Do Kids Know How to Play Their Parents?
You bet they do.
It happened just the other day. For perhaps the hundredth time in the last ten years. I know, I know...one hundred times in ten years means only ten times a year. Not so bad, right?
Well, wait a minute. It depends on what you're talking about when you say "not so bad". If we're talking people sneezing in the classroom, you're right. It's not bad at all. Not much of a distraction. If you're talking about a kid getting punched in the restroom, however, I'd say that even once is pretty bad. Especially if you're that kid.
So here's what I'm talking about: a parent being presented with the facts about what his kid did and refuting those facts based on the additional "fact" that 'My child does not lie to me'.
What?? Since when do kids not lie to their parents? They lie all the time! Especially if they know their parent has said something to a teacher along the lines of "I can tell when my child is not telling the truth. So he doesn't lie to ME."
No, he's just become a really, really GOOD liar. That's all.
When did parents start getting amnesia about what it's like to be a kid? Kids learn to lie because it gets them out of sticky situations. They learn to say what their parents want to hear because it gets them good things, like praise, candy, and video games.
So back to the story: This particular boy was standing around with two of his pals, giggling while watching one of them write something on a sticky note. It was a study hall situation and they would be dismissed within five minutes, so I didn't mind too much that the boys were having a moment of levity instead of doing something....productive. It was only when a girl in class - someone who was not feeling well and had been resting on her desk - got up to leave that I saw the sticky note reading KICK ME!! on her back. I hastily walked up behind her and removed the note. I didn't let her know what the note said because she is one who walks a delicate emotional tightrope every day and I didn't want her to have a melt-down immediately. She was so sleepy that she didn't demure at all when I said it was just a piece of lint on her back.
For about two minutes, I waffled on what to do, as old students left the classroom and new ones filed in to take their places. It definitely would be easier to ignore what the boys had done and throw the note away. Less paperwork...I wouldn't have to notify parents...I could adopt the view that it was just a harmless prank. Then I thought about all the other 'harmless' pranks this school year alone that had escalated to monstrous proportions. And I decided I would not leave it alone.
At lunch time, I spoke with all three boys separately, and was able to discern that one of them had concocted the idea, one had written the note, and no one knew who had placed it on the girl's back. I wish I had been able to get one of them to admit to that, but, sadly, I failed. Even so, I felt I had enough information to submit what is known in our school as a Minor Referral. I wrote up the forms, contacted the parents via email, and submitted the paperwork, with sticky note attached, to my assistance principal. For about 25 minutes during my 40 minute lunch period. Oh, subtract at least 7 minutes, as well, for the interviews that preceded the paperwork follow-up.
Within a half hour, two of the mothers involved wrote back to me that they were, in effect, appalled at the actions of their sons and would discuss the ramifications of bullying at home. (I would not have gone so far as to call this 'bullying', but the parents jumped on that word instantly.)
The third parent was a different story. She initially wrote a brief 'thank you' to me. Later that evening, when I checked my email, I saw a much lengthier email, to the effect that she had discussed the incident with her son and he had assured her that he was not involved at all. He knew what the other two had planned but had not been around when it was happening. Her exact words were "he disputes your claim that he was involved with it. He told me that he saw what happened and let you know what happened and he is surprised that you are claiming he was part of the plan."
My jaw dropped as I read this. I had clearly written to all parents that I had seen the boys standing around the sticky note, giggling as one of them wrote on it.
My question to parents reading this is, WHY would I spend my 'free' time making up stories about kids just to cause them trouble? When this mom tells me she believes what her son says to her, she is also telling me that I am, in fact, a liar.
The mom's final comment in her second note to me is that she is "requesting a thorough investigation for a resolution and correction on the false accusation".
What is the world coming to? Certainly not a good place in the education of our kids for moral conduct, that's for sure.
Can anyone truly wonder why teachers burn-out at such high rates these days?