Sunday, August 29, 2010

what a week

i think it has taken me an entire week to sit down to write about the first week for a couple of reasons.
1. it was even more emotional than i had anticipated.
2. it made me second-guess my entire parenting style more than once.
3. i want to simultaneously grab my family and run far, far away from this and completely immerse us in it.

and by "this", i mean "mainstream american public school experience".

josh keeps insisting that it isn't the fact that it is public, but i disagree. if we had enough income to choose a progressive school that agreed with our more progressive parenting style, then the philosophy of the school administration would be different, because they wouldn't have to be administrating to accommodate students with unconcerned parents.

so now it is time to encapsulate why these issues are even on my mind...

meet the teacher on friday was rocky, with vincent feeling a bit shy and anxious, and dealing with that by taking off down the hallway of the school with josh in hot pursuit. mrs. crump was not terribly reassuring, but once vincent calmed down he seemed to feel comfortable with her, even taken with her. 
monday, he was fine.
tuesday, after packing all day and leaving home to pick him up in a faded black dickies skirt, flip flops, no makeup and my hair tossed into a bun with a hairband on, because my roots were horrible and i was a sweaty, tired mess. luckily i stopped on my way out the door to at least splash some water on my face and brush my teeth, since the principal, mrs. easter, called me on my way to school to tell me that vincent had a "difficult" afternoon. apparently the kindergarten assistant teacher saw vincent push a boy down three times in a row. that boy, understandably, apparently grabbed vincent's ankle and pulled him down to the ground. when he and the other boys \were taken to the office and asked to say, "i will keep my hands and feet to myself", vincent was the only boy who refused. he was then given "thinking time" which i guess is their version of a time out or whatever, and he seemed to calm down and mrs. crump came to take him back to class. in their version, he started talking about being hurt too, and got upset again, and ran.
ran. out of the office and out the front door towards the street. they blame him for this, i blame them. he told them he was trying to go home, even though we don't actually live in the house up the street yet, he knows he will be living there soon. he told me later that he was trying to see if my car was outside. both answers tell me he felt scared, and as josh said, needed some nurturing that he was not getting there. so he tried to run for it.
when we all (principal, assistant principal, and teacher) sat down after school, the tone of the meeting was really negative. it felt shaming and stressful, and i couldn't help but think as i was sitting there that is was only the second day that my child has spent seven hours with strangers in his whole life, and acting as though he has "behavioral issues", yes, they used those words, was more than a bit premature, presumptuous, and worst of all, dehumanizing to my little boy, who is not prone to aggressive behavior (he is prone to run away when he feels scared, though). the giveaway to me was when mrs. crump was asking vincent if he knew how he had hurt the boy that he pushed down (unnecessary! did she think he didn't know that shoving a boy to the ground was not acceptable?) and vincent said, "i got hurt too!" and she said, "no you didn't"...what?!?! that is where i shut down, friends.
after much emotion and stressing out that night, i went and got my damn hair color done so that i didn't feel like such a slouch. priorities, check.
josh and i discussed it at length, and i got a lot of amazing feedback from my virtual village. we decided to go in the very next morning to talk to the principal again, which was productive. we were able to let her know that we will not be accepting or signing any kind of behavioral plans, which she stated was never the suggestion, although she specifically said that yesterday...i guess we misunderstood each other. we also made it clear that we were not okay with mrs. crump's "no you didn't" response to vincent stating his feelings. she stated that she would "chat" with her about that. not so sure that will happen.
the rest of the week went by without incident. we went to the ice cream social and we went to the curriculum meeting after that. the curriculum is way below vincent's abilities, but they assure us that he will be accommodated. the list of words he should be able to read by the end of the year, well, i think that mrs. mess could read them. but i will be keeping a close eye on that. i have my own personal issues with gifted and talented issues, but that is my next blog post.
it absolutely, to me, is a public school issue. i think if i had enrolled him in a private montessori, or the progressive charter that my friend heather has her son in, or the center for living ethics where my friend kat has her kids, that the powers that be would have handled the playground incident differently. less fault-finding, less authoritarian, less...cookie-cutter.
but, we aren't in any of those places. and vincent is way too into super heroes and that is what they were doing out there, they were playing batman and somehow the boy that vincent was shoving had been assigned the role of the villain. oh, did i mention he is "special needs"? he is, not visually apparently, but he "can get hurt more easily than other boys". vincent of course had no way of knowing that, even though mrs. crump was sort of acting like vincent pulled the boy out of a wheelchair and threw him to the ground.
so we are limiting super hero games and shows to the weekends. we are limiting computer time to 30 minutes a day during the week. we are going to get moved and settled soon and all of this will be less stressful then.



  1. *hugs* You were awesome this week, SuperMom. :)
    I love you and think you're doing a great job! Vincent is lucky to have you!

  2. Vinnie is very lucky to have you. Not enough parents would advocate for their kids like this. You are doing a great job! We love you too!

  3. Hugs. This is so beautifully written, I nearly started crying right here at the computer.

    My son also struggles with the social skills / intensity / "gifted" thing. (Which I've written about here and all over my personal blog.)

    He had a pretty good year in kindergarten, mostly because we were lucky enough to get into an exceptionally good "alternative" public school through the district's lottery system. But even with an amazingly empathetic, effective teacher who set a tone for acceptance among his classmates, it was still a big challenge for him. And me.

    There have been tremendous benefits, too. He's been exposed to things that I probably wouldn't have tried myself, like theater, which he apparently *loves*. Even the stupid standardized tests they have to take were somewhat illuminating. He's made some good friends, and he's learned some good skills for handling himself in conflicts. Overall I'd say I'm glad he's in public school.

    But it's an ongoing process. That's the most important thing I've come to accept. I'm still learning how I can best advocate for him, I'm still learning how to navigate the system. And I'm still, constantly, coming to terms with the fact that my loud, anxious little guy keeps throwing my quiet, anxious little self into the spotlight. It's a process.

    Just keep doing what you're doing, expect that there will be challenges along the way, and stay strong. Vincent is so lucky to have you.