I want to thank all of you who reached out to me via email, Twitter, Facebook, and this blog with your words of advice in response to my previous post—I was humbled by the response. The overwhelming consensus was that something needed to be done—something I knew and yet wasn’t certain of how to proceed. So, in the end, in my non-confrontational way, I decided to send an email directly to the principal explaining the situation. Here is what I wrote:
I wanted to talk with you about a concern we have been having recently regarding lunchtime. Last week, I received a call from the school nurse telling me that my son had come to see her during recess. He had been complaining of a cough, but she soon discovered that he was actually trying to hold back tears. He told her that he had gotten in trouble during lunch and was told to sit on the stage. He was devastated, and deeply embarrassed—he didn’t want to “face his teacher or friends.” The nurse reassured him, and was able to return him to class a short time later. My daughter also came home from school that day in tears as she told me how she had witnessed her brother getting in trouble during lunch. As you probably know, both of my children are very respectful, and follow rules to the extreme. They are also deeply sensitive and care (sometimes too much) about what others think of them. That day at lunch, my son had brought a football to school to use during recess. He accidentally dropped the ball on the floor, and when he went to pick it up, he was yelled at by one of the lunch volunteers. When he was sitting on the stage, he started to cry, so my daughter went to check on him (she was volunteering for lunch-bunch that day), she too was yelled at and told “get away from him.”
Yesterday, my son came home and told me that he “hated school”—words I have never before heard said by either of my children. He loves school, he loves to learn, and he loves his friends, and after he admitted to those things, he told me that he was just so nervous about going to lunch he couldn’t think about anything else. He also told me that he no longer talks during lunch, as is too afraid he is going to get punished.
I understand that lunch-time must be a period of heightened stress for teachers and volunteers, as kids have a tendency to act up when they are all together. I have no issue with discipline when needed, however I do have an issue with an adult yelling at any child—not just my own. I also think that it would be incredibly helpful—not just to my son, but to all of the younger children—to have a meeting to go over lunch-room rules. Since my son is only in 1st grade, he learns from the older kids and is honestly confused as to how to behave. This is one of the main reasons he is so anxious about going to school now. He is afraid that he will do something wrong, and not even realize it (he was also told to sit on the stage by the same volunteer when he went to the bathroom during lunch without asking—something he sees many of the children doing, but didn’t realize it was actually a rule to ask). In addition to talking with the children, I think it would be necessary if those who are there during lunch would also participate so that the kids can ask questions about what to do—and what not to do—and everyone can be on the same page.
I wrestled with saying something to you about this, but in the end, I decided that I needed to be my son’s advocate, and I hope that my words are more beneficial than critical.
I received a response a short time later, asking me to come in to speak with him. Maybe it’s my years at Catholic school, but I still get a bit anxious when being asked to come to the principal’s office. So, when I arrived a few hours later, I was relieved by his initial words: I want to tell how impressed I am with your son. He went on to explain that he had met with him earlier in the day, and talked with him about what had happened. He told me of their conversation, how he had proposed a similar solution to my son regarding the explanation of the rules—not just for him but for all the younger students. The principal said that my son expressed himself extremely well for someone so young, and he was especially struck by what my son told him at the end of their discussion: “I’m so glad you are doing something about this.”
The most important thing I took away from this whole experience is that I was able to show my son—through my actions and not just my words—how to stand up for yourself—and or for others. The fact that the principal wanted to hear my son’s point of view, showed him the importance of speaking up. I also learned that this blog is more than a place for me to capture my words of advice for my daughter, it is a place for me to voice my concerns, worries, fears, and hopes for my children—and to receive incredible words of advice back from you. Thank you!