Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mean Girls & Boys; Or, 3rd Grade Survival Skills

So, I have a dilemma. A few days ago, I picked H up from school and we headed off to run some errands, a chore to which she protested vehemently. After some mild back-talk and attitude (mainly b/c she wanted to spend some of her birthday money on junk, and I wouldn't let her), I responded with a general "Well, we don't always get what we want"-sort of thing. Her growling response:

"Uggghhh..That's the second horrible thing some one's said to me today."

Interested, I asked her to tell me what the first horrible thing was. She then explains that a boy in her class, I'll call him McDooDoo Head because it kinda fits with his name, "called me a loser and told everyone I sucked!" As she's uttering the words, she breaks down in tears, and I can see the complete hurt and humiliation in her face. My heart broke in that instant. I knew that all of her attitude was really just about the Things McDooDoo Head Said in class. Evidently, the boy said these things to her and then shared them with the rest of the class. H was convinced that everyone would believe him, and that she would be left the laughing stock of the room.

Most parents will understand that my first gut reaction is to find McDooDoo Head and, as my mom would say, "Wear his little ass out!" As I'm generally a non-violent person, however, and I'd probably go to jail, this is not a viable option. The real issue is that H told the student teacher what happened and nothing happened! The girl (I say this b/c she's literally just a senior in college) simply seemed to ignore H's appeal to authority for help. This pisses me off just as much as what McDooDoo Head said! Isn't that what teachers are there for??

The dilemma, then, is this: Do I try to teach H (which I have to some extent already) that sometimes people say mean things, and there's nothing we can do about it? And/or, do I call the school to find out why the Inadequate Moron of a Student-Teacher did nothing to help my daughter? I guess I really already know the answer; I'm mainly wondering what others might do. I'm also contemplating calling the boy's parents, because I happen to know the boy somewhat, and his parents are actually decent people. He's usually well-behaved and keeps his boyish antics contained to the "boy circle" of his friends. But, part of me really feels like H should have some way to respond herself - beyond ignoring the situation - because I've been that girl. I was that girl in junior high and high school, and I got bullied to the point that I was terrified to go to school a few times. My mother did nothing, and I felt so helpless and unprotected by her, the school, the few "friends" I thought I had. I don't want H to ever feel that way, or any other child for that matter. I'm just sick of hearing about mean boys and girls - at all ages - getting away with tormenting other people, and if this type of behavior isn't addressed in 3rd grade, then it just gets worse through the years.


mgm said...

Oh, poor H. I just want to give her a hug!

I can understand your dilemma. The student teacher should have done something, at least urging McDooDoo Head to apologize to H.

If you feel comfortable enough with the parents and think they'll react to the problem with some compassion, you might go ahead and talk with them. Hopefully, they'll be receptive.

I was that girl, too, after I magically developed overnight in 5th grade. Boys started saying stuff about me and to me. I quickly learned to stand up for myself because, I realized if I didn't, no one else would. Also, my parents had done a remarkable job helping to pull my out of my shell 'round 'bout this time and I knew that they would want me to stick up for myself. Hmm . . . maybe there's a post here . . .

Anyway, what I am getting at is that I think (based solely on my virtual knowledge of you and your parenting) that H will learn how not to be that girl.

Good luck!

M said...

So I haven't had to deal with anything remotely like this yet as Wild Man is only 16 months old. But as you know, I did speak up about The Biter that was in his and E's class--and as an aside, I've recently found that that The Biter is in fact the one who bit Wild Man on the face a few weeks ago and that The Biter has bitten several other children in her current classroom. This is the same classroom that Wild Man and E will be moving up to in about a month or so. But back to H, given that the teacher in question was a student teacher, I would totally call and talk to H's primary teacher. Tell the primary teacher that you want to turn it into a learning experience for the student teacher. I think the student teacher may not be aware how to respond in this type of situation.

Here's another suggestion: why not tell H to say "I'm not a loser, and it hurts my feelings that you said that. Friends (I am assuming she and the boy are friends) don't say things like to each other."

Unknown said...

I definitely agree that something should be done to make her feel a little more empowered. Bullying is terrible and the fact that the student teacher did nothing is very troubling. I would absolutely talk to the primary teacher, who probably knows nothing of this and will be happy to speak with the student teacher about how to handle these situations. After all, that's the point of student teaching -- to learn how to handle a classroom. And I love M's suggestion of language for H should something similar happen again. While I certainly think teachers should be watching for this sort of thing and advocating for children, I think it's even more empowering when they can stand up for themselves. Maybe do a little role-playing and help her rehearse how she will respond to any future bullying?

日月神教-向左使 said...