Friday, March 9, 2012

Relieved Reprieve

This week has been so emotionally upsetting that today when the school bell rang and I collected my daughter in one piece, I literally felt like I was going to crash and could sleep for days. I still feel that way, actually. This weekend will provide a much needed distraction from the unfortunate turn of events this week at school. Tonight, we are going with some friends to take the kids Mutton Busting (sheep riding) at the Rodeo Arena. Each Friday night in Marana, you pay $5 and they pad your kid up and turn 'em loose on the sheep. We have never gone before but I am so excited to see them ride tonight. I am just hoping my son actually sacks up and does it and doesn't stand in middle of the arena and cry like he did when we signed him up for football.

Tomorrow, my older daughter and I are going over to one of her friend's house (and thankfully the mother is a good friend of mine as well) for a Bake Party. It should be a lot of fun and nice to spend some one on one time with my daughter after the week she had and to also have some girl time with some friends.

Sunday, my husband is taking our son to see Monster Trucks. Our son has never been and he is soooo excited. I'm really excited for him as well. It'll be nice for him to have some time alone with my husband. I am thinking that while they go to Monster Jams I'll take my oldest to get a manicure and then we'll head down to the Tucson Festival of Books.

If we can get through next week (which will likely be another difficult week given the direction this whole choking incident is going) we'll have a week of peace for Spring Break. The kids really want to go to the Renaissance Festival. My husband has never been and the last time I went was 12 years ago when I first started teaching and I took my high school English students(all 150 + of them) on a field trip there. It's a blast and I think the kids will really enjoy it.

Plus I really think we need a heavy dose of distraction right now. Up until this past week I really loved my daughter's school. It's sad how the mishandling of such a serious event has changed my view about that so drastically. The problem really is the principal and sadly, until she is gone, I don't know how safe I really feel with my kid there. My daughter likes school, although this past week has muted that a bit, mostly because she is scared. She doesn't want to change schools, which I understand. While I can't comment right now about the route we have chosen to take I am hoping that in so doing, the principal will realize this is not something she can sweep under the rug and will have to address. The shit will likely hit the fan next week, but as long as I keep telling myself that my daughter's safety is the issue I think we can all get through this. I worry about retaliation, but ultimately I think we have documented this so well that people would be stupid to do that. I don't think the teachers would treat our daughter any differently. The principal is equally despised among parents and teachers alike. The teachers are likely secretly cheering me on in all of this. Yet still I worry. For now, I will put the worry on hold until Monday and enjoy the weekend with my family, whom I am so thankful for.

What are your weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lesson for the Day: It's Okay to Strangle a Classmate. The Principal Says So.

Something I have really worked hard on over the past couple of years is not making decisions when I am angry. In the past, something would happen to upset me and I'd make a decision while in the thick of things and often come to regret that decision later when the smoke cleared. My hasty decision-making when angry was such a deviation from my normal process. I am very calculated. I think things through, weigh the options, never rush decisions of importance, and basically drive my husband insane trying to talk through every possible scenario.

This struggle of mine, trying not to make decisions when upset, has never been more important than when my daughter started school. I taught for 6 years so when something happens at school I always try to give the teacher and the school in general the benefit of the doubt. I realize, from my own experience, that the perception of events often clouds the reality. With that in mind, anything that seemed iffy I would get clarification from the involved parties before getting upset or making a point of things.

Our daughter had a pretty awesome, uneventful Kindergarten year. She also has had a pretty good 1st grade year as well. There have been some incidents on the playground where she has ended up hurt. We realize that kids are kids and sometimes an inadvertent byproduct of horseplay is injury and we aren't bothered by that. It is part of childhood. However, lately there have been a couple instances of physical violence that go well beyond just kids being kids. We addressed these concerns with the teacher who assured us they were being handled and addressed. We assumed, since it is in the handbook this way, that these instances were being brought to the attention of the administration and not just being handled at a classroom level. We were incorrect in that assumption.

When I picked my daughter up from school on Monday she had red marks around her neck. She came through the gates and told me that a boy had placed his hands around her neck and squeezed. The aide on the playground saw this and apparently wrote him up -- although it hadn't made its way up to the office by the end of the day. Nobody at the school called to notify me of this. I went and found the teacher who tried to dismiss it as two kids playing, getting a little rough, and as a result she ended up hurt. She tried this tact earlier in the year with another incident and basically it took every ounce of self-control not to lose it at that moment. When I get really, really mad I become singularly focused and steely. I don't raise my voice, I don't rant and rave. There is almost this incredible calm that comes over me, which is probably a good thing. We went to the principal who had never even heard of any prior incidents of violence in which our daughter was injured. She was pretty flip and cavalier about the whole thing until I mentioned the number of times there have been outbursts like this. She looked genuinely surprised and I think at that point she was like, "Oh shit, my staff isn't following protocol."

My husband drafted an email expressing his concerns about our daughter's personal safety. The response we got from the principal is flabbergasting. Without even talking to our daughter, a student who has never been in trouble, she took the word of a kid who is on his third school this year and is regularly in trouble when he said it was an accident. Pardon my language but how the fuck is strangling my kid an accident? According to district policy his punishment should have been an automatic short-term suspension. This is his second violation that I know of. He could have more. Instead he received a conference with his mom and principal.

I took her to the doctor yesterday, The boy squeezed so hard she has a contusion on her vocal chords. We submitted this paperwork to the principal who then had the nerve to suggest our daughter did this to herself because the teacher claimed she was squeezing her neck after it happened. She apparently couldn't have possibly been rubbing it because she had just been strangled.

There has been a lot of back and forth since and the only thing the principal has convinced me of is that she is far more concerned with protecting the next Jared Loughner than she is in protecting and ensuring the safety of my daughter.

My initial reaction is to pull her immediately from the school. Logic prevailed for the moment and she returned today. I did, however, fill out open enrollment forms today for next year in case this situation or ones like it aren't resolved to our satisfaction. While I believe this boy needs to be held accountable I believe more strongly that the school does. They are charged with ensuring the safety of my child for 6 hours a day and not only do I question their ability to do this I now question their desire. If, as the principal, she does not mete out a consequence severe enough to deter future outbursts than what impetus does this child have to change? He has just been taught that he can strangle a classmate and get away with it. Great lesson.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Redshirting The Boy

So, I have written about this in the past (I also realize I meant to write NHL, not NFL....duh!). Since writing that post we made a decision, revisited that decision, and then made a different decision of which I now feel was the right decision.

A few months ago we decided we were going to have our son start Kindergarten this August. He'd be young for his grade, but he really wanted to go and academically we felt he would be okay. I didn't feel overly confident in this decision. I don't worry that he'd have any problem in Kindergarten but I did worry that maybe those little gaps of immaturity or those little gaps of being super sensitive will become bigger gaps when he reaches 1st and 2nd grade. At that point it becomes difficult to slow the train down, so to speak. I talked with the teacher who would be his Kinder teacher. She thought he'd be fine to start, but also acknowledged that I know him best and generally speaking holding younger boys back a year is never a bad idea. I talked with mothers, my own included, who sent their young sons off to school and to this day regret it. My brother she sent to school young is now a successful lawyer in Chicago, so it's not like he was not successful, but both she and my brother think things were much harder on him than they had to be and truly believe much of those struggles could have been eliminated had he been given "the gift of a year."

The more people I talked to, the more I really became uncomfortable with our decision. The tipping point was when I called a friend from college. We went through the College of Education together and she taught elementary for a number of years before opening her own pre-school. She gave me a host of reasons why giving the "gift of a year" is a good idea. The two that stuck with me were 1). She is more concerned with where students start emotionally than academically. You can always catch a kid up academically. You can tutor them, etc. You cannot teach or tutor maturity.2). You can only give this gift of a year one time. Once you start them in school there is not really any turning back. Sure, kids can get held back or just press on and struggle. But you only get to truly decide for them ONCE and what is the rush to start them?

Once my husband and I came to realize holding him back a year would likely be best and I verbalized that, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. There was instant relief. It was like I had been holding my breath all this time and I could finally exhale.

So, we are going to do half-day preschool instead to get him used to school and give him an extra year to mature a bit. I realize our decision isn't right for everyone and some people even feel kids shouldn't be held back under any circumstance, but it is what is right for our son in this particular instance and I couldn't feel any better about this decision.