Monday, January 23, 2012

A Penn State Moment

I promised myself I would never write about Penn State (or all those what's-their-names) because, really, what more can be said? But, alas, I am constantly breaking my promises.

This morning, as I walked Lily into school and down to her Kindergarten classroom I witnessed what could be classified as "sort-of-a-fight" with a side of "school-teachers-and-staff-ignoring-yelling-students -and-a-parent" in favor of "talking-about-nothing-remotely-related-to-the-fight-happening-right-before-their-averted-eyes."

Here's what happened:

I walk Lily down to her Kindergarten classroom almost everyday.  As we got close to the Kindergarten hallway I hear two boys, arguing over the presence of the guidance counselor. It was a nine-year-old boy level debate.

Boy 1: He isn't here
Boy 2: Yes he is
Boy 1: No he isn't
Boy 2: Yes he is

Boy 1 was blocking the path to the counselor's office. Boy 2 wanted to get there. Pushing and debate continued.  I would characterize the incident not as being a fight deserving of punishment, but an opportunity to teach these boys the appropriate way to argue (i.e. you don't push each other and why aren't you in your classrooms?).

Alas, I witnessed the fight and I am not one to be quiet about anything, ever.  I told the teachers standing outside of the teacher lounge, right next me. I said:

Me: "There are two boys fighting over Mr. X"
Teacher: "Oh, I don't think Mr. X is here"
Teacher: muttered something and continued speaking to other teacher
Me: "Do you allow children to fight in the hallway? They are pushing each other"

The teachers ignored the boys and me.  I am fuming. Lily told me to count to ten. (She is like a little blood pressure cuff.)

It was a Penn State Moment--the moment when bad behavior is right in front of your face. You see it; you hear it; you've been told about it and you have to decide what to do with it all.

I could have just walked around those boys. No one was in danger. But, I have a big mouth and if those were my children, I'd want their teachers to teach them how to behave. To remind them that they are better than pushing and yelling.

It was a Penn State moment for those teachers. I have no idea what they were talking about. I don't care. All that I care is about is that unless they suffer from a hearing impairment, they could hear those boys arguing. They could hear me say, "They are pushing each other." But, for whatever reason, they chose the easy, non-messy, non-confrontational way of living:

Do nothing. Pretend it is not happening. Avoid the mess.

I know that two boys pushing each other in an elementary school is no where near the same thing as a boy being sexually assaulted in a shower. But, the lesson is the same: adults need to listen. Adults need to take the messy route when it means doing the right thing. Little things become big things. We teach with our action and our inaction. And all children are our responsibility.

We are the grown-ups, for pete's sake.

And the other lesson: As a mother I need to teach my daughter to tell the truth over and over and over again. I need to teach my 35-pound peanut, that she needs to use her loudest voice and risk getting in trouble to tell an adult when something dangerous or improper is happening. She needs to stand her ground always when she knows the truth should be heard. That no matter how big or little or dangerous or minor the incident is:

Do something. Speak loud, until someone listens. Don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Because often, adults don't listen.

You should know, that as the fight rounded into the kindergarten hallway, one of the Kinder teachers spoke up--without my prompting and sent those boys back to class. The teachers, who ignored the incident? Well---one took away a "responsibility point" (whatever this is) after the fact (in response to my refusal to move from the spot until they addressed me or the situation). 

So those boys will be fine. But what happens if the incident is bigger? What if a big mouthed lunatic like me is not there? What then? 


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. The teachers should have handled this situation much better. If anything though, you used it as a teaching example for your own child, teaching her to be strong in a difficult situation and stand up for what's right.

    How disappointing that this young child, who might have been searching for the counselor for help with another issue, who might have had to struggle just to get the confidence to go to the counselor, had to face yet one more challenge to get there. Let's hope that if he was searching for help, this obstacle won't keep him from doing so.

  2. I would SO want to know that if my child were fighting in the hallway and pushing/or being pushed, that a teacher or adult would care enough about my child to stop it, and correct the behavior.

    As parents we can't always be with our child step by step each day to
    "parent" them, and we trust that when they are in school they are learning how to behave no matter how small or big an incident. Its almost like those teachers thought..."no big deal, its just a small fight over nothing important" well that small, unimportant stuff turns into big stuff if it isn't nipped in the bud. So glad you said something Trish!! And more importantly, so glad you are teaching Lily to be the same way!!

  3. I thought the purpose of teachers being in the hallway was to stop this type of behavior, particularly before it esalates. I.also thought it was to create a visual for students and parents to know that their children are being monitored, PROTECTED. As a teacher, I question everything. . It's better to. be safe than ssorry. It was also drilled into my head that it is my job as a teacher to be in the hall and watching the children. Good for you for saying something, better for those kids.

  4. So glad you spoke up...we need more people in the world like you to take a say something...that would have made me fume too. If it were my child mis-behaving I'd want her to be disciplined and know the difference between right & wrong. Shame on those teachers...but good for you for doing something about it!

  5. I'm so glad you spoke up! Children should never be allowed to treat each other that way.

    Honestly, I can't imagine that happening at my children's school. The teachers are very strict. But, I'm not there every given moment.

  6. Ok, I'll take the other First of all, I personally think it's in um, poor taste? (not sure what wording I want to use) as far as comparing it to Penn State. Yeah, I read where you said you understand that...but you still said it. If I was a parent who had a child that was involved in the PSU incident, I'd be looking at this post with a giant WTF attitude.

    Second, I think that in this day & age, parents and adults often step in too often and too quickly. Children need to learn to resolve their differences themselves, without us telling them what to do all the time. We are witnessing an entire young generation that basically has zero problem solving skills, because they've been told what to do.

    You said no one was in danger, so let them work it out. To me, that is sometimes the more difficult path to take. When I watch one of my children take a toy from another child (sibling or friend)or watch a child take a toy from one of mine, it's very easy to go up to him, hand it back to original owner and explain what was wrong. It's much more difficult sometimes to stand by and watch, and hope that the child stands up for him/herself.

    Certainly, in sexual molestation cases, we don't wait for children to self-advocate. But arguing in a doorway? Yeah, maybe.

    1. If they were just using words, I would agree with "just let them work it out," but they had their hands on each other. That is not okay, ever.

  7. Sadly, there have been several incident like this at my kids school. The teachers are out outside for "recess duty" presumably to prevent and/or deal with issues such as this that arise. My oldest has told me so many stories of teachers chit chatting while kids are arguing, pushing each other etc. I went up to the school at one point.

    A few weeks ago a 4th grade boy walked up to another 4th grade boy at recess, told him he didn't like him, and punched him right in the face- just because he "didn't like him". The boy was knocked out. If that would have been my child and there were 3 teachers outside "monitoring" recess, I can not even begin to tell you what may have ensued, but I assure you it would have been UGLY.

    I am glad you spoke up. EVERY parent passing by should do the same!

  8. I think this is why parents aren't allowed in our school ;)

    Good for you for speaking up and trying to do what was right. Shame on those teachers, I like to think SOMEONE is paying attention to my kids and what is going on when I'm not there. I have complained a lot over the years about a lack of adult supervision in our school. They seem to appease me for a moment and then slack off again. Sigh.