She did WHAT?????????????

After much thought about the events of the past few days Husband and I decided in the end that it wouldbe better for Son if we kept  him in his class until the end of  the year.

So, this morning I brought him to school. The administrator was not on site, so I walked Son directly to his class.    I asked his teacher if she’d heard what happened and she didn’t want to talk about it – referred me to the office.  That was fine because I didn’t want to talk about it with her, either.  I just wanted to make sure she knew so that when I told her what a good  teacher she is and  how much I appreciate her, and specifically the way she handles the difficult child in her own class, she wouldn’t just dismiss it as a platitude.

We both got tears in our eyes, and as I started to walk away another mother asked what I was referring to.  So I told her.  And she told me about other things she’s seen this offensive teacher and others at the school do that disturbed her, and we discussed how lucky that our kids had the great teacher they have.

We continued to talk in the parking lot when the offending teacher from Monday approached me and said, “Hey, you’ve caused me a LOT of trouble.”

Alarmed, I still could not stop myself from retorting, “I caused trouble?  No, YOU caused the trouble.”

She kept approaching, accusing me of  “spreading rumors” to the other parents and making her and the school look bad.  “I told what I saw.  That’s not spreading rumors.  And there were three other women who witnessed what I did.”

When she  started to get in my face, talking about how I didn’t see what led up to what I saw and that I had no right to interfere or tell her what she did was “cruel,”  I  walked a few feet away and said, “I have nothing to say to you. ”

She then proceeded to tell her story to the three other parents standing with or near us.  About how she and the child’s mother were “like this” as she crossed her fingers, about how what she did “was cruel but his mother agrees about the way to handle him”.  About how everyone looked at the video and said she was justified.

Funny she never mentioned what the  administrator told me – that she admitted that she was wrong and was told never, ever to hold the door preventing a child from entering.

I stood there not saying much of anything – though doing a few eyerolls as she painted herself in the best possible light.  She said quite a bit, about how much she has studied and suffered and worked to become a teacher, and why would she do that if she didn’t care?  That is really a very good  question.

And about how she is a mother herself to a one year-old who acts out and she has to discipline him, and how she’s not putting up with anything like that.  Gee, that’s a big old surprise, isn’t it?

And what really got me was that two of the  parents thought I should not have intervened – that the teacher is the one trained and we should trust her judgment, and if  “people  thought they were perfect they can take their kids elsewhere”.

Yes, next time I see your child on fire I’ll go to the office first to have them determine whether or not it’s a justified fire…

I do support teachers.  Son has been disciplined  at school three times this year, and I completely supported the appropriate measures his teacher chose to take.

But there’s a difference.  A biiiiiiiiiiiiig difference.

I’m just disgusted.

So I called Husband and we agreed to remove Son from the school.   He’s very angry that I was confronted by this teacher and insists on accompanying me to complete the withdrawal, and despite his reluctance yesterday he wants to report the entire incident to the authorities.

I certainly don’t need teachers confronting me, and even if I am the only person in Florida that thinks this was inappropriate, cruel and uncalled for – no matter what the child did – then I’m really okay with that.  And it’s obviously not the place for Son.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Yesterday I saw a teacher at Son’s school do something I consider to be truly awful.  This teacher locked a three year-old child out of her class as a form of discipline, leaving the child sobbing and me livid.

I did speak to the administrator yesterday afternoon.  She agreed that the teacher made an error in judgment and told me the teacher promised not to do this again.  She then proceeded to explain to me that the teacher often had unruly children walk out of the room and come back in when they were ready to be “a new John”.

As if that’s appropriate either.

Perhaps it’s me that’s crazy.  Granted, I don’t know the first  thing about early childhood education.  But in my thinking you don’t ever have a child leave a schoolroom as a disciplinary measure, especially a pre-schooler.  How this could not be against the state rules is beyond me.  It’s one thing for a parent to have a child leave the  room within their own home.  School ain’t  home.

And to me the whole concept of asking a three year-old to come back as a “new” version of themselves is a very poor redirection indeed.  Three year-old children need specific instruction – “be a calm John”, or “be a listening Suzie”.  A three year-old cannot possibly fathom what it means to be a “new” them.

For some reason this administrator feels there is nothing wrong with the way this teacher handles this often-challenging child other than the fact that she locked the child out of the room.   I don’t profess to know the best way to handle a child with frequent behavior challenges, but there is such a child in Son’s class and Son’s teacher handles this child beautifully, always staying calm and giving the boy appropriate guidance.   And positive attention.

The administrator said the parent was going to be notified, but I’m completely positive that the whole incident will be whitewashed.  I’m fairly certain that the administrator didn’t tell the parents that their son was inconsolable, crying hysterically.  And honestly I’m more angry about the damage too the boy’s psyche.  I’d not be surprised if he remembers that incident for the rest of his life.  I know I will.

As you can imagine, this conversation with the administrator did not go well.  This isn’t  surprising, considering this is the woman who still thinks one child biting another is an “accident”.  Her defense of this poor excuse for a teacher (and the fact that this is a very …hormonal… time for me) had me absolutely incensed on the phone, talking about calling the state and considering pulling my son from the school.   I’d already planned to keep Son home today (we had a planned toured of the school where he will start kindergarten this August), and I have spent a lot of time today discussing this with Husband.

If this was Son’s teacher there is no doubt that I would have pulled him out of the school immediately.  No doubt.  At all.  Immediately.  Never to return.

However.

Son has a different teacher.  A good teacher.  He is thriving in her classroom and with less than three months to go he is learning so much.  His teacher – a first year teacher – is committed and excited and steady and thrilled to see the progress her students are making.  The children love her – and  they respect her.

Do I pull Son out of a great class because the school and it’s other teachers are lacking?

This is what I need to decide.  Soon.

Who’s Watching Your Children?

I’ve had a few issues here and there with Son’s schools, but most of the issues have been dealt with and we’ve moved forward.   I very much like Son’s teacher, as she is committed and engaged with the children and just the perfect amount of strict to keep Son on task.

After all, having a good teacher can make up for lots of poor administration issues.  Heaven help us all if Son ever gets a poor teacher, no matter how good the school is rumored to be.  I’ve noticed a few other teachers at this school that I’d not be happy with, and it has made me wonder about the availability of good employees, the level of  supervision by the administration and the involvement of the parents.  Do they know ???

There is one teacher in particular who has always concerned me.  I walk by her class every day, as her class is the only one directly off the lobby.  She always looks bored, disinterested.  As if she’d much rather be watching Jerry Springer.   She either has the kids watching a DVD, or she’s just sitting there staring off into space while the children (three year-olds) play on the computer.  I shake my head and walk on,  and get involved with what’s going on in Son’s  class.

Today when I was dropping Son off at school there was a little boy clutching his mother and sobbing.  The mother was dressed for work, tears in her own eyes as she tried to calm her son.  He just didn’t want to be at school today.   We all threw sympathetic looks at her, and I did a silent prayer thanking G-d that I didn’t have to put Son in daycare – that school is a choice for us.  The mother led her son into that class – the only one right off the lobby – and I left before she came out.

I came to pick up Son three  hours later, Nana in tow.  I’d just picked her up from the airport and she got a welcome every Nana wishes for when Son raced into her arms.  We were on our way out when I saw a boy, alone and  sobbing, trying to open a classroom door from the outside while pleading, “Let me in!”  He was trying to turn the knob, but the teacher – the same teacher I said always looks bored and disinterested – had her back to him and was not letting the boy in.  I glanced at the other mothers in the area and they all looked disturbed, and I walked over to that boy and put my arm around him and knocked on the door.

She opened the door and said, “He’s okay.”  Furious, I said, “No, he’s not.  You can’t leave him out here! It’s  cruel!  Let.  Him. In.”   She pulled him into the room while trying to reassure me.

“It’s okay,” she said,  “We do this every day.”

I was apoplectic with fury and disbelief at this point.  Talk about inappropriate punishment!  He was ALONE outside the classroom!!! Being excluded.  Crying.  I know, I don’t have to explain it to YOU…

I walked (stalked, really) over to the reception area, where the attendant (the owner’s daughter) was trying to explain school enrollment to a woman who was considering enrolling her child.  I interrupted to tell the attendant what was happening, and she  excused herself from the prospective customer and immediately went to “handle it”.

I plan to talk to the owner about the incident tomorrow.  The more I think about it the angrier I become.  In my opinion this is cause for termination.  I certainly hope that they will notify the parent of this incident, and if they don’t I’m seriously considering telling the parent myself.

That woman should not be permitted to work with children.  She compromised that child’s physical safety, and his psyche.  Add that to her general attitude of disinterest, and I’m thinking that perhaps she should just get a job where she can do no harm.  Perhaps a cemetery groundskeeper.  Or a port-a-potty cleaner.

It didn’t occur to me until I got home that this could have been the same boy that was crying this  morning.   I was honestly so horrified that I can’t recall.  But no wonder that kid didn’t want to enter that classroom.

No wonder.

Zero Tolerance for…Skittles?

Husband sent me an e-mail just now, and here’s what it said:

Maybe you or Deb (my sister) can find out exactly what school this was and get me an e-mail address so I can tell them what I really think of them.

I feel a real dickish moment coming on.

At the very least – maybe you can write about the absurdity of this whole thing.

Personally – I would like to ask them why they didn’t just shoot the kid onthe spot and then execute his whole family.

After reading the article, I wholeheartedly agree.

Michael Sheridan, a student at New Haven’s Sheridan Middle School, was suspended from school for one day, barred from attending an honors student dinner and stripped of his title as class vice president. His transgression?

He bought a bag of candy from another student.

The horror!

As part of it’s wellness policy, the New Haven school system banned candy sales as fundraisers in 2003. There is no candy allowed in the schools. Okay, a bit stringent, but I can support that.

The student who sold the candy also was suspended.

Nothing like killing an ant with an uzi, New Haven.

It makes a great deal of sense to obliterate a child’s sense of accomplishment for having worked hard to attain honors because of a relatively minor transgression. And why on earth wouldn’t we want to spit on children who have the character and gall to wade through the rampant apathy and self-absorption of the middle school biosphere, get involved in their community and learn about the democratic process by taking on the office of Student Government Vice President?

Why indeed.

It certainly wouldn’t have made sense to give him detention, or to have him, in his role as Vice-President, make a presentation to the student body about nutrition.

No, it’s much more important to teach them how to rebel against unfair and overdone punishment, to seethe with injustice.

And why did the nefarious candy dealer get less punishment than the user-addict? Perhaps he’s supplying the school board….?

(By the way honey, the name of the school was right in the article, babe. But I’m sure your ire made your eyes skip over that part. Love ya!)

Update March 15, 2008

Both students’ suspensions have been expunged and the buyer has been reinstated to the Student Council. Apparently the school administration failed to notify the parents of this rule in writing.

I don’t think the school needed to undo all of the punishment. I just thought the punishment should fit the crime.

The Two Hundred Penny Salute

Husband and I are not permissive parents. We think loving, firm discipline is important, and we want Son to have a healthy – but not blind – respect for authority.  We want him to understand that sometimes you lead by following.

I already know we’ll be the parents that let the child sit in jail overnight if he takes a car on a joyride, and we’ll not complain to the School Board if Son gets suspended one day for destroying school property, or cussing out a teacher (although I certainly hope none of these things happen). In fact, Son would get additional punishment at home. The schools have a tough road to hoe, and I plan to be supportive. To a point.

But we do need to allow children to be children. There has been much ado in the press about suspensions for hugging and kissing, even among elementary kids. There’s a difference between sexual harassment, though, and two best girlfriends sharing a hug.

Now there’s the case of the children in New Jersey suspended for paying for their lunch with pennies. Their lunch period had been shortened, and they decided to let their dissatisfaction be known by paying their $2.00 lunch in pennies.

They were promptly given two-day detentions for holding up the line, and for being disrespectful.

Okay. If these children were disrespectful they deserve those detentions. I agree completely. Wholeheartedly. I have no doubt that a few were disrespectful, but all twenty-nine? I find that doubtful. In fact, I venture to guess that it was the cafeteria workers, faced with the prospect of counting all of those pennies, who got disrespectful first. That doesn’t excuse the students’ disrespect, but it does put in in context.

All of that aside, what was the big deal about them paying with pennies? Last time I checked pennies were still US currency.

I think it was clever. Wonderfully juvenile. And who best to exhibit such juvenile behavior than…juveniles? Civil disobedience at it’s most basic.

Some are saying it wasn’t protest; it was a prank. So what? It doesn’t matter if it was protest or prank, it was harmless. And if we start taking away children’s right to some harmless fun, where exactly are we headed? I understand the need to keep order in the schools, and how hard that can be. But they weren’t in class, they were at lunch, when they should be able to loosen up a little.  Letting off some steam helps them to be calm and focused in class, wouldn’t you think?

And what would have happened if the cafeteria cashiers had simply smiled and taken the money? Because, really, we all know how hard it is to count out two hundred pennies…and that it takes all of thirty seconds.  Nothing would have happened, except perhaps a zen moment between the students and staff.

The school’s response? To pardon the detentions, unless the parents want them served.

If it were my kid and he was disrespectful he’d serve those detentions. For being disrespectful. But not for being a kid pulling a harmless prank, or protest, or however the school chooses to (mis)characterize it.. Definitely not.

Can we please lighten up a little? Please?

The Meanest Mom on the Planet

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

To me that sentence illustrates one of the most important aspects of my parenting philosophy – consistency. It’s hard to stick to your guns and follow through on things. When that weepy face (upset at the prospect of missing the trip to the pro football game because he didn’t meet the clean-your-room-or-lose-the-privilege requirement upon which the trip was predicated) begs me to reconsider, I’m sure I’ll want to give in and let him go, while threatening that he “…better clean it tomorrow, OR ELSE!”

I just don’t think that would serve him, though.

My son is three, so that hasn’t happened yet. Other things have happened, and I use various strategies consistently in my efforts to teach him self-discipline, and that are consequences for every action. He knows if he’s warned and continues the behavior the consequence warned will happen. Despite the tears. Despite my own inconvenience. Despite my son, or others, thinking I’m a mean Mom.

The other day he was misbehaving and I told him that if he continued he would get a timeout. When he continued the behavior I asked him if he wanted a timeout. Instinctively adept at the concept of reverse psychology, he answered me with a resounding “Yes!” So, he got a timeout.

I always think I’m in the minority with my thinking on this. A friend’s son once said to me, smugly, “If I pester her enough I’ll get what I want. I always do.”

Sooooooo not happening in my house.

Imagine my pleasure in reading about the self-proclaimed Meanest Mom on the Planet, who sold her son’s car for breaking a rule upon which having the car was contingent.

Not an easy thing for her to do, I’m sure. But the right thing, most definitely. And a very hard lesson for her son.

But I’ll bet it’s a lesson learned.

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