Pass ME The Tissues

Pass ME The Tissues

Line in SandDrawing the line on what you’ll blog on and what you won’t; and appreciating the needs to have these boundaries is an important lesson I learned from Kathryn Greenhill. Image by Jay Cromer.

In Kathryn’s Drawing the Veil post she explains “my yardstick is not about individuals, but about the group to which they belong. When I want to mention what someone else said or did, I think:

“If I write about workmate x, will my other workmates think I am looking at them as blog fodder too?. If I mention the cute action by one of my kids’ friends, even with the parents’ permission, what does that do to the trust relationship with other parents ?”

This post fails into my grey area since it is about an incident with my son at school. But I’ve decided to post it because none of the teachers or parents read my blog and I think we can all gain from the experience.

What Happened

The school year has just started here in Australia. My youngest son (he is in year 4 and is 9 years old) was really excited because his class was going to be preforming at the first assembly.

I’ve never seen him so engaged with school; coming home each night practicing the song and learning the dance. Which was hard work — as I had to listen to my husband sing the Elvis Presley song with him. Unfortunately numbers in the school had increased and students were warned that they could be changed to a new class and teacher by the end of the week.

All week I prepared him for the reality that he may be changed room so when it happened to him it wasn’t an issue. Since they had been working hard the teacher said that she would try to organise it so they could still preform with her class. I explained to him that this probably wouldn’t be possible so once again he wasn’t upset when it couldn’t happen.

His old teacher realised that she needed an extra boy, as they were dancing in pairs, so they got a student from my son’s new class to help out. This child, after two days, decided that he didn’t want to do it and when they asked for a volunteer my son immediately offered.

So today — I take him to school where he joins the other class on the stage to do their performance. Just before the assembly is due to start his teacher comes to me and says they are a girl short so will it be okay if my son is removed. I tell the teacher — you can try but I think he will cry. Which is what happened. So they changed their mind and let him stay to do it. He did a great job (even though he was silently crying while he waited in position for it to start).

After the assembly the teacher had a big chat to him about the need to toughen up. That life is hard — get used to disappointments and he has to learn not to burst into tears when bad things happen.

Sure I understand that he needs to be less sensitive. But he has come a really long way from the kid who in Preprimary burst into tears at the start of their performance in front of parents because he was so anxious about making a mistake.

The thing is — no way would he have been asked to step aside if he was meant to be in that class. If the decision was made to add him in the performance; you can’t just change your mind at the last minute to remove.


Yes I know he has to learn to be less sensitive. PS as a mum I say this sucked — as an educator I say under pressure it is easy to not always make the best decisions.

Looking forward to next Thursday as he now has to do a performance with his class — lets hope that goes better! Thinking maybe mum needs to toughen up?

But as educators we also need to stop and reflect when students react to what we are doing; to see the situation from each others point of view — perhaps we have unreal expectations? maybe there is a better option? Maybe they are making valid points?

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8 thoughts on “Pass ME The Tissues

  1. Bet the teacher concerned didn’t consider that they where sending the message that you can just promise things and take them away at a whim, and that peoples effort is just worthless. That commitment is not worth it in the end.

    So in essence the child learns that maybe they should just not bother to help or even contribute in future. That trust is not to be placed with group activities.

    This is damn good example of not considering the individuals but looking at the whole and the performance, and in reality the educators standing. Very short sighted in the extreme and self centered.

  2. Garry – totally agree with you and you are so right what messages are you sending the child.

    Trouble is that in the rush of the moment – it is too easy to make the wrong decision – if he hadn’t been from another class this question wouldn’t have been asked. And if she reflected it shouldn’t have happened. But I wonder if she has reflected? Or has she just gone away thinking that he needs to toughen up?

  3. I don’t agree with the teacher telling your son to “toughen up” – to me it’s telling him he shouldn’t be disappointed, and he shouldn’t express his disappointment/disappointment is not a feeling he should have. I suppose this has something to do with the cultural belief that “boys don’t cry”. (Personally I think this sort of attitude is very destructive to boys and men in our society, but that’s another issue.) I agree it can be hard to include everyone but I think the teacher should really have considered the effect willy-nilly removing your son from the performance would have had on him. (Actually this made me very mad and I am trying to write with a civil tone – hmmph!)

  4. Thanks for this post, Sue. I really enjoyed it because it caused me to reflect about several issues.

    Firstly, the effect our behavior has on students. With the best will in the world, I do and say things that I just don’t think twice about and it is completely misconstrued by students. I hope that as adults they can come to me and work these issues out but that is virtually impossible for younger children. I have had similar situations with my son as he has grown up and it is extremely worrying thinking about how he has been treated and the effect on his attitude to study – I know that his interactions with teachers has had a very negative impact on his progress through school. I have had to ask myself ‘am I being an overly-protective mother’ but if I do not look out for him, no one else will!!!

    The other thing your post has reminded me about is the ethics of blogging about people you live and work with. There is so much that happens in my working life that inspires me to blog, but I am trying to make a conscious effort to do it in a very general way in order not to identify or offend anyone.

    Give your son a big hug from me.

  5. Sue, thanks for revealing this personal issue in the context of your professional life. The situation with your son is typical of what I experienced in school as a student, so it appears that not much has changed in 35 years.
    I know how difficult it can be to balance administrative demands with a teacher’s concern for students, consequently bad decisions are made… and so the “hidden curriculum” is revealed.

  6. Hi Con – I definitely agree – the whole society viewpoint that we have to suppress our emotions did totally outrage me. I hope that my sons do grow up to have the ability to still show their feelings.

    I did reflect for 5 hrs before writing this post Sarah because of the grey area. But I felt it was important to share was to remind us all that it is easy to make bad decisions in the heat of the moment that can impact badly on others. We do need to take the time to see others viewpoints. Like you, I don’t like the idea of offending anyone which is why I was reluctant to write this post.

    It definitely is a timely reminder Simon that we are all humans — we aren’t perfect — and as educators we can make bad decisions that can impact on our students. Shame that we aren’t always aware that we have had this impact.

  7. Sue:
    I came to your post via a shared item in Google Reader. I was affected by your post on many levels. It was hard enough being on a merry-go-round of: you are in the class, you are not in the class, you are in the show, you are not but to ask a child to step aside at the last moment was probably not the best judgment. I agree that it probably would not have been asked of a “member” of the class.

    It was also a shame to tell a nine-year-old after all that to toughen up. I teach at the same school my two boys attend. Sometimes I hear and see things like this that make me cringe. Adults, like students, don’t always think before they speak. It’s a good post to remind everyone who teaches children to watch what you say in the midst of the day.

    Good luck with the show next week. I look forward to adding your blog to my reader.

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