Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hang in there, Alex Barton--and your classmates, too

[Image description: Composite photo of a kindergarten class--mine--captioned "Jefferson School 11 1971-1972 Kindergarten"]
Hey Alex, what happened to you should never, ever happen to any kid, anywhere--you had a right to a kindergarten experience that left you excited about school, not one that left you feeling rejected by peers and your teacher. I know--because I had a pretty awful kindergarten teacher too. It was a long, long time ago, and I'm pretty sure she's gone now; she was on the verge of retirement when I had her. She tried to switch me from lefthanded to righthanded, moving the marker from hand to hand whenever she caught me doing my thing. (It didn't work.) When she saw me reading, she snatched the book and told me my parents had "ruined" my life by letting me learn to read so young, without expert instruction. I went home and stood on my head and tried to forget how to read, figuring she must be right. (That didn't work either.)

But what I remember most was that she humiliated a little boy, made him stand in the middle of the room and take her berating in front of all of us, for the crime of.... leaving the toilet seat up. Did any of us object? We wouldn't have dared. Did any of us reach out to him afterwards? I don't remember. Do any of those sweet little boys in that photo above look like they deserved that? They didn't. They couldn't. A lot of us, including that little boy and me, we graduated high school together--and I'm sure none of us forgot that moment.

Alex, your classmates, the ones who were led to vote against you, will be haunted by this moment. They were asked to be cruel to you, by an adult they trusted. Two of them voted in support of you, by all accounts, and they're obviously great kids, but the others aren't bad kids, just five years old. The adult in this case should be removed from the classroom and disciplined and, if possible, trained out of whatever ideas got her to this place; but the kids are just kids who were put in a terrible situation.

And Alex, you're just a kid too--and you absolutely didn't deserve this. But hang in there-- with any luck, you will also meet amazing teachers and peers, and learn, and flourish. A whole lot of us are watching now, and we expect the best for you.

28 comments:

Rob at Kintropy said...

Penny,

I'll comment in some of the original sources, but I probably wouldn't have seen this without your link to it. Thanks for the link to this story.

Maddy said...

Oooo yes, a lot of us are watching now.
Best wishes

CS said...

I also experienced something like this in kindergarten and it haunts me to this day. I'll never forget what was done to me by a teacher when I was 5. I blogged about Alex's situation and how the teacher really violated the law set up to prevent abuse in the classroom.

http://autisticnation.typepad.com/thinking_in_metaphors/2008/05/wendy-portillos.html

Angela said...

Time for these situations to change...and I think there are many of us watching on pins and needles for resolution.

Karen said...

It boggles my mind that a teacher could do this...

UCP eCoordinator said...

I'm watching.

UCP eCoordinator said...

Oh yeah. SHAME ON THAT TEACHER!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this what happens to autistics almost every day? they are left out ignored humiliated - Are we as a society not taught to separate ourselves from others by picking up on any differences its part of separation - if you believe yourself to be different and/or superior your ability to empathize with another is diminished - it also dehumanizes the person ostracized - its this deliberate separation that enables massacres in civil war situations to be carried by neighbors who have lived next door to each other for years - this incident de-humanized this child and taught his classmates a lesson in de-humanization. This is exactly what the Nazi party did to the Jews prior to the hollocaust!

UCP eCoordinator said...

Here is a news story about it. Take a look.

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/255136

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