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.