Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Neither prince nor pal

Today I gave the principal a piece of my mind.

Me, quiet little Rachel who never once set foot in the principal's office in all my 12 years of primary schooling. Me, who has total (even if sometimes unjustified) respect for authority figures. Me, who prefers to write and rewrite and edit every piece of correspondence with the school rather than speak to the staff face to face because I know each "event" will eventually be tucked away in my son's personal file. Me, who has showed incredible restraint at every parent-teacher-principal meeting for the past 5 years at my son's elementary school. Today I pulled out all the stops.

Apparently my oldest son, who is in the final stretch of his sixth grade education with only a month to go before that elementary school becomes part of a past he wants to forget, got in a tiff this morning. By "tiff" I mean that he apparently teased one of his closest friends about his new braces, and the friend punched him in the face (no blood, no injury, just your standard 12-year old scruffle). Should I be more phased by this event? Maybe, but I'm not. Know why? Because exactly the same thing happened last week (for the first time), with a different kid.

But last week I didn't speak my mind to the principal - she called, told me what happened, and like a good girl I came to pick him up. Mind you, we have been under the wrath of this principal for the past 4 years, and she's had countless opportunities to get to know my son, his character, his imperfections and tendency to skew the truth (putting it mildly). And yet, without even bothering to sit down with the two young roosters, who are actually usually pretty good friends, to try and discuss what happened and how they could prevent such a thing from happening again, she felt she had done her job with a mere "nu nu nu" and basically "go home and let your parents deal with this."

I understand that they cannot accept violent behavior in school, and by sending the boys home she was trying to send a message to them and to others. What she doesn't seem to understand is that, at least for my son, going home is a prize, not a punishment. In the end it is me (and my salary) who suffers because I have to leave work to go home and play policewoman. We had a long discussion with him at home about the whole incident, and he did get "restrictions" to his regular schedule. But not another word was spoken about it at school the next day. There are so many other effective and much more creative ways the principal could have chosen to deal with it, but that would require some effort and flexibility on her part, heaven forbid.

So this morning, just when I had pulled into the parking lot at work, I got the call. By the number on the screen, I shouldn't have answered. I know better. "Hello, this is the grumpy old troll...uh, principal. You need to come pick up your son, he was in a fight." Not again, I thought. I muted the Brad Paisley disc I had been enjoying until that moment, closed the car windows, and fired up the air con. And then it started. Maybe it was PMS, maybe it was a lack of sleep, maybe it was the rising summer temperatures this morning that got me all heated up, or maybe I've just had enough.

I basically told her what I thought of her all these years (I won't go into detail here, but it was ugly), and how we are counting the days until my son is out of that school. I politely explained to her that I had no intention of coming to pick him up today, and that I believed she was capable of mediating between them to reach apologies and understanding of what they had done (what is a principal for, anyways?). She responded (quite loudly), and suggested that she and I schedule a meeting over a cup of coffee to talk, because she felt that I had a lot of "baggage" about our experiences with the school that she would be interested in hearing. Yeah, right lady.

Funny thing is, when I got home today and sat down to talk to my son, the first thing he said was "Thank you for fighting for me." I almost cried (again, probably PMS), and realized that I should have told the principal where to stick it long ago.


Nedra Weinreich said...

Woooo Rach! Good job sticking up for yourself. The school absolutely needs to do its part to deal with things that are happening on its campus, and make sure there are consequences there beyond a free day at home. Unfortunately, in my experience it seems that many of the Israeli parents here in LA tend to assume the school will take care of raising and disciplining their child and that they don't have to do much themselves. (not that this applies to you!) Not good when the kids don't get discipline at home or school (preferably it would be both!).

Don't blame hormones on this. You have legitimate grievances. Kol hakavod for not letting the principal off the hook. I bet it felt good. :-)

Ira Abramov said...

I know how your son feels. I was never a fight starter, but I was the one everyone loved to hit because I didn't know how to hit back. The one time my mom was called to be scolded she gave them the corrected POV and they corrected their view of me, and that was not bad for about a week. Problem was that at that point my homeroom teacher (מחנכת) decided to raise the issue in class, and did it in an odd sneaky way in cahoots with the literature teacher, steering a conversation about "Lord of the Flies" and comparing me to you-know-who and how the kids are picking on me. that was the absolute worst way of reacting to the issue, and that pretty much made me give up on the school system. However that was in the 8th grade, and I sincerely hope that our stories are not the same, and that 22 years after my ugly incident, maybe teachers of elementary school will know better, if they are made aware of what the real situation is, and not just a singular incident report.