Monday, March 19, 2012

SOLSC #19 Expect them messy

Woke up this morning remembering an ugly scene last week.  It was the late in the day, I sitting in the main reception area, working on my computer, aftercare program in session across the hall.  (I don't get to get to work in my classroom at the end of the day, because aftercare uses my room.)  There is a steady stream of families picking up their children at the end of a long day.

A father picks up his son and growls, "Look at you!  You are a mess.  What is this on your shirt?  Your hands? I don't know what is wrong with this school."  
The boy doesn't respond.  
Dad never even said "hello."
He barks, "Answer me! I want to know why you look like this.  This is ridiculous."
The boy stammers, "Well, we were on the playground."

I had to assert myself.  Let the father know that others were listening.  I had to support the child.  I call out to the boy,  "[Jack], let me see you!  You are in first grade, right?  Wow, tell Dad the marvelous things you did today.  You were so busy - remember the special watercolor paint math project you did this morning? Then, this afternoon, didn't you cook French crepes outside?  And didn't all of us play with new chalk on the playground?  I think that is flour on you!  As we say in preschool, you look like a student who has been doing some serious creating!"

The father went quiet.  They left the school.

But his angry tone sticks with me. 

I wonder if this is the Dad voice the child knows best?  Or was this just a bad day?
I wonder if Dad realized he never even greeted his son?
I wonder why the emphasis on neat clothes?
I wonder how we might teach families that messy clothes mean exploration and creativity - "when you see messy clothes, there's a story there." (I flash on Bev Bos' quip, "I want to see dirt under the fingernails!")
I wonder how we can ever get "in front" of all the messaging we need to do for families? Where does our teaching end?

I keep flashing on this interaction.  I continue to feel sad for this little guy.


  1. Those are the kinds of stories that make your stomach drop a little. I am so glad you felt comfortable enough to comment and stick up for the child. It is sad that the focus was not on the reuniting and instead on such insignificant matters.

  2. Your post reminds me of something Ralph Fletcher writes about in What a Writer Needs. It is "the bigger the issue the smaller one writes". Your post brought this quote to mind. A VERY BIG ISSUE that you shared in an interaction between an adult and a child...and even a bigger issue a father and a son.

  3. Thank you for speaking up...we need more people to do so. Most likely a bad day for dad and thus the child was the recipient of the frustrations.

  4. How lucky for him that you stood up for him. I hope it was just a bad day on the dad's part, but if not, hopefully you gave him something different to think about.

  5. things like this just make me sick! I had a second grader who took her poem about her dad home and all he did was yell at her about her spelling! Can't stand for kids to be hurt. Thanks for stepping up and defending the child. That was beauriful!

  6. So grateful that you were there to intervene on this little guy's behalf. And unfortunately, I wonder, how many times, as a mom of teenagers, I have similar conversations about all the things that I think they should be doing/not doing/thinking, etc.…I'm going to try harder to think about all of the wonderful rings they are creating!