Mr. Lofthouse was Older Son’s third grade teacher. First and second grades were tough on Older Son. He read late and had to go to summer school between both first and second grade as a prerequisite for promoting to the next grade. I think his dislike of school was born during these years.
By the time he started third grade I was very…shall we say…prickly. First day of third grade I was very jumpy and chatty and worried because I knew Older Son didn’t usually perform to standards until the very end of the year.
Mr. Lofthouse was near to retirement, a tall man with thick white hair and a bright, open smile. He turned that smile on me and said, “Give us a couple weeks to get to know each other and then you and I can talk.”
I agreed but gave him a stern look. I wanted him to know I was going to stand up for my boy. I must have looked adorable but Mr. Lofthouse was too polite to laugh.
Two weeks later Mr. Lofthouse called me and we sat down just the two of us to talk about Older Son.
I immediately talked about how Older Son took longer than most kids to reach proficiency but that he always did.
Mr. Lofthouse waved that away, “Your son has something I can never teach. He’s kind and thoughtful and an asset to our class. I look forward to working with him.”
I started crying. Big, ugly crying. Not one teacher had praised Older Son since kindergarten. All they talked about was the fact he couldn’t read, that he couldn’t do the math other students were doing. What they were saying was that he was dragging down the test scores.
And here was a teacher who had been teaching for more than 30 years, who had seen literally thousands of students and thought my dearest, darling son was an asset and someone he was looking forward to teaching. Not a problem to be solved or a drag on the rest of the class.
Mr. Lofthouse calmed me down and then talked about how they got a new student in class who had moved from China the week before and spoke very little English. Without prompting, Older Son approached her and showed her around school, including how to buy lunch and how to get in on the much prized games of handball on the playground.
“That’s kindness, that’s a good heart. I can’t teach that. The rest he will learn.”
That moment, that meeting changed my entire experience parenting a child who was in school. A teacher who took the time to sit down with me and tell me that my child had gifts that could never be quantified on a test or graded but still mattered.
Thank you, Mr. Lofthouse.