*Written in 2011
I was in the attic just two days ago looking for some books, and I chanced upon my son’s P1 Chinese file. I flipped through that and was reminded of the child before his school problems started.
His file is still neat and filed chronologically to perfection. Every piece of work was done meticulously, and they were either full marks or close to that. In P2, he was placed in the enrichment Chinese class, meant for more advanced Chinese learners.
Today, he is exempted from Chinese. Since P2, his work is a mess, and he cannot remember much of any administration things he needs to do. What a change?! Instead of progressing, he has regressed.
For the past three years, it had only been suspensions from school, complaints, caning and seeing one psychologist after another. It all started with just one really difficult teacher, who did not have chemistry with the Boy, and one new and clueless principal.
This teacher is semi-blind in a physical sense. I’m not sure why she was still the form teacher, but her capabilities were limited. She would make silly mistakes like mis-marking that The Boy would catch. She was always offended. She hated The Boy.
It didn’t help that this lady is the wife of an influential person in school. I have no clue who this influential person is, except that it is someone the principal cannot offend, so she told me.
I was called into the principal’s office the first weeks The Boy was in this lady’s class. I was told The Boy had toppled tables and chairs and created a whole scene, endangering students in the class. When I reached, the principal was fuming mad, and this teacher was by her side:
The Boy continued to have nightmares after these incidences for another two years and was on the brink of depression. His nightmares has now stopped and he is now happily dual enrolled in a high school and university.
He is no longer afraid of eczema and still blabbers mindlessly too often, though with less frequencies. We are working on that.
Principal: Mrs Lim, your son has been a nuisance and he tried to topple the tables and this is not acceptable.
Me: Why did he do that?
Teacher: This morning, as a standard routine, I asked to boys to change places and sit with another batch of students. TMY was assigned to sit next to The Boy. Your boy threw up a big fuss. He called TMY God’s biggest mistake in creation and refused to sit next to the boy. And then he toppled all the tables and chairs.
(Now this is really strange to me, because The Boy has never toppled anything in the house.)
Me: Teacher, you called me last week and told me about The Boy not wanting to sit next to TMY and I asked that you not do this again. Why did you assign him to sit with TMY again? The Boy is afraid of TMY’s skin condition.
Teacher: It was RANDOM. I RANDOMLY assigned them. Anyway, I have already explained TMY’s skin condition to class, and he has no right to be afraid.
Me: Can I ask The Boy his version, and then get back to you?
(Principal looked at Teacher, and Teacher shook her head)
Principal: No, we do not allow such investigations in our school.
Teacher: There’s no HIS version and MY version. I am telling the truth, and all your boy can do is lie.
They then brought me to his classroom. They left a table toppled for me to witness, and he was sitting alone in an empty room. I went to The Boy.
The Boy: Mummy, I thought you have to teach today, why are you here?
Me: Your principal asked me to come. Why did you topple the tables?
The Boy: Mummy, I didn’t topple the table. You see, this morning the teacher asked us for an oral file. I didn’t have mine. She insisted I forgot to bring it to school, I told her I left it in school with her. She refused to believe me.
Then, she punished me and refused to let me answer any question in class.
Later, we found the file under another student’s (class monitor) table. She then accused me of leaving it below that students’ table. I didn’t. After that, to get back at me, she made us change places and purposely ask TMY to sit next to me.
Mummy, TMY is very scary, his skin is red and falling off, so I kept telling her no.
She insisted and got two boys to push TMY’s table next to mine anyway. I tried to stop it and went against their force from the other side of the table. I think I am much stronger than both of them, so the table toppled.
Principal: Mrs Lim, please bring The Boy home.
Me: Do you want to go home?
The Boy: No mummy, I want to learn. I want to sit here and learn.
(He sat up straight and put his hands together.)
Me: (I took a look at the teacher and the principal who gestured they wanted him out of the classroom.) Mummy will teach you at home. It’s ok.
That was the first problem we had. I then asked for a change of class or teacher, but the principal disagreed. After a few more conflicts with the same teacher, the school decided to issue him a letter telling him not to go back to school. We then called the teacher to ask for a reason. There was no explanation except that they could not handle my son.
I then wrote to his Chinese teacher. She said he had no problem in her class and she was happy to take him. With that email, I asked the principal if he could go for the Chinese class, and skip English and Math. The principal said he could not choose. He was either to get along or not attend class.
It went on for the whole year. Throughout the year, there were many incidents such as this, different stories from the teacher and the student. Each time, the student was wrong and she was right, no deviation, even if she was not there to witness any incident, she would input and said that my son was wrong.
After some time, she even claimed that others agreed with her.
Nobody was really on his side except for one P5 teacher educated in Australia, who was against suspensions and not listening to children. Whenever he had problems, she would volunteer to have him in her P5 class, and she told me she had no problem, and he could even contribute and understand her lessons.
She told me she had advised the principal not to suspend a 8 year old but to no avail. There was just so much she could do.
I then called up the MOE and asked if they would help my son. He showed signs of giftedness and was always quick with his work, which was part of his behavioral problems.
At P2, he could work with fractions, negative numbers and algebra, forces and momentum, all self-taught. The MOE gave suggestions to the school to give him more advanced work. The school did NOTHING. They believed he is not gifted.
At the end of P2, despite all these problems and numerous suspensions and this teacher deliberately getting his project grades down (60% versus his average of 98%), he still managed to top the class and received academic honors.
I think this made the teacher really angry. She was getting personal.