Thursday, October 7, 2010

Uh oh. Did I Just Become One of "Those Parents"?

Well.  Neat.

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.

Well...

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,

Kristy

*****

P.S. So, conciseness is not really my gig.  Sorry about that.

30 comments:

IvoryKeys said...

Oh my! I will say Kristy your email would be just the type to make me smile and yes, want to make things right if I was Sophie's teacher. Then again that's my personality. I think you have every right as a parent to request clarification on what happened. I know that as a teacher I would respect you for wanting all sides to come to light before moving forward with what you felt was appropriate.

As a mom I'm impressed you have been able to handle this as rationally as you have. I'm a teacher and still have those momma bear moments. Where I want to protect and make right all the wrongs my children suffer through at the hands of others while they are outside my control. I'm shocked at the move directly to red, even if for some insane reason the sub felt that what she was hearing was correct. I have 1st and 2nd graders and I talk to both children involved and 99% of the time don't involve out of the classroom discipline for stuff like this. Red to me is for repeated problems. Or continuous throughout the day/class.

You've talked with Sophie and honestly by this time tomorrow she will have moved on to the next thing and this will be a blip on the radar. Breathe...relax...and know that the moving to red was already more than enough for Sophie (IMHO).

Susan

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in knowing what the "b" word was. We deal with misunderstandings a lot. The teacher should have gotten Sophie's side of the story and given her a chance to defend herself. Now she has lost trust in this teacher. If I were you, I would call the school. Good luck.

Melynda

Anonymous said...

Wow. Sorry that happened. I think you handled it well. Hoping you get some closure soon. Hugs to Sophie.

~Megan

Anonymous said...

Cheech, I think you should have gone directly to the new teacher, by sending her a note that you wanted a conference with her. I can't believe that she disciplined Sophie through a tattle-tale's word. She must have been having a really bad day! If this child got her in trouble once, he'll do it again. Talk directly to this substitute. Love, Mooms

kim said...

I think you need to talk directly to the sub - not to the teacher out on maternity leave (since she probably hasn't got a clue what happened)
maybe take sophie to school so you can walk her to the classroom? or call the school and request the subs contact info so you can call her.
poor sophie!

Kritter Krit said...

The reason I was talking to the teacher out on maternity leave is because the sub has yet to provide any contact information for the parents. Apparently she hasn't set up a "school email" yet (and she understandably doesn't want to give out her personal email or phone number), so her teacher is still serving as the contact for parents. If a message comes to her, she passes it along to the sub.

I know transitioning to a sub (especially in a kindergarten classroom) can be a hectic process. I know there can be kinks to work out. But obviously, for moments such as this, the pass-along system is not a good system.

I tried calling the school as soon as Sophie got off the bus, but noone in the office would answer. I talked to them this morning and the sub is supposed to call me during her break today.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous... And I too, KNOW my children aren't perfect. However, I would be at school the next morning before her day begins. Poor sophs. I would like to use a "b" word right now!!:)

Traci

Anonymous said...

Coming from one who is a classroom teacher I must say I agree with you! Whatever happened to an explanation, to discussing with the children so that IF there was a problem they know what behavior not to repeat in the future! Please keep us posted on the response!!

~Jill

Lindsay said...

I say a calm conversation with the sub is the way to go. Sometimes, little kids only hear certain things, or see them in a different light. Sometimes teachers are quick to judge and/or lose their temper, much like parents sometimes do. (There is NO WAY I'd be able to keep my cool all day in a room full of 5 year olds!)
Avery had a rough year in Kindergarten with lots of trouble, talking, etc. So I made sure that her teacher knew me and I made myself visible and available at any time for her if she needed to discuss a behavioral problem. That way nothing was lost in translation. And her teacher was well aware that it was a joint effort in fixing the problem(s). And the good news, Avery did a 180 in First Grade with only two "moving of the pin" all year. It sounds like building a solid relationship with this long-term sub might be in order. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Kristy,

Think you're doing everything right! I would absolutely want to speak to Ms. ? I have never thought that being "involved" should qualify you as "one of those parents". Like you said, Soph doesn't cry easy and she obviously has no idea what's going on. I believe in discipline, however, it has absolutely no benefit if the child hasn't a clear understanding of the reason why and the "appropriate behavior" isn't reinforced. Of course this applies to an incident where the authority figure is completely aware of all details. In this instance I really don't feel like the teacher had any knowledge of what was actually going on. So.....if I am totally in the dark....and all I have to go on is the hearsay of one kindergarten child....I don't deal out the punishment with no investigation.....right????? I love you much! Let us know what happens!

Sandy

Anonymous said...

Go in there and talk to the teacher today - this morning. She needs to know what happened and you need to know what happened. Those are my 2 cents. The curiosity would be killing me. Plus, Sophie doesn’t need to suffer any more than she already has. How confusing this must be for her. I think she has permission to sucker punch Samajay. This coming from a non-parent.

~Nicole

Anonymous said...

Kristy,
You have to let Sophie know that in addition to backing up the teacher when she is wrong, that you are there to back her up when she is RIGHT!! I would definitely hold the teacher's feet to the fire and make her account for her actions. Punishment without investigation of the crime was definitely uncalled for.
Love,
MOM/NANA

Anonymous said...

I agree with most everyone here. With no contact information, I would just march down there to the school and demand to talk to the (sub)teacher, if you can't talk directly to the sub when you arrive then talk to someone above her. Chances are, the permanent teacher on leave may not have time to read the letter depending on her situation (maternity leave you said?). The sooner the better while the situation is fresh in everyone's minds. The sub most definitley should have got both sides to the story, and not put total faith in one person's story, that's for certain, especially in dealing with children of this age. Hopefully, this will clear itself up soon, and hopefully, the parents will be able to meet witht he sub so that you can know your teacher better. The school shoudl ahve set up something like this for a good transition for all.
Bob English

Kritter Krit said...

Alrighty. Got an update...

Russ takes Sophie to school on his way to work, so this morning after he got her settled eating breakfast, he went to find the teacher to talk to her.

Let me start by saying...this poor teacher.

Apparently she is having a very hard time right now. She's fresh out of college. She's helped in a pre-school class before, but she's never been in charge of 24 kids before. The kids aren't reacting well. They miss their "real" teacher and apparently aren't too subtle about it. She doesn't feel like they're respecting her...she just sounds REALLY frustrated right now. She says she feels like she can't quite get her footing.

She said she did end up talking to Sophie - later in the day, when she had a "breather" moment. Apparently when this incident happened, things were pretty chaotic in the classroom. She said that Samajay came up and said, "Sophie just called me a b*%ch!!" She admits she had a knee-jerk reaction and had her move her clip, then later in the day, she asked her, "Sophie, did you call Samajay a "b" word?" She said Sophie nodded.

Russell told her, "I don't believe it. Not for a second. She just doesn't know that word." He had to get to work, so he asked her to please call me at home.

(I just finished having a long chat with her.)

What she doesn't know about Sophie (that her other teacher knows from working with her for the past two months and from talking with me) is that she struggles with the sounds of the alphabet. I've been working lots with her at home and it's slowly getting better, but still if I say, "Sophie, tell me a word that starts with the letter 'K', she'll say, "Uh...zebra...umbrella?"

I told Ms. Blank that Sophie doesn't know the word "b#@ch". I told her we don't use foul language at home, we try not to watch television (other than sporting events or kiddie shows) when she's awake...I told her I couldn't even FATHOM a place where she would've heard that word. She said, "Oh, I can tell you where she could've heard it. Some of our kindergartners have mouths like sailors." (Let's pause for a moment to consider how horrifically sad THAT is.)

I told her, "Well, I can't tell you that Sophie wouldn't repeat a word she heard." I told her we talk to her about NOT using a word that she doesn't know the meaning of, and she knows that she will get in trouble if she DOES say a bad word - even if she hasn't the foggiest clue what she said.

That said, I don't believe she said the word Samajay accused her of saying. Not for one second. The kid has an impressive vocabulary, but her retention for words she doesn't know isn't good. So having her hear a word on the playground and make it back to the classroom with it intact is just a bit of a stretch.

Ms. Blank admitted that she handled the situation the wrong way, and she apologized. I told her I forgave. I told her I remembered being in her shoes, and I understood how she's feeling right now. I know it's not easy. It's not. Even if you luck upon a classroom full of people-pleasing, respectful, cheerful, helpful, always-attentive kindergartners, there are still 24 of them. It's not easy to be THE lone authority figure. It's not easy at all.

(Apparently I have to divide this message into parts. It's telling me the HTML is too large to be accepted...)

Kritter Krit said...

(Continued...)

I asked her, when she got a moment, to please talk to Sophie. Only this time, to let HER explain what happened (her version of the story has never ONCE wavered). She thinks the word she shouldn't have said is "lie". She told us this morning, "I guess I shouldn't have said 'lie' to Samajay when he said he would be my friend." I explained to Ms. Blank that if ideas are given to Sophie (like, "Samajay said you said a bad word. Did you say the 'b' word?") Sophie is apt to say, "Yes, I said the 'b' word." (I think that's kind of typical of this age.) But I told her if she wouldn't say anything, if she would just say to Sophie, "Tell me what happened...", she will get the truth about what Sophie said.

Anyway...

She promised to do that, and send a note home this afternoon regarding their talk. ...And, until she sets up her school email, she provided me with her personal email. Not for big-biggees like this (I think that sort of thing needs to at least be discussed on the phone, for purposes of clarity), but for little things I need to talk to her about, but don't want to disrupt teach-time for.

Thanks so much for the feedback! I'll keep you guys posted.

Anonymous said...

I remember so well a s-word incident with my granddaughter. She was horrified that her older, wiser brother had used the s-word. Being more worldly than his younger sister, he could have gotten the word anywhere: the baseball field, after... school daycare...the possibilities were endless. I encouraged her to tell me, but she couldn't bear to utter it. Finally, she whispered the word to me: shut up. Oh, the time of innocence.....
I have to tell another one. Once when I was keeping the two while their mother was out of town, we kept waiting for their father, my son, to get home. My granddaughter was very young, maybe four. She kept going to the door to check to see if he was there. Finally, frustrated beyond endurance, she turned from the door and said, "Damn!" Austen and I sucked all the air out of the room. Austen yelled, "I'm telling Dad. I'm telling Dad. When in doubt, tell Dad." (I was frantically trying to keep my schoolteacher face on.) Dad arrived shortly, and Olivia burst into tears. When Justin finally got her calmed down, he asked her where she had heard the word...he feared it was from him. Choking back sobs, she said, "Grandpa." I fell apart with giggles, and my son breathed a sigh of relief. So, be prepared and good luck. Tell your mother her old Hendrix buddy said, "Hi!"

Linda Miller Wilson

Kritter Krit said...

Rob,

I agree with you (although I did greatly appreciate the giggle, B). Samajay is definitely no dummy. He knew Sophie was about to tell on him for taunting her, so he told her he would be her friend if she didn't and then he hightailed it over to the teacher and told her something HE KNEW Sophie would get in trouble for! Smart little toot! I do kinda want to sucker punch him, Nicole. This first year of school may be a long one...for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Kristy,

Since you asked in my opinon:
You have to do what it takes to set the record straight. This has apparently crushed Sophie's spirit and as her mother it's your job to get everything strightened out. Now, there is no telling what else was going on in the classroom at this time or what the day had been like. I would give the teacher grace for now. Sophie needs to see that the teacher understands that she misunderstood or this could effect Sophie's behavior while this teacher is in the classroom.

Be one of "those parents" for Sophie's sake.

Love you guys,
Carol

Anonymous said...

This does sound totally unfair and I hope you went to school with her today and calmly asked the teacher what the offense was that Sophie was being punished for. Believe me I know unfair treatment, I went to Catholic school all 13 years of my growing up and nuns don’t care about fair but hopefully this teacher will.



Em

Anonymous said...

This doesn't sound fun. I'm pretty sure that the teacher was stressed to react that way. However, it is NEVER okay to punish a kid without hearing their side of it. I would venture a guess that Sophie showed emotional signs of distress when she moved her ribbon to red...why didn't the teacher ask then?

Rachel

Kritter Krit said...

I talked to the teacher this morning. She's pretty young (just out of college - only has taught as a pre-school assistant prior to this) and she admitted feeling kind of overwhelmed right now. We visited about "the incident" and I asked her to please talk to Sophie when she got a minute, to hear her side of what happened. She told me she'd write a note explaining the result of their conversation. Apparently, Sophie relayed the "Red Head" tale (exactly as she'd told me), but when she asked Sophie again, "Did you call Samajay the 'b' word?" Sophie said, "Yes, I said 'lie'...but I didn't know it was a bad 'b' word." (snort!) The teacher apologized to Sophie and told her she shouldn't have made her move her clip to red without hearing her side of the story. She changed yesterday's mark to green on her chart and gave her the (much coveted) blue clip today - for not arguing with her and remaining respectful, despite not knowing why she was being punished.

Man. ...I remember being a long-term sub. Coming into a classroom full of kids who are gripey about their "real teacher" being gone and are all about testing the boundaries with the new kid in town. Those first couple of weeks: Not.fun.

IvoryKeys said...

I'm really glad that everything got straightened out and that there was a follow up with Sophie about the great choice that she made showing respect at a time that many would have not.

Subbing -- the thought makes me shudder. It is not for the faint of heart.

kim said...

so glad this resolved! poor sub and poor sophie!
I wonder what it is this year.. gavin's class is extremely wild as well, with bad language and 5 kindergartners being sent to the office the first week :0
I think the teacher was worried about his special needs and now has realized that is the least of her problems!

Anonymous said...

Actually Cheech, in the long run it will probably be good for both Sophs and the sub. The new sub learned a valuable lesson that hopefully will help her to be a better teacher for the remainder of her time there and beyond. Give her your whole hearted support, pray for her regularly, and just ask her to contact you if there are any problems in the future. We all grow more from our mistakes than our successes. As for my Sophie, I wouldn't worry too much about her psyche. Praise her for being respectful and doing what was right. Character matters (and Sophie is certainly a character). Tell her sometimes adults make mistakes just like kids, but she should still be respectful and always be truthful. Then take her out and let her ride her bike like the wind and maybe go pig out at Chucky Cheese for a bit. By the way, maybe Sophie could help her mother learn to ride a bike again. What do you think?
Love,
Faf

Anonymous said...

Kristy,

Never having experienced the public school system as a parent, I'm a little "fish out of watery" here too. All in all, I feel you are handling it well. A face-to-face with the substitute/teacher might help and a confrontation with her "friend" Samajay might reveal why he lied about the whole thing. Could also be a good lesson on character - even if he is cute. ;)

Connie

PS Hang tough, Mom. You've gotta be her advocate as well as her parent.

Anonymous said...

"for not arguing with her and remaining respectful, despite not knowing why she was being punished."

I am thinking my kids (and maybe myself) could learn a lot from Sophie!!

Am also thinking a sucker punch to Samajay might not be so bad.

*Delta

Anonymous said...

Kristy,

Wow - thank you so much for posting this! I will be graduating in May with an education degree in early childhood and have recently subbed in a first grade and kindergarten class. It is definitely challenging and at times frustrating being the "stand in" teacher. Last week when I subbed in kindergarten, a kid in my class got punched in the eye by a kid from another class - yeah, just a little crazy! :)
But I applaud you for several reasons. What a blessing it is for Sophie to have parents that care enough to talk to the teacher and get both sides of the story. There are so many parents that think their children do no wrong or could care less if their child gets in trouble at school. I think you handled the situation really well. This incident has made me realize how important it is to not make rash decisions in the heat of the moment (something that I KNOW I will be faced with in the future as a teacher). I admire you for showing "Ms. Blank" grace - We all make mistakes...and thank God we do, so we can learn from them! Unfortunately, there is always going to be a Samajay (or maybe several?!) in a class, but YAY for Sophie for being respectful and doing the right thing by telling the truth to her teacher. Obviously, she has been raised right! I pray that Sophie will always have the courage to say and do what's right even when it's hard. :)
-Ashton Herod

aimee said...

Gosh, I'm so glad I didn't get to the original post until the update had been added.

This is such a great example of the importance of parent involvement as you know Sophie, you know her strengths/weaknesses, etc, well enough to explain that she struggles with letter sounds.

I can definitely see why Sophie's admission to using the "b" word would have appeared to validate buttmunch's story. That said, your knowledge as her mom provided a great perspective for how to revisit with Sophie.

Poor Sophie.

I still remember getting in trouble in kindergarten for talking during naptime because of a little boy who always harassed me. It bothers me to this day.

I'm 33. Twenty eight years later and I'm still upset that Mrs. Evans didn't believe me.

Lisa said...

So what happened? I'm itching for an update.

Kritter Krit said...

Hey Lisa,

For the long version, scroll up through the comments and you'll see my updates.

The short version is: Samajay confessed to telling a lie. Sophie misunderstood what the teacher was asking when she asked her if she'd said "the b word". The teacher apologized to Sophie for not hearing her side of the story before having her move her clip.

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