened, Ben?”
He kept his head down as he began kicking his leg below the desk. “Got the test back.”
“Let me see it, honey.”
He bit his lip, but turned with slumped shoulders to his book bag. He took out some papers crumpled into a ball and silently handed the wad to his mother, still not meeting her eyes. Roz smoothed out the pages taking in all the red markings and the grade. Ben’s throat worked as he tried to hold back his tears. “I did study, Mom. You know I did!”
“I know, sweetie. And I’m proud of all the effort you put into it. That’s what’s important.”
“Yeah, sure. Tell that to the kids. Tell it to Ms Dragon.”
Her heart constricted at the pain in his voice, but she felt the twitch of a smile at the ‘dragon.’ Roz tried to hide it; she really shouldn’t encourage him, even though the name was apt. She looked closer at the comments in red. ‘Illegible. If I can’t read it, I can’t grade it.’ ‘Too many spelling mistakes.’ ‘Handwriting needs improvement.’ She began to burn. Some of the answers were correct, although misspelled or marked in the wrong places.
All the talks with the school guidance counselor and the teachers, and still Ms Draken refused to accept that Ben had a learning disability. With a little bit of effort, it was possible to make sense of his writing. It was possible to see that the mark was not a true reflection of what Ben knew. With a little bit of willingness, it was possible to give some encouragement rather than tear her boy apart.
Roz called the school to make an appointment to speak with Ms Draken at the first possible opportunity, Friday at ten.
On Friday, Roz prepared herself for the meeting ‘dressed for success’ and armed with the battery of reports that she had already sent to the school. She rehearsed what she would say, so that she would remain calm and not forget anything of importance.
But Ms Draken was not impressed. “Ms Reed, I have been teaching for forty years. Your child needs to put in more effort.”
“Ms Draken, my son puts in more effort than you can imagine. Ben is quite bright. If you tested him orally as the psychologist recommended, you would see for yourself.”
Ms Draken peered at her sharply over her glasses. “Ms Reed, I have thirty-five children in my classroom. I cannot bend over backwards to provide your son with preferential treatment. It would hardly be fair to the rest of the class.”
Roz’s eyes blazed and her cheeks flushed. “Ms Draken,” she spoke in clipped tones. “Giving Ben what he needs to succeed is not providing him with preferential treatment. Ben has a disability, even if it isn’t something apparent just by looking at him.”
“Nonsense. Many of these so-called learning disabilities are just an excuse for laziness.”
Roz recoiled as if the words had the force of a slap. She stood up and gathered her jacket and her bag. “Thank you for your time, Ms Draken. I see I had you pegged wrong. I thought that behind the austerity was a teacher motivated to make, not break children. Now I see I’ve been wasting your time and mine. My next meeting will be with the principal.”
She headed to the door, but when she had her hand on the knob, Roz was struck by a sudden insight. She paused and turned around thoughtfully. “You know, maybe this hasn’t been a complete waste of time after all. You’ve brought home to me that there’s more than one way to be challenged.”