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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Okay. What Would You Do?

So what would you do? I collected my 2nd grader from school yesterday. She was her usual cheerful self, happy to be picked up instead of riding the bus, and happy to see her big sister there to meet her. We were all looking forward to our Tuesday routine of treats at the Perfect Blend Cafe before going onto my 6th grader's piano lesson. On the way from the door of the school to the car she told me that earlier that day, when she went into the hall to collect some artwork off of a bulletin board, she was standing to the side when another class came through the hall. She was the only one in the hall, she said, and maybe she was too far to the middle. The teacher of this other class, another 2nd grade teacher, picked her up and "shoved" her aside, saying, "You were in the way."

"She picked you up?" I said. "Well, just this much," she said and showed me an inch between thumb and forefinger. She didn't seem upset, rather matter-of-fact. But she did bring it up right away after seeing me.
"Did she ask you to move?"
"No. At least I didn't hear her."
"Was she maybe joking?"
"I don't think so. Everyone knows Mrs.X is the meanest 2nd grade teacher."

So I thought about this until evening, discussed it with the husband, and decided I had better notify the principal. I sent her an email asking for a phone call the next day.

 I've just hung up with the principal. She was pretty appalled to hear this story, and said whatever the reason, the teacher shouldn't have touched my daughter. Apologized, thanked me, asked me to please let her know if anything else happens, etc, etc.  All very responsible. I hung up.

Immediately I felt terrible. I needed to stand up for my daughter, who while not reduced to anything near tears, was enough bothered by this incident to report it to me even before petting the dog or asking for a snack. But also I'm a teacher, or I was a teacher, and I am trying to return to teaching now. How many times have I casually touched a child's shoulder? Granted, I would never lift up a child, but a casual pat?  I think what this Mrs. X did was out of line, for sure, but what is going to happen to her? Did she mean it in jest, a friendly recognition of another second grader from a different class? Was I just a big old tattle-tale, or did I do the right thing to call the principal? Did I just phone in some sort of spurious complaint, or have I provided the final example needed to boot out a tenured teacher who has been racking up complaints for years? Either way, I feel cruddy.


  1. You did the grown-up thing Hope! You were reporting something troubling without being mean or gossippy. And being a power of example to your daughter. Although I can identify with the feeling cruddy though - sometimes doing the right thing can bring with it a psychological back-lash!

  2. Tough call, Ms HAP. From the child's story it sounds ugly, but "picking up" and "shoving" don't go together perfectly in my mind, and I wonder what the teacher's version of the event would be. The "You were in the way" quote is damning, though, as it seems to betray an awareness of questionable prior action...

    I'm sure that any school principal today is used to far more trivial parental emails, but if the teacher really is enough of a jerk to shove first and explain later, then someone should probably say something. If I ran the zoo, however, I might prefer to hear it straight from the affected party. If the child felt wronged enough to stand before me and nervously tell the story, I would be far more inclined to act upon it than if the story came to me through the safety and filter of a third party. The lesson then might be one of direct action and accountability, rather than that of letting someone else get fired up enough to fight battles for you that you may or may not have fought yourself. But then again, these are just the thoughts and opinions of a childless old man, far removed from such matters. - TAL

    - TAL