Ok, so when I ended the diatribe about dealing with the bullying teacher, that of course, was not the end to things.
I left a message essentially saying I really did not want to hear her name mentioned again the rest of the year and things got pretty quiet. I checked in with Spawn daily to see how things were going and so far, so good.
About a week later, Spawn tells me their homeroom teacher pulled them aside and said that this particular teacher had mentioned they were going something bad in their class. I asked for a little more clarification, but that was all I was getting. Either way, I saw red. I laid it down that I didn’t want to hear her name again so now she’s enlisting assistance from my kid’s other teachers? Its on.
So I waited to settle down some, and organized a fairly long but impeccable email to the homeroom teacher detailing all the happening thus far and my stance on the whole thing as well as citing past experience with the same school and its attraction to teachers who had a penchant for bullying, and that I would not watch that happen a 2nd time. That I had previously left a voicemail when she did not answer and that I really wanted it to stop or I would involve the principal, so I was making good on that promise. I said that if I heard of her enlisting any more of my kid’s teachers to assist her in further targeting my kid, I would forward the same email to them as well, school board included. I CC’ed the teacher in question as well as the principal on this.
I was done.
Yes, before you ask I even put out some feelers among fellow parents and some creative Google searching to see if I could churn up any dirt. I’m a firm believer in knowing your enemy. Nothing popped.
The next day, the principal herself came out and wanted to schedule a conference. I said it wasn’t necessary as long as it stopped, but she was insistent, so we scheduled a good time for both of us.
I had a week to prep Spawn so they could get mentally prepared at stating their concerns. Spawn does NOT like to deal with any kind of confrontation, so this was incredibly difficult for them to handle. I was also well aware that I was merely the enforcer, not the person involved that had a real tangible knowledge of the situation like Spawn did.
On the given date, we showed up ten minutes early, the principal looked at us like she didn’t have a clue why we were there, and then we spent the next 37 minutes waiting for her to get her shit together and call in the other teachers. She wanted the adults to chat first sans kid. I wouldn’t allow it. I know “divide and conquer” when I see it and this was Spawn’s issue, the last thing that should happen was leave them out of it. Nothing would have pissed me off more if I’d been in my kid’s shoes. I cannot even understand the look of shock/amazement that I didn’t just blindly accept this condition. Is that really a thing?
We got in there and FINALLY got settled in. The principal started off by assuring my kid they were not in trouble, that were all here solely to make things better and she asked Spawn what exactly had been going on. Spawn got to speak first, this I liked. Spawn looked down and very slowly got out the words, took some breathes, but finally managed to give a brief rundown of what had been going on and how they felt about it. I was grateful that no one interrupted as it took a while. I’m not a patient person, but I have long learned that I need to reign that shit in when Spawn is finding their words to make a point they feel is important. I usually spend a lot of time reminding myself that I’d had a lot more years to expand my vocabulary beyond just dirty words in 5 languages on top of my rudimentary english.
When things are at this point, I feel my only real purpose is to make sure no one over-talks my kid and things get hashed out, so I took a bit of a backseat stance at this point and watched the ping pong of discussion get started.
1. Targeting my kid, constantly watching/speaking/criticizing just them for the most mundane of things – CHECK
This ended up a mix of things. Spawn, at least towards me, has a strong issue with self-persecution. Example:
me: “Can you pass me some chips?”
Spawn: “Why are you always criticizing me!?!?!?!?!” *usually some sort of melodramatic clutz exit, or flourish to emphasize*
me:”Whattheeverlivingfuck are you on about?”
I’m only embellishing a little, but as far as I have ever been able to tell I, as the parent, have been the only one subjected to this. Apparently some residue of this has bled over into their dealings with teachers.
From what both of their teachers were telling me, Spawn is a diehard loner and finds corners to hang out and doesn’t interact with their peers at all. The only time they have seen Spawn show any interest in anything is when they are drawing.
At this point I jumped in to say that Spawn has been very detailed in what the kids have been discussing and as long as that centered around drugs, sex and the opposite sex or flashing their various parts to their objects of affection, or who is “going with” who… I fully supported their desire to not have anything to do with their peers. This school was not their main source of friendships anyway.
Of course, like most adults in the education system, they frothed at the mouth for a list of these kids in particular who were discussing this kind of thing. I said I didn’t see any real point, its not like anything had changed in the last several decades in regard to what kids talked about, since it made them feel more mature, no matter how stupid they looked to us. I mentioned that a girl in my kindergarten class got in trouble for french kissing in the library and I was in second grade when one of my classmates explained “cum.”
The gaping mouths and stunned expressions that sat across the table told me they either didn’t have a similar experience or they just didn’t remember it.
It became more clear as they talked they were suspecting a serious behavioral problem. The teacher in question had been asking the homeroom teacher if they had noticed the same. Again, this is when I jumped in and gave them a better view of things. That Spawn indeed was a homebody and loved to draw, was good with computers and we played video games together quite a bit. But what they weren’t seeing, either by chance or choice, is that Spawn has a few close knit group of friends they had known since toddlerhood, they went to camps in the summer with piles of other kids they continued to stay in touch with long after camp was over, Spawn was also giving drawing lessons to three of the kids at the after-school center they attended. Spawn has friends, a social life, and sleepovers just like any other kid. They loved a disgustingly huge volume of music and played the guitar, and I fully encouraged all of this. In general, they were pretty happy… until they got to school. In fact, it was to the point where Spawn was begging me to do online school instead because they are sick of it. This seemed to trouble them quite a lot.
I further clarified that if my kid seemed withdrawn from the people around them, that said more about them than it did about my kid. But if they wanted Spawn to come out of their shell and interact more, backing off was the only course of action. No one likes to be hovered over and they sure don’t like being hyper-analyzed or nitpicked.
2. Trash-talking students to students – MAYBE
I don’t think we dealt with all of the instances mentioned and I do suspect there is a bit more of an issue there, but apparently the one biggest incident of smack-talking the awkward kid was apparently a life lesson after said kid had apparently used a racial remark just before Spawn had arrived. In this, I simply watched as Spawn set the seen and the teacher asked questions like “was it when…?” and ” did I say…?” until they both were thinking about the same time. Spawn was shocked about the racial remark, hadn’t heard it and from the look on their face, but it seemed to change the meaning of the rest of it to something that made sense to them.
3. Past issues of teacher bullying – CHECK
This wasn’t my choice to bring up in any detail, but both teachers and the principal wanted to know more about it. I named the teacher by name, said she retired years too late, and when a kindergarten teacher will tear up a kid’s coloring because it isn’t “true to life,” they have some major issues that make them unqualified to be around children. I also said no teacher should ever cause a kid to cry themselves to sleep at night.
I also shouldn’t have had to sit down a small kid and explain to them that a teacher could not hit, punch or in any way cause harm to them or their parents and if something like that did happen, said teacher could end up in jail. This is the part that actually soothed Spawn and made the rest of the year ok… wtf?
I expanded that because of that experience, Spawn had gotten a real hard and fast lesson that not only can a lot of adults not be trusted, but a good many aren’t concerned about your best interest, that telling a teacher they are wrong is not worth the grief and when it comes to getting in trouble, who cares if you’re innocent, that’s not the concern when they are too busy making a example of you instead.
4. Communicating concerns – MEH
Through the course of this, both teachers seemed to become rather surprised by Spawn’s current and past escapades, interests, actions and goings-on. I am cluing in to how little my kid has let them know about themselves. I am baffled if it is just simple oversight, no real opportunity, or a blatant defense mechanism to keep people at bay. When the principal heard my kid liked to draw, my kid was asked to hand her their notebook chock full of hundreds of sketches. The principal looked on in amazement as they flipped through page by page, apparently some were new to both the teachers as well by the looks on their faces. They were intrigued with Spawn’s interest in music and asked questions about that. Spawn blushed and smiled but responded quite enthusiastically.
I sat there while they finally got to know how interesting a kid they had in their respective classes. They knew my kid scribbled and was really damn smart and little else. Before long, Spawn was even laughing and taking an active part in the discussion since most of the concerns had been vented and addressed, I could see some hesitant relief wash over my kid as things progressed into a more casual tone. I could see the weight that had been there was starting to fall off, at least a bit. It really struck a chord with me when their homeroom teacher made the remark “I have seen you smile more in the past five minutes than I have seen you smile all year.” I was shocked. I looked at the teacher, then looked at spawn. All I could say was “really?!”
How bad have things gotten in the school system for that to be the case? I know school was a miserable nightmare for me, but that didn’t start full on until high school and only a part of middle. Have we still not figured out that kids have to have fun at school first, then casually slip in the educating?
I walked out feeling a bit more relieved myself. They didn’t know my kid at all, and that was a big part of the problem. My kid wouldn’t speak up for themselves, and that was a big part of the problem. But both seemed to care a lot about my kid and wanted them to do well and get engaged, which my kid finally realized too, and that at least, is a hell of a better start than someone who just wants to bash the fragile ego of a kid. I couldn’t have been happier to be wrong.