My child came home from school the other day, upset that she had gotten in trouble for something she claimed she hadn’t done. Apparently, she had asked her teacher if she could talk to her friend. The teacher said no and instructed my daughter to sit down. My daughter walked by the friend she had asked to talk to(who was in a direct path to her seat) and was handed a bookmark. My child responded,”Thank you,” to her friend. The teacher, livid that my child had just disobeyed her, immediately reprimanded my child and said,”No recess tomorrow!”. My daughter, feeling she had done nothing wrong responded with,”But Mrs. Teacher, I wasn’t talking…”. Mrs. Teacher took that as “back talk” and exclaimed, “No recess on Friday either!”
Seeing my child’s frustration, I decided to intervene. My child is ten and because she had tried to advocate for herself and failed, she needed me to explain the situation to the teacher. I diplomatically sent the teacher an email summarizing the incident from my daughter’s point of view. I told the teacher that my child was always instructed to follow the classroom rules. I did question whether the punishment, loss of two recesses, was a bit harsh. My child has ADHD and to make her hold her extra energy in tightly wasn’t a good idea for anyone. In the 1970’s, they had a different approach. When we got in trouble, we had to write, “Silence is of the Gods, only monkeys chatter!” about 1000 times, filling up pages of notebook paper front and back. This penance worked wonders to those of us who ended up with temporary arthritic claws. Not having any professional clout, I left this out of the email.
Mrs. Teacher responded by saying the punishment my daughter received was actually lenient as she had considered giving her a detention. In fact, she said that my daughter had a habit of “advocating for herself” quite often and was therefore on a “watch list.” I didn’t know what was more disturbing, a fifth grade “watch list” or the fact my daughter’s name was on it?!! I questioned a few people I know about the incident, some educators, and they all seemed to think Mrs. Teacher had to be on guard with my daughter’s class as there were thirty-one students and at times, they were difficult to control. I was advised to let the teacher know that I trusted her professional judgement and that I would have another discussion with my child about following classroom rules.
I’m glad I contacted the teacher. I would’ve felt I let my daughter down if I hadn’t. One friend asked, “What if your daughter lied to you about what happened?” Fair enough, but why would she have asked to talk in the first place if she was going to deliberately disobey the teacher? Wouldn’t she have just gone up to the friend and taken her chances that way? There were other things that didn’t make sense, but as a rule follower, I decided not to question them. My wish is that I can continue to show my child to be assertive in a respectful manner. It will serve her well to be able to stand up for herself. So, while my child remains on “the list,” I’ll be her bodyguard from afar- shielding her from what I can, but opening her to fire when necessary.