Author Topic: School and conformity  (Read 15374 times)

Timebandit

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School and conformity
« on: November 17, 2006, 11:36:10 PM »
We've been having quite a couple of weeks here in Banditland.

Ms B has a new teacher this year.  We'd had great teachers over the last 4 years, and the last one was especially good -- she taught Ms B's class for two years, and we had a pretty good time of it.  The new teacher is, well, not a stellar sort, more into tidy than creative.  I still thought things would be okay, though, as B seemed to be getting along all right.  There were a couple of things B did in the first month that she overreacted to slightly (a small, undirected raspberry over the idea of having to do homework got her sent to the office, for eg.), and we've just explained that some people are like that and you've got to learn to roll with it.

And then a couple of weeks ago, I arrived to find B sitting outside the office.  The teacher told me she had been given an "in-school suspension" for throwing "math counters" from the activity table at a classmate, so it was a safety issue and she had to be removed from the class.  Since shortly after lunch.  So my kid had been sitting for two hours, out of class, with nothing to work on.

This does not sound like my kid.  She's sometimes impulsive, stubborn, she doesn't always think things through, often silly and a little over-the-top, but she's not physically or verbally agressive.  I've never witnessed her saying or doing something spiteful unless seriously pushed.

On the way home, Ms B explained that the other kid had been taunting her all day, calling names, swearing, stepping on the backs of her shoes, pushing her, etc.  The petty bullying kids will do to one another.  She asked him to stop, tried what they taught her in the anti-bullying program, even calling the teacher's attention to it, all to no avail.  She finally got mad enough she threw "math counters" at him -- "math counters" turned out to be plastic pop-bottle caps.  Some safety issue.

So the blond guy took her to school the next morning and attempted to talk to the teacher.  She told him she didn't have time that day, but the next day, at 3:30, she'd meet with us.  Over the course of the day, Ms B tried to ignore the other kid, who continued to ride her, eventually eliciting a response from her and then shoving her.  B got reprimanded for a verbal response to being called a name -- "I know you are but what am I?" -- and was told SHE was bullying the other kid.  

That's it.  Gloves off.  

The next day we met with teacher and vice-principal.  Teacher is fake-cheery, but her hands are shaking.  She didn't expect to face both of us.  I explained that my girl is being bullied, and that I have a serious problem with my kid being essentially put in a time out for two hours, not allowed recess...  Oh, but it was the principal's decision.  B curled up in a ball and wouldn't talk to her.  We'll have to talk to the principal next week (this was a Friday).  Details of the bullying taken down at least, but I was not happy about this.  Oh, and my daughter should change her behaviour -- she does things that are "odd".  She pretends to be a dog, for example, and was on all fours in the hallway on the way in from recess the other day.  She takes paper out of the recycling bin, cuts it into shapes and plays with them.  This might cause other kids to pick on her.  We politely informed the teacher that this is called "creative play", and while it might be unusual, we encourage it.  She's only 9 years old, for pete's sake -- if she's still doing it in grade 8, I'll worry then.

And to Monday.  We sit down with principal.  It WASN'T an in-school suspension, oh my goodness no.  She was sent to the office and wouldn't communicate with the principal, curled up in a ball and wouldn't speak, so the principal told her to stay there until she was ready to talk about it, then went off to teach a class and forgot to check on her.  And the teacher?  Oh, it wasn't her fault.  All a misunderstanding, they just forgot she was there.

Yeah, right.  At a table directly between office and staff room, where both principal and teacher had to pass at recess time, and only 20 feet from her classroom door, in plain view.  Yeah, we could see how they'd totally forget she was there.

We made our displeasure with this line of reasoning clear, and suggested rather strongly that if my child is ever COWERING IN A BALL AND WON'T SPEAK, that perhaps, PERHAPS they could pick up the damned phone and call us.  Like, actually communicate with us.

What it really comes down to is that the teacher fucked up big.  She doesn't like Ms B.  Ms B is an inconvenient child.  She's very bright, creative and gregarious, and to some teachers this translates to untidy, noisy and problematic because she'll question things that are arbitrary -- I've taught her to do that, and I'm proud of her.  Teacher took it out on Ms B when there was a conflict, and the principal followed suit.  Now the educators have circled the wagons and are watching each others' backs.

I did point out to the principal that I thought the genesis of the problem was a personality conflict between Ms B and her teacher, which she assured me she was convinced was not the case.  Nevertheless, it's been stated, and if they do anything even remotely like this to my kid again, I will be seriously nailing some people to the wall.  Hopefully we've scared them into tolerating our girl -- but damn, it's hard to imagine anybody actually disliking my kiddo.  She's not perfect, but she's bright and sweet and funny about 90% of the time.  A good kid, for the most part.

Assholes in authority.  They could have at least given her a decade before she had to deal with that. :cry:
Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

kuri

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School and conformity
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2006, 12:01:48 AM »
Call the superintendent. They almost always wimp out when contacted with angry parents, and it should put some fear into the principal and teacher, anyway.

Timebandit

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School and conformity
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2006, 12:23:48 AM »
Well, we saw some immediate effort.  Believe me, if I see a hint of it again, that's the route we'll take.  But first, I wanted to make sure I'd made a note of the suspected personality conflict to the teacher's immediate supervisor.  And I've written all the details of the interactions, dated them, etc.  

Teacher's been sucking up to me, too, making sure I know that B's in an enriched reading program because she's advanced in that area, what good math marks she's getting, etc...  What she doesn't seem to understand is that once you've done something nasty to my girl, no amount of sucking up is ever going to make me think you're on our side.

Especially not after the addle-pated turnaround on the suspension/not a suspension business.  They put her in suspension, all right, but realized that it wasn't warranted because the teacher punished without actually investigating the crime, and we didn't bow to their authority to do so.
Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

skdadl

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Re: School and conformity
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2006, 06:56:38 AM »
Quote from: Timebandit
if my child is ever COWERING IN A BALL AND WON'T SPEAK, that perhaps, PERHAPS they could pick up the damned phone and call us.  Like, actually communicate with us.



Like, yeah, eh?  :shock:

That would have sent me ballistic. The poor little kid. And they don't think that that is behaviour that needs immediate caring attention? A child does that, and they think the solution is to isolate and abandon her?

Ooh, I would be furious.

Debra

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School and conformity
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2006, 07:53:28 AM »
I feel your anger and pain.

And boy do they ever circle the wagons.
“Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” —  Josephine Hart

vmichel

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School and conformity
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2006, 12:50:24 PM »
I would be angry too, Timebandit. It sounds like your daughter is having a rough time. I can't believe they would leave her cowering in a ball, afraid to speak, and that the principal admitted she forgot about her. That's horrible.

This is just a thought, but you might want to observe class someday if you can. The teacher won't like it, but she should let you. You could get some hard facts about how the teacher manages her class, which might be helpful if you ever do need to complain. And you could get a sense of the social dynamic in there, and what changes might be made to help your daughter. For instance, if her interactions with this particular boy are such a problem I wonder why they would not separate the two and move your daughter closer to some friendly peers.

anne cameron

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School and conformity
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2006, 01:19:56 PM »
My daughter-in-law's oldest boy was nine before I met him, but even so I consider him my grandson.  He's tall, gorgeous, and has an orange mohawk.  He's status first nations, on the honour roll, and is mostly a smiling charmer.  He has a cousin who is shorter, has black short-cut hair and isn't anywhere near as charming.  And last week Charlie, my grandson, "blew up" because a teacher consistantly called him by his cousin's name.  We don't have a large school, I'm not sure how many kids we have, maybe forty all together from K-12, and probably only a dozen in the senior grades.  It's not as if there are so many kids nobody can learn their names!  Charlie blew up.  He walked in the house looking as if he expected the sky to get pulled down around his ears, and he told my son he'd "lost it" , and why.

Total family support.  They DON'T all look alike.  The frikken mohawk alone should have been a clue.

It annoys me but doesn't surprise me when people sometimes get mixed up between Joan, who is five-going-on-six and Emily, who is four-going-on-five, they're the same height, and usually glue'd at the hip.  But do people not look at faces?  If you look at their faces you wouldn't even think they were related; except, of course, for those people who think they all look alike.

I've had too many years of dealing with teachers and the school system to have retained much in the way of respect for the system or some of the dweebs who are employed in it.

A kid who curls in a ball and doesn't speak isn't being deliberately obnoxious, or defiant, and a teacher who leaves a kid sitting isolated on a chair for a couple of hours is just a fuckin' sadistic bitch and should be given the boot before she has time to do some real damage to a fragile little person.

I'd write the school board and let them know of the incident, tell them you aren't going to take it any further NOW but if there is any repeat of such obvious bullying the stops are out and it's "up against the wall" time.

God, if that had been my Joanie I'd have still be in orbit!  And all the angels in heaven wouldn't protect them if it had been my Emily, she's the pick of the litter as far as I'm concerned and yeah, she's an eccentric little soul but ... you must still be absolutely shaking with the injustice.  I guess not all schoolyard bullies grow out of it, they just go on to be teachers.

Summer

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School and conformity
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2006, 06:28:42 PM »
Timebandit - that's rough to go through.  I don't have children yet, but I do remember my younger brother had a awful teacher when he was 9 or 10.  My brother was very smart, and we was in a split class with a younger grade.  The teacher was probably having a hard time teaching two different grades but he really should have made sure the older kids had enough challenging work to do...Instead my brother would get bored and act out.  So then my brother would get detention and sent to the office.

My parents did a lot of the same things you are doing I think.  Meetings with the teacher and the principal; meetings with my brother and the teacher.  It was really hard on my brother and he gained a reputation as being one of the bad kids.  I think that reputation stayed with him all the way to high school and he had a hard time shaking it.  

My parents look at that year as one where they screwed up.  They wish they had insisted that the teacher give my brother age appropriate work that challenged him and they say they think it would have been better to pull my brother out of the class.  I think they are too hard on themselves,  but you never know.  

It sounds like you are doing the right things.  Don't let anyone make you feel like you are out of line and keep on the principal and the teacher.  If there's another class that Ms. B could be in talk to her and see what she thinks of that option.  

I think 9 year olds have a pretty clear idea of what they want, so take your cues from your daughter.
Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one is watching

Timebandit

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School and conformity
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2006, 12:15:31 AM »
The larger worry for me is that Ms B really loves school.  I wasn't much older than her when I had a psychologically and physically abusive teacher who took a dislike to me for much the same reasons B's teacher doesn't like her.  She totally killed the positive side of school for me from grade 5 right through high school.  I missed out on a lot of things because I just withdrew into myself, had a lot of problems trusting any teacher ever again.  I don't want that to happen to B.  

I think the best way is to at least appear to be handling things in the most constructive way possible, even though I'd like to go in there with my kung fu staff and scare the bejeezus out of the pair of them. :twisted:
Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

deBeauxOs

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School and conformity
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2006, 02:11:23 AM »
Quote from: Timebandit
... I wasn't much older than her when I had a psychologically and physically abusive teacher who took a dislike to me for much the same reasons B's teacher doesn't like her.  ... I think the best way is to at least appear to be handling things in the most constructive way possible ...
This situation pushes a lot of buttons for you because of your own experiences, and the ways that you and your daughter are alike.  However.  You are a tigress defending your young'un but there are also some nasty old wounds that are being poked here.  So, try to keep the two occurences separate.  

The wonderful thing about children at this point in their cognitive development is that they are mature, rational and wise.  Remember how you would have liked your parents to handle the situation ... and ask Ms B how she would like to see her situation resolved.  Share with her what happened to you and discuss how this situation is different.  Then the two of you can strategize to get the best outcome for Ms B and her budding creative spirit.

 :)

brebis noire

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School and conformity
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2006, 06:33:22 AM »
god, what a difference a year and a teacher can make, eh? Little B is very lucky to have parents like you guys.  :) Strangely, not all parents are able to be 100% behind their own kid and still remain reasonable and smart about helping them deal with school. I say that because in all likelihood, there are or were other kids this teacher is not treating properly, but the school has managed to either appease the parents, or it just hasn't come to light because some parents don't know how to act on behalf of their kid.

In my kids' really small school, there is one teacher that my son had last year, who as it turns out, has a 'reputation'. My kid had her last year - the Year of the Stomachache. At the time, I wasn't aware of her reputation (and I was on the PTA thingy!) - it's something that the school tries to keep on the QT because the teacher is of course protected by the union (and I have nothing against that in principle - everybody needs protection). But I only learned this year that, for instance, there is an entire family in the village (3 kids) who after one year with her, sent all their kids to a school in another town. The teacher is basically unable to foster any kind of complicity with her class (which shouldn't be too hard, as she only has about 15-18 kids from one year to another, and has a full-time teachers' aide for the tough cases) and the classroom atmosphere is far from convivial - some years worse than others. And of course, she treats some kids as 'problems' whereas they have only been normally difficult or just high-energy with other teachers.

Anyways, this year is a thousand times better with his new teacher. I had to exert extra effort to make sure my kid was placed in the mixed 3-4 rather than 2-3 group, because he might well have ended up with her again. I threatened to change schools, to use the option of sending my kid to an English school, which I really did not want to do. But I would've done it, because she was ruining my kid's life...

But school and conformity, yikes, that's for sure. I've been puzzling over this since he entered kindergarten; at least it's helped me develop a small measure of sympathy for parents who homeschool.

kuri

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School and conformity
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2006, 11:58:49 AM »
Quote from: brebis noire
Strangely, not all parents are able to be 100% behind their own kid and still remain reasonable and smart about helping them deal with school.


OTOH, there are also a fair number of "my child's never wrong" type parents who oppose any and all type of discipline, and generally don't use any discipline at home either. Unfortunately, these parents might put a fair number of teachers on the defensive when they shouldn't be.

brebis noire

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School and conformity
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2006, 12:05:14 PM »
yes, of course these parents exist, though I haven't yet met one in person.  :wink: But I don't think they are reasonable or smart about helping their kids.

vmichel

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School and conformity
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2006, 12:14:10 PM »
Quote from: kuri
Quote from: brebis noire
Strangely, not all parents are able to be 100% behind their own kid and still remain reasonable and smart about helping them deal with school.

OTOH, there are also a fair number of "my child's never wrong" type parents who oppose any and all type of discipline, and generally don't use any discipline at home either. Unfortunately, these parents might put a fair number of teachers on the defensive when they shouldn't be.


And in the US at least, there is also a tremendous fear of litigation that causes many teachers to keep problems quiet for as long as possible. Generally I think Timebandit hit the nail on the head, and the best approach is to handle problems quickly before they become intractable. The teacher should accept some responsibility for the problem and invite the parent to work constructively with her towards a solution.

The teacher has a lot to lose from such an approach, however. Admissions of fault end up in court, and the teacher ends up out of a job because she is trouble for the school. The courts cut through a lot of union protections.

In many school environments, I can see being reluctant to bring minor problems to the attention of parents for fear of meeting a parent with the above attitude who isn't afraid to sue.

All of that is terrible, and I am not defending teachers who prioritize job protection over doing right by their students, but it is a real concern.

brebis noire

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School and conformity
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2006, 12:30:20 PM »
I don't think the culture of litigation is anywhere near what it is in the States. I don't know as much about where Timebandit lives, but in most places it's not that much of a consideration. Teachers may fear being called into account with some kind of a disciplinary committee, but direct litigation only happens in very, very serious cases of negligence and damage.

But for sure, there is generalised attitude of 'never say sorry and never admit you're wrong.' It's a practical attitude in life and in politics - we see it all the time. Hard to work around it though, because when a teacher is clearly at fault and won't budge, the onus almost always falls on the child to change his or her behaviour, or to adapt. In my kids' school, for example, we just had to suck it up and adapt, there wasn't much else we could do. In contrast, the teacher my kid had in grade 1 was "une vraie perle." All the kids loved her, she built up a real climate of learning and discovery, a calm and quiet classroom in contrast to the constant yelling in the grade 2 class - but after she took maternity leave, she didn't want to come back to the school because she had too many conflicts with the grade 2 teacher, and because she had less seniority, she was always in a weaker and more vulnerable position. She decided she didn't need that kind of stress in her life, and our little school lost a great teacher at the expense of a bully.

Some people just know how to work the system. As parents, we have to help our kids through that same system, and it's not always cut and dried.

ETA: I don't want to give the impression that I'm unsympathetic to the various pressures teachers are under - both my SO and my brother are teachers. But the pressures they face from parents and kids tend to pale against the ones that come from colleagues, department heads and principals. In 15 years of teaching, my SO has dealt with only one very nasty parent, a very few difficult kids,  but a lengthy list of difficult colleagues.

 

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