Monday, January 4, 2010

A Ripple Effect

When my son started college last fall, he had a brief “Eureka!” moment with his Stage Tech class where he was really confident that he had chosen the right school and the right major. As the assignments became more challenging, he began to question both choices. Apart from the difficulty he was having with the class, he felt from the beginning that he was not clicking with either his fellow theater majors or the teachers.

While their role should have been one of guidance and accommodation, what I was most aware of was the fact that the teacher, the director of the Office for Students with Disabilities, and the dean that got involved were intent on “guiding” him right out of the Theater department. There was no mention of possible accommodations that could be made, and there was not even a suggestion of a less demanding major within Theater. His Tech professor (who also happened to be his faculty advisor) had my son register for general education courses for the spring semester, no theater courses. One of his fall courses was a half-credit course in “Theater Production” for which he was required to complete a certain number of hours helping out with different shows. This was to have been continued in the spring semester, for another half credit and more production hours. Since my son was “distracted” by the problems with the Tech class, he did not complete the required number of hours and failed the course.

What was more surprising was the poor grade he got in Stage Tech. He had called me after he got out of the final, and thought he had done okay on most of the test (there was a sewing practical on the exam that he gave up on, but he did not think it was a big proportion of the points). Given his other work during the semester (lighting, the building project and one or two quizzes), he was expecting a decent grade and was taken by surprise. I suggested that he drop the professor a note asking for the breakdown of his final exam and other grades and how each was weighted for the class. Frankly, I don’t think he cares enough to pursue it; he is ready to move on and leave the theater department in the rear view mirror.

One thing he will not be able to shed quickly is the blow to his self-esteem – which was the result of not only the bad grades, but also the no-confidence vote by the teacher. This is not the outcome you want for a child with a learning disability. Visiting with family over the holiday, my son twice threw in the towel on simple tasks (“I’m just not good at that”).

In a perfect world, it would have been nice to see the school offer my son an Incomplete on the half credit course, with an opportunity to complete the hours in the spring semester. And it should not be too much to ask how the Tech teacher came up with his semester grade. In an imperfect world, my son’s controlling mother would storm the school (just kidding).

I have lost a substantial portion of the esteem I had for this college; but what matters more is that my son has not.

No comments: