Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Traumatic Year Two and the Wicked Witch of the West

It was the Traumatic Year Two, when Speedy met the Wicked Witch of the West (henceforth to be known as WWW). At first she just looked like the WWW - all flaming hair and rainbow stockings.

Yes, Speedy hated her from the beginning, but we knew by then that he didn't suffer fools, and trotted out further 'life lessons' on how to deal with the fools you will inevitably meet, often, for the rest of your life.

Next thing you know, we were in the principal's office, where Speedy was suspended for two days for throwing scissors at the teacher. Say Wha'?

Does it sound better if I say (with hindsight):

After months of frustration and put-downs and verbal bullying, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, by a person in a position of power, a 7 year old child couldn't take any more, and threw a pair of plastic, snub-nosed, child's safety scissors in the general direction of the bully.

There was a meeting.

The counsellor was chirpy, enthusiastic, and pushing for attendance at a Behaviour Management/Parenting Techniques Program.

The teacher was horrified and hurt and in punishment mode.

The principal didn't know where to look, but did look like he was in the cooking pot and the water was heating up.

We insisted that Speedy did not need a Behaviour Management Program, and wanted to know why he threw the scissors.

Of course, the answer to problem behaviour at school was to teach the parents how to parent, and so we were railroaded into agreeing to the Behaviour Management Program, and it was the best thing that could've happened.

Day One was a 'benchmark' exercise. Parents and child were locked into a room - very reminiscent of a padded cell, including the padding. Parents were instructed to direct the child to do something, while the program facilitators watched and listened from outside, via video camera. The parents were judged on their parenting technique. From this, the facilitators would plan a program to teach techniques for managing the behaviour of the child.

So, we played along. No choice, really.

At the end of the first session, when we were let out of jail, it was to find a group of facilitators with their jaws on the ground. But, you're already using all the techniques that we teach in this program! they said.

On we went. Subversively. Now aware of what the program was about, we enlisted the help of the intelligent Speedy. We discussed what they were aiming for, and how to give it to them. The chats in the car while driving there and back were of more use than the Program.

We learnt more about the WWW during this time - from Speedy, and from other class parents, and from parents who'd previously had a child in her class. A classroom helper confided that she hated the way the WWW treated Speedy. We heard that the WWW was heard to say to the class "Oh, the girls are my sweeties- they're so neat at colouring in". Speedy reported that an artwork he'd done, involving action figures and guns, was confiscated as being 'inappropriate for year 2' and told that "he should draw flowers and animals". You get the gist.

Meanwhile, back at the Program, we were getting on very well with the facilitators. I think they may have picked up some new behaviour management techniques!

Not that they were stupid. They were looking at a bright kid, and parents who knew and could apply all the latest parenting techniques. So they puzzled out where the problem may lie. And being an education department program, they announced that as well as working with the parents, they'd like to work with the teacher. All under the guise of managing the behaviour of this 'orrible little kid in class, right?

You see where I'm going here?

Now, a school principal's duty is firstly to their staff. They are not allowed to side with parents or students against a teacher. Conflict of interest and all that- have to support your staff. The facilitators were education department colleagues, consultants, if you will. They were able to go places that we couldn't. They started doing classroom observations. I expect they were horrified.

The WWW started taking sick leave, and more sick leave. She started looking stressed and losing weight. And taking more days off. And pulling her head in when she was in the classroom.

I'm sorry to say I enjoyed that term.

Nothing more was said to the parents. By anyone. Ever after. But at the end of the year, when it came time to allocate classes for the next year, the principal wanted a long chat about who would be best suited to teach Speedy. I believe it was his only way of apologising.

For the next 5 years at that school, Speedy was allocated hand-picked, fabulous teachers. He learned to love school and learning. It did take all of year 3 to catch up academically, but once the spark was back he powered along and hasn't looked back.


  1. Wow, I love this post. New to your blog. D.ane

  2. It's amazing how just one teacher can ruin a kid's schooling!
    I've experienced similar with my boy and friends' have reported the same with their kids' teachers, the rotten apples really stand out.