Today we had our first school "incident". And by that I mean, instead of dealing with a Sophie discipline problem, we're dealing with the way we feel about how a teacher handled something that occurred in the classroom involving Sophie.
Sophie's kindergarten teacher had a baby, so Sophie has a long-term substitute teacher right now. I was a long-term sub once. It was my first teaching job in Little Rock. I was fresh out of college, and in all honesty, the thought of "taking on" twenty-four 2nd-graders, who had bonded with their teacher and were more than a wee smidge grumpy at the thought of having to greet a new teacher, kind of filled me with a special kind of terror.
Teaching is a tough gig. It is. Anybody who thinks it's nothing but happy-skippy learners and "summers off" clearly has never spent time in a classroom.
Nobody's perfect, including even the best teacher.
Nor is my child perfect. ...I think, um, we've established that a few times before.
That said, I'm resisting the urge to "Go Cable" on somebody right now. (I realize not many of you get what that means. But, yep, a few of you do! It isn't pretty.)
So here's the story:
Sophie got off the bus crying today. Those of you who know Sophie well know it takes quite a bit to make her cry. She said she had to move her ribbon to red (which is the BIG BIGGEE in the in-class behavioral management process). The interesting part is she claims to have no idea why. The even more interesting part is (based on her story and my knowledge of Sophie), I believe her. Since her longterm sub still hasn't provided the parents in her classroom any contact info, this is the email I just sent to her teacher. (Please be honest with me about if you think I've handled this appropriately. This is my first angry school moment, so I feel a bit like a fish out of water.)
Dear Ms. Please Come Back Soon,
Russell and I have talked extensively with Sophie about what happened today and she adamantly keeps telling us the same story:
She says that during carpet time, Samajay called her a "Red Head" and that he kept saying, "You're gonna get on red...you're gonna get on red! You're a Red Head!" She asked him to please stop calling her that. When he kept on, she said, "I'm going to tell Ms. Blank." She stood up to tell Ms. Blank, and he grabbed her arm and told her, "If you don't tell on me, I promise I'll be your friend." Sophie kind of idolizes Samajay (she talks about him all the time at home, calling him a "good, nice, cute boy"). She said to him, "Okay, I won't tell. But if you don't be my friend now, that's telling a lie." She said Samajay immediately jumped up and ran over to Ms. Blank. Upon hearing whatever he told her, Sophie said Mrs. Blank looked up "with mad eyes" and yelled out, "SOPHIE!! Move your ribbon to red right now!!" That was apparently when Sophie started crying because she didn't know why she was in trouble.
None of this really makes sense to me. I thought maybe she got in trouble for talking during carpet time, but Sophie told me that's the time when they are allowed to talk amongst themselves. Then I thought maybe Sophie got in trouble for saying the word "lie". ...But that doesn't really make sense either. Plus, in accordance with the school handbook, if a child has to move their behavior ribbon to red, a note is supposed to be sent home to the parents explaining what happened. I've searched her backpack and I find nary a note.
Just now Russ yelled out that he found a line written in her folder that said:
"Sophie had an incident where she called a fellow classmate the "b" word."
Upon reading that, Russell and I (well, after we contemplated the "b" possibilities and picked ourselves up off the floor) spoke again with Sophie and said, "Tell us one more time what happened." She repeated the story. Afterwards I asked her, "Sophie did you call Samajay a name? ANY name? You know how important it is to tell the truth." She told me, "No, Mama. I didn't. He called me a Red Head, but I didn't call him anything. I just told him I would tell on him if he didn't stop calling me that."
I said, "Did you call him a "b" word?"
She said, "What's a "b" word? ...You mean like a bumblebee?"
I know Sophie's not perfect. I assure you I'm not one of those parents who thinks her child is without fault. (If you followed my blog, you'd know why I'm trying to keep from laughing a LOT right now.) This is not a "Heaven doesn't MAKE Cs!" moment. (Sorry. Another story. For another time.) I know Sophie's likely to get in trouble for talking, or for playing too rough on the playground, or for talking, or for a plethora of other Dennis the Menace-like behaviors. ...Or for talking. (Whoops. Yes. Dabbling in the obvious for a moment: she is a talker.) But I do not for ONE SECOND believe she called a classmate a curse word. First of all, she doesn't know any. Russ and I do NOT use bad language at our house. Period. I'm not saying she couldn't have heard "a 'b' word" on the playground or on television...or, heck, the possibilities are pretty endless, aren't they? And I'm not saying she wouldn't repeat a word in ignorance. I remember as a child trying that out at home. Once. But neither Russ nor I have EVER heard her use any bad language. And she knows if she were to "try out" a word she heard around us, she would get a spanking for it. We've talked to her about how she should never use words she doesn't know the meaning of because it's likely they're not nice. She's six! And thank the Lord, an innocent six. Her version of bad language is: "weenie" and "dork" and she thinks the ultimate bad word is "stupid". (She heard her grandmother say it once in response to a toy that, despite much fiddling-with, just wouldn't work right. ...She just about passed dead away from the shock of it all. "Mooms! You said...'stupid'!!!!")
What I'm upset about is, not so much "the word", since I know she didn't say it, but the fact that it appears that Ms. Blank just reacted to what Samajay said and told Sophie to move her clip without first speaking to HER about the incident. Had she spoken to her, she may have figured out that Samajay just misunderstood her, or she might have figured out that Samajay wasn't telling the truth. Had she spoken to her, she definitely would've been able to see firsthand, based on her reaction, that Sophie had no knowledge of any "b" words. Not any offensive ones, anyway. I'm also upset that in the aftermath of the punishment, she just left Sophie sitting there crying, still without speaking to her.
Perhaps the incident was worthy of moving to red. Without being there, I can't really say for sure. I doesn't seem like it to us, but we'll admit we aren't familiar with the exact guidelines for having a child move their ribbon to red. But what I do know is that we take "red" behavior very seriously at our house. Sophie knows the consequences that come with having to move her ribbon to red. I want you to know I have held off disciplining her (something that I don't believe in because I don't think it's fair to keep a child in limbo regarding their punishment) because it is really important to me that when I punish her, I know exactly what I'm punishing her for. And right now I don't know. And I know she doesn't know. And I hope I don't sound condescending, I don't intend to, but I feel pretty confident that there was a missed step between Samajay telling Mrs. Blank whatever-it-was-he-told-her and Sophie moving her clip to red.
And it's a step that deflated my child.
I would very much appreciate it if you would give Ms. Blank my email address or phone number, so that I don't have to interrupt her teaching time tomorrow to discuss this with her.
Thanks so much,
P.S. So, conciseness is not really my gig. Sorry about that.