Monday, April 09, 2007

Social Skills

It's funny, because we're encouraged to teach social skills, conflict resolution skills, and empathy. Well, SOME of us (no evaluator's name mentioned) seem to not have these skills our own selves! Maybe it's not funny.

Here's a little story that sadly, sums up how said administrator interacts with people.

There's a wonderful fourth grade teacher upstairs; let's call her "Nicole." She's GOOD. She's a young, well-educated, obviously very intelligent and talented black woman - exactly the sort of role model our kids need (and I'm not quite sure how we got her, she's above the normal caliber of teachers in our area). She's probably about 29 years old, but she manages a group of thirty fourth-graders - who are arguably one of the more difficult classes in the school - better than I've seen from most career teachers. They were walking down the hall and she stopped to talk to me - all the kids started saying hi and talking and shoving, and she just turned around to them and said, "Line!" They all got back in line, with their hands behind their back and their mouths shut. There are three people at my school who can do that with that tough of a class, and I'm one of them, if I do say so my own self. (The other is a fifth grade teacher who's hands-down the best teacher I've ever seen. The administrators, not so much).

Anyway, Nicole had $100 stolen from her last week. She knows who did it - the whole class saw him take it, he had way too much cash on him that he said he "brought from home" and he's got a history of being very troubled in these sorts of ways. The administrators said there's nothing they can do and consequently, refused to help. Nice. But not that big of a surprise, which makes me sad.

So, Nicole spends the whole day trying to figure things out, being stressed out and upset - it's always a betrayal when a student steals from you, even when you know it's because they are emotionally disturbed. It always feels bad. At the end of the day, she was still dealing with problems and children and children with problems, so she called the office downstairs and asked the secretary if she could send a child down with a tamale to be heated up in the microwave. The secretary said no problem, she wasn't busy right then, and she was sorry that Nicole had had such a bad day.

Nicole sent a child down with the tamale, the secretary microwaved it, then mummified it in paper towels so it wouldn't be hot for the child carrying it, and the child brought it back up to the teacher. Kids love being singled out for this kind of thing. It makes them feel really special. The administrator saw this and followed the child into the classroom, demanding to speak with Nicole.

Nicole, of course, thinks that the administrator is going to talk to her about the theft of $100; either to help her out or at least say she was sorry that it had been such a rough day. No. You know what she said? "It really upsets me that you are having a child carry microwaved food up the stairs."


She went on to add that the child could have burned himself on the food or tripped going up the stairs. First of all, the food was better insulated than my house is (OK, that's not saying much!) by the big wad of paper towels. Second, these kids microwave stuff by themselves ALL the time. Third, they run up and down the stairs 10 times a day. Fourth... WHAT???

Time to get some social skills. Empathy training, anyone?

This makes me extremely angry, not because this incident in itself was so horrendous, but because it just sums everything up. Here's a dedicated teacher, who's paid for countless supplies on her own, losing money to the children she's serving, and not only does she get no help (I'll go on about our lack of discipline policy later), no sympathy, but the person who's supposed to be helping and supporting us is criticizing about the most ridiculous, nit-picky stuff. Like we don't have enough problems, seriously, she needs to create them???


Oh, and Robin STILL hasn't been paid for the mural.

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