Friday, June 27, 2014

The Ballad of Kenny

"K" , a bouncy, talkative first grader was pretty sharp in the classroom, but definitely the bounciness and chattiness impeded his learning - and that of others, as well.  He seldom lived off the radar.  It just wasn't his nature.

It just happened to be Ash Wednesday.  My boss came in and informed me that Mr. and Mrs. - "K"'s parents wanted to meet with me.  No problem, though I didn't know what was the issue.  Oh, did I get enlightened.  Apparently at a family "Mardi Gras" party the evening before, "K"s cousin who also lived in that first grade classroom informed all present that "K" had been "taped to his chair' by the teacher.  When cousin Sean dropped that turd in the family punchbowl the proverbial excrement hit the fan.  The parents were livid, they were going to sue etc., etc.  I asked the parents to keep an open mind until we could speak with the teacher and get an explanation.

I went to the classroom, got the class covered, and quietly asked Mrs. F.  "Did you tape "K" to his chair?" Her response, "Why, yes, I did.  That happened quite awhile ago."  I really thought I needed some Depends at that point.  I indicated that we needed to meet with the parents and get some resolution to the matter.

Mrs. F. indicated to the parents that "K" had been exceedingly bouncy and kept getting out of his seat and walking around.  She used the word discipline and the dad went ballistic.  "No one disciplines my child.  That is my responsibility. " And he went on at length about his responsibility as a parent.  The pronouncements were dramatic and loud.  He was going to sue everyone including the Pope. 

I tried my best to get things settled down, but I was never clear on exactly what this "tape" incident was.  As a final gut punch, the mother burst into tears and said, "I'm pregnant.  We lost our last baby.  I can"t handle this.  I'm afraid I'm going to lose this baby."  Talk about throwing gasoline on the fire.  I ended our meeting by stating "I understand your concern.  Please feel free to meet with my boss.  Your child comes first, you need to do whatever you need to do."  They met with the big guy, but nothing ever happened.

Fast forward years later, Mrs. F. and I were discussing that situation.  She said, "I don't know what the big deal was.  I just strung some masking tape from the front of his desk to the back. (The desks were the old fashioned one armed type with the books contained underneath.)  It was loose.  I also made a large square with the tape on the floor surrounding his desk, and told him he could move around in that square.  At no time did any tape touch his body.  He could easily get up and move around!"  For the love of Pete.  That info never came out when we spoke with the parents, but they never gave the teacher a chance to explain.

My take on the whole thing?  Mom and Dad were embarrassed that Sean ratted out "K" at a family party.  There was a strong competition between the two cousins and they liked tattling on each other, but a family party took it into another dimension.  I don't really recall what the parents did, but I believe they removed him from the school.  Well, you win some, and you lose some.  I think that no one "won" this one!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"D"  Part II

Well, no need to say, but I will anyway, "D" walked (swaggered) in the next day.  He owned us big time.  I told everybody to just stand down and we would keep an eye on him.  The next day boded no better.  He started at lunch time with the mouth and belligerent attitude.  So, I told his teacher. A phone call would be made.

I called mom.  I explained what had happened since she and her husband had been in.  I told her that her son was acting like he owned the place.  Mom said, "I will be up at lunch."

True to their word, mom and dad showed up after lunch.  I filled them in on the last day and a half.  I assured them that "D" had been given a lot of rope because of the recent encounter.  They assured me, that they had not given him any power to play the fool.  Mom asked me to call him downstairs, and "Could we have a little private time in your office with him?"

No problem.  "D" came down flashing that wonderful grin, and I swear I heard it fall right off his face and hit the floor when he saw his parents.  They stepped into my office, closed the door, and basically, all hell broke loose.  I could hear the pounding and yelling all the way across the hall.  The sobs were Emmy worthy.  I knew they weren't hitting him, but they were smacking the  crap out of every surface in my office.  At one point, our school secretary, who was a tough New York girl, said "Boss Lady, you have to save him."  I said "When the fish tank comes flying down the hall I will intervene."

The cacaphony lasted about 3 or 4 minutes, and they walked out of my office.  Mom and Dad assuring me I would never have to call them again, and "D" was snotting, sobbing, and chuffing out an apology.  They did not lay a hand on him, but scared him within an inch of his teen years!  I never did have to call them again.  "D" didn't become a model student, but he came close.  Ironically, at the end of the year, they were moving out of the city.  Mom (the tough, scary, one) cried and said "I so wish he could stay here, I love this school!"

I think about that great smile.  I hope he put it to good use.  He was a neat kid.
"D" Part  I

Deonte was a skinny, bouncy eleven year old with that urban swagger only urban eleven year olds can have.  His mom assured me he was a good kid, somewhat misunderstood, would be an asset to our sixth grade, and even though this was his third school, there would be no problems.

Mom was a scary lady with very menacing eyes, and she had a tough demeanor.  I had a school full of great kids, so why not another?

So the year started out pretty unspectacular with "D".  Oh, did I mention that he had a million dollar smile?  The kid's infectious grin stole my heart.

Fast forward after Christmas: "D"'s teacher came to me stating that "D" was getting out of hand:  Talking out, talking back, and generally developing a disruptive attitude in the classroom.  After lunch that day, "D" came down to the office saying he had a bad migraine.  We called mom, she came in and said "I'll call his doctor."  Everything was hunky dory.  (Yeah right!)

After dismissal I was chatting in the office with teachers while we waited for the stragglers to get picked up.  A loud voice came roaring down the hall "Who the f*** put their hands on my kid?  i want to see them right now. "  I don't think the statement registered the first time, but the roar kept getting closer to the office with the "f" bomb leading the way.

I ran out into the hall and said "Ma'am, you can't talk like that.  There are children all over the place."  She replied with more "f's" and who dared to lay a hand on her child.  A small voice came from behind me "Ma'am, I put my hands on your child."  I nearly fainted.  The Music teacher, Mr. F.  had spoken those words.

I felt a lot like a border collie trying to herd the confrontation into my postage stamp sized office.  The mother, the child, the teacher, and I crowded into the cramped space with mom yelling the entire time.  Finally, it quieted, and I asked the teacher to explain.  It seems "D" decided to enter the building backwards with half the school walking the right way behind him.  Mr. F. said he told him numerous times to face the right way and "D" ignored him.  "So", Mr. F. said, "I put my hands on his shoulders like this (and he demonstrated with pinkies out) and I gently turned him around.  Mom started roaring again, she was going to press charges, her husband was on his way...........

The school psych, a soft spoken gentleman, walked (squeezed) in and introduced himself.  "I'm Mr. J.  the school psychologist.  How can I help?"  Mom looked like someone hit her.  She kept smacking and rubbing her forehead, then said, "I can't stand this. I have to leave."

Dad showed up about a half an hour later.  He was much calmer, sat down with the teacher and me and listened to what had occurred.  Though dad was reasonable he made his wishes very clear, "My son is not to be touched by anyone."  I said that was noted, but this was a safety issue, not a punitive one.  We did not use any kind of corporal punishment in our school.  I asked dad what he wanted us to do when "D" became uncooperative.  He said, "I don't care how many times you calll me.  I will be up here and I will deal with him."

My directive to the teachers followed his request.

(See Part 2)