Here's a thought: How I handled a teacher issue

By Bettie Bradley on July 23, 2013
I remember thinking that I had covered all the bases to make my young son’s first school experience wonderful. This included (with no apology) trying to manipulate the system to give my little guy an advantage. Such as:
  • Sucking up to the teacher, hoping my kid would get preferential treatment. Why not? It was worth a shot.
  • Keeping my fingers crossed that the toilet training wouldn’t regress.
  • Handling the crying and the notcrying. It broke my heart to leave him upset and crying that fi rst day. It also broke my heart when, on the second day, he couldn’t have cared less whether I stayed or left.
  • Volunteering. Let’s be clear – that’s all part of the sucking up, but it has a payoff for both kids and teachers. It demonstrates to them that you will be an involved and available parent.
  • Establishing new, rigid morning routines to jump-start each day. “No! You can’t wear those summer shorts. And if you won’t fi nish your breakfast, you’ll have to go to school hungry.”
  • Enjoying bragging rights. “My kid can tie his own laces and knows his address and phone number. He’s way ahead of the other kids.”

So, all was in place to ensure a healthy, happy school experience. What could possibly go wrong?

A teacher's mistake

Months later, I had driven to school to collect my little guy, but he was nowhere to be seen. All the kids were quickly disappearing from the schoolyard and it was soon empty.

I was a bit anxious but also annoyed. He had obviously decided to be a big guy and walk home. I followed the home route, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Heart hammering, I returned to the school. It was winter and already dark, with school lights being turned off. I went to the classroom, which was in darkness. On to the teacher’s lounge where I was told his teacher had left for the day.

Something drove me back to the schoolroom. I opened the door, peered into the darkness and said, “Johnnie?”

A frightened little voice said “Mommy?” and burst into tears. “My teacher says I have to stop talking and sit in the corner until she says I can go back.”

To react or over-react?

What happened next would set the tone for the rest of that school year.

My husband wanted to go to the principal and raise a huge hullabaloo. My instincts said that Johnnie would pay dearly if we played the blame-game.

“Listen,” I said to him, “she’s a nice woman and didn’t do it on purpose. It was a mistake. She needs to know what happened but let’s reassure her that there will be no consequences.”

My husband found that less than satisfactory – he wanted justice! – but finally calmed down and conceded.

The big winner was Johnnie. Just imagine the special attention he got from his teacher for the rest of the term. It put my earlier teacher sucking-up in the shade!

It finally became a win-win for all of us because, at year’s end, my four-year-old told us that he really, really loved his teacher and could he give her a present.

Who could have guessed that such an unhappy incident could have such a happy outcome!

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/Septemer 2013.

By Bettie Bradley| July 23, 2013

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