I Saw a Duck.

When Dylan was in first grade, I went in for Open House to observe. The kids were on the floor, the teacher on a chair, and she was asking questions that were so simple a bedpost could have answered correctly.

But six-year-old Dylan never raised his hand. Later I asked him, “Why didn’t you raise your hand? I’m sure you knew all the answers.”

Dylan said, “Because she only calls on me about once every three hours. I don’t know why I should make my arm tired if she’s not even going to call on me.”

And he was right. In trying to be fair to all 28 students, the teacher rarely called on anyone more than once or twice a day. As a result Dylan, who was re-learning things in first grade that he’d known since preschool, was beyond bored.

The boredom lasted for years.

Finally, in fourth grade, Dylan was accepted into the Gifted and Talented (GT) program. He was able to fully express himself. Dylan not only raised his hand often, he spent his days stimulated and engaged. There was true brilliance in the room. He and his classmates discussed topics like global warming, marketing strategies, alternative energies. Their “play” time was wildly creative, and they built their own toys, wrote their own books, and invented … everything.

And Dylan wasn’t bored anymore. In fact, he loved school.

But he doesn’t love middle school.

Today, I chaperoned a field trip, where we sat on benches and listened to a man talk about industry in 1863. He tried to personalize it, but for most of the audience, it was just plain dull.

The kids wanted to be doing things, experiencing the wide variety of hands-on tasks they could try at the museum. But instead, for all but 20 minutes of a 3-hour “tour,” we just sat on benches.

I found myself staring out the window at the harbor. I looked at the factory next door, and wondered if we could take a real tour of industry there. I watched stationery boats and thought about sailing. I saw a duck – and wished I could show it to the kids, who would have so preferred a duck over anything related to industry in 1863.

It reminded me that I spent my own school days entertaining myself while teachers droned on and on about things that didn’t interest me. I had some good teachers – I learned a lot in 7th grade English, for example. But mostly I wrote stories in my head, pondered philosophical questions, and decided which boys I’d rank as cutest in the class.

Life is hard as a middle schooler. And for someone who’s as smart as Dylan, classroom time needs to be a bit more … interesting. So later this week, I’m going to talk to a high school staffer to find out about future options.

I think Dylan is mind-numbingly bored with school. It’s not that he needs more medication. Duh. He needs mental stimulation.

Just like he did in first grade. I can’t believe it took me this long to realize it.


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