It was a little after 4:00 when my desk phone rang. I picked up the phone.
“Hello, Walt Mussell.”
“Andrew got his report card,” my wife responded.
“How’d he do?”
“He got mostly A’s and B’s”
“Mostly?” I asked.
“Yes. One of his grades was Needs Improvement.”
“What was that in?”
I thought for a second…Art? Are you kidding me? Mo continued
“I’m surprised by this. I haven’t seen any reports from the teacher.”
“Well should we contact him or her?” I asked.
“I already sent an e-mail, requesting information.
Andrew’s teacher responded a day later. Mo let me know after I arrived home from work.
“So what did the teacher say?” I asked.
“Andrew got a Needs Improvement because of his behavior. The teacher put him in time out twice, which required a letter grade deduction.”
“Yes, time out.”
“Andrew’s art teacher puts fourth graders in time out.”
“Yes,” my wife confirmed
We discussed it further and concluded it made no sense. Andrew loves art. Why would he be acting up? However, we had other concerns, too. One of the issues our son has relates to his social skills. His speech delay affects not only the way he talks, but also the way he processes what he’s hearing. This affects his read of social cues. He doesn’t notice things anywhere near like his peers do. Our kindergarten age son, Christopher, can follow a movie better than Andrew can. In social settings, Andrew interrupts often and blurts out things that have no bearing on the conversation. We were concerned that Andrew was misbehaving, due to not being able to follow things. We knew we had to investigate further. My wife e-mailed the teacher to set up a meeting. It was arranged for the following week.
My wife called me at the office, a few minutes after she finished the conference with the teacher.
“What happened at the meeting?” I asked.
“It went well,” my wife said. “He explained the classroom procedures. Art is a little unstructured, but students are reprimanded several times in classroom setting before being sent to time out. Andrew had been warned repeatedly and the teacher felt he had no choice. Because it happened twice in a nine-week period, he had lost a letter grade.”
“Yes, it does. Also, it was at the end of the nine-week period. A few more days and it would have been the first time in the new grading cycle. He would have gotten a B.”
I thought for a second. “Well, we’ll have to discuss it with Andrew,” I said. “That’s so unlike him. He’s usually well-behaved.”
“I know,” my wife responded, “but the story’s not like we thought. Andrew isn’t the only kid in class that does this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Apparently, a lot of kids get put in time out in this class. The nature of classroom makes it different from the other classes.”
“So, he’s acting like the other kids?” I asked.
That situation resolved for now, I asked my wife one more question: “So what do you think of the teacher?”
“He’s very nice and was happy to see me.”
“Apparently he gave out a lot of Needs Improvement last term.”
“Why would that make him happy to see you?”
“We’re the only parents that contacted him about it.”