Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Being a Southpaw

Dear Madame L,

I am left-handed and my husband is right-handed. Our son, who entered kindergarten this year, is left-handed like me, and our daughter, who's in the third grade at the same elementary school our son attends, is right-handed. 

Our son's kindergarten teacher just happens to be the same teacher our daughter had, and she adored our daughter. She told me once that my daughter was one of the brightest and overall best students she'd ever had in kindergarten and she expected great things from her. I agreed with her, of course (who doesn't think their children are wonderful and talented and have charmed lives ahead of them!), but I thought even at the time that was a weird thing to say to a parent.

Not as weird as what she said to me last month in a parent-teacher conference about my son, though. She said he's "disappointing in every way, but ... not to worry, because he can't help it. He's a boy, and he's left-handed, so he'll be lucky to have the same success your daughter will have."

I was stunned, and I just said, "Well, thanks for your feedback," and got out of there as fast as I could.  I've been thinking ever since then that I should have responded differently and maybe even should have reported this teacher to the principal.

What do you think, Madame L?


Not Disappointed In My Son

Dear Not Disappointed,

Kudos to you for recognizing that your son is just fine, and that his teacher may have a problem, for declining to engage her in an argument, and for not dragging the principal into the matter.

Madame L knows a lot of people still hold prejudices against left-handers; even recent "scientific" research into left-handedness seems to state the results in ways that denigrate this trait.

Madame L knows some elementary teachers still hold prejudices against boys, too, sometimes leading to faulty ADD diagnoses and treatments not in the child's best interest.

Madame L hopes you continue to give your son all the love and support he needs. His kindergarten teacher won't be the first adult in his life to treat him according to misunderstanding and prejudice. You can teach him now the self-confidence and positive responses that will help him deal with these people now and through the future.

This article may help you prepare your son for the daily kindergarten experience. 

If you're not already active in your PTA or PTO, please become active. Volunteer to go on field trips, bring treats, all the usual things, for both your son's and your daughter's class. Get to know the teachers by helping put up holiday bulletin boards and so on. 

You may also have an opportunity at some point to speak to your children's principal about how the school addresses the differences in behavior and learning styles between boys and girls. 

Dear Readers, do you have other helpful comments for this letter writer? Please share, and

Best of luck,

Madame L

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...

I, and at least two of our sons (NOT the left-handed son) had problems with elementary school teachers. Looking back on it, I think the problem rests squarely on the teachers' shoulders.

Try-to-please sweet little girls are not the ones the teachers should be tacitly accepting as the required "norm".

A lot of damage was done to me (see "Sisters of Mercy" and "Christian Brothers") and to our sons, by punishing us for not being little girls.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and we all survived the elementary school and Junior High experience. That doesn't mitigate for a moment the biting contempt I retain for those "teachers" who hated us...