8.09.2011

Where I Talk About Classroom Assignments, Bullies and the Compassion of A Ten-Year-Old Boy

My boy starts school on Thursday.  Let us all pause for a brief moment and mourn the passing of summer.  Sigh.  Why is it that summer vacation never seems quite long enough?

Just like we do every year, the boy and I headed up to the elementary school on Friday afternoon for the great unveiling of the classroom assignments.  The boy was both nervous and excited as we made our way through the crowd to check out the lists taped to the cafeteria windows.

There are five fifth grade classes this year and my boy was assigned to Mrs. B.  As I scanned the names of the other students in the class, I noticed one of the boy's good friends was on the list.  At the very bottom was the name of another boy.  For ease of storytelling, let's just call him Ralph.

Upon seeing Ralph's name, my blood began to boil.  You see, Ralph is one of the few kids in the entire school that I don't like.  Allow me to explain...

Ralph and my boy were in Kindergarten together and at first, he didn't seem so bad.  My first red flag came two months into the school year when Ralph would repeatedly call our house at 10:30 p.m. wanting the boy to get online with him.  His parents appeared to be quite wealthy, and they had given five-year-old Ralph his own phone, TV and computer.  While his parents were elsewhere, little Ralph was hanging out in the children's wing of the house surfing the web at all hours of the night.  Call me old fashioned, but it didn't sit right with me. 

Fast forward to the end of the year.  My boy came home from school one day and was demonstrating how Ralph had introduced him to a variety of four-letter words and taught him to flip the bird.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  The hubby took it upon himself to call Ralph's dad and let him know what was going on.  That's when things started to get ugly.  From that moment on, Ralph quit trying to befriend our boy and instead started to pick on him. 

I know all schools do things differently, but at our school, parents are not allowed to make requests regarding a specific teacher unless you have had previous firsthand experience with that teacher (i.e. an older sibling).  They do, however, allow parents to request that their child not be in class with another child if there has been a previous issue (i.e. the situation with Ralph). 

In the interest of protecting my son, I requested that he not be in class with Ralph the following year.  To be honest, I was hoping that some time apart would end the rift.  Unfortunately, Ralph continued to pick at the boy during recess and lunch.  When the end of first grade arrived, I again sent in my form expressing my concerns about Ralph and my boy being in class together.  I have done it every year since. 

I think you can understand why I was upset to see Ralph's name on my boy's class list.  I immediately went to talk to the principal to try and figure out what happened.  As he flipped through the stack of forms, he discovered that my request was missing.  I told him I found this to be quite odd since I hand-delivered the form myself and watched as it was placed on the stack with all the others.   

After a rather heated discussion (I won't bore you with all the details),  the principal reluctantly agreed to move my son to another class.  The catch was that it would have to wait until Friday or Monday, after he had a chance to review the attendance numbers from the previous day(s). All I needed to do was "just send an email" to remind him.

To be honest, I think the only reason I was successful in my plea was a combination of two things:  First, my constant presence up at the school as a reliable volunteer.  And second, the simple fact that I'm not one of those parents who likes to make a fuss about things.  The principal doesn't take kindly to meddling parents and thankfully, this is the first and only time I have ever had to request his help. 

When the hubby got home from work, I filled him in on the afternoon's drama.  As we discussed the matter over dinner, the boy quietly said, "I've been thinking about it, and I want to stay in Mrs. B's class."  Shocked, I replied, "What about Ralph?"  

The boy proceeded to explain that the reason he didn't want to change teachers was because of his good friend that was also in the class.  Over the summer, this boy's parents got divorced, and as a result, the poor little guy has been having a really hard time.  My boy has been really worried about his friend. 

My sweet, sweet boy was more concerned about being there to support his friend than he was about any potential problems with Ralph.  He even went so far as to say that he thought God put him in that class for a reason and that we shouldn't mess with those plans.  How did I ever end up with such a wonderful child?

After a little more discussion, we made our decision.  On Monday morning, I sent an email to the principal informing him that we had decided to take the high road and let the boy stay in his assigned class.  I told him that if there were any problems with Ralph, we would notify him immediately and that we would expect his full cooperation in fixing the problem. 

I also sent an email to Mrs. B. informing her of my original request, the mix-up and our decision to move forward.  My feeling is that the best defense is sometimes as simple as a good offense.  By making her aware of the history between Ralph and my boy, I hope to head off any potential conflict that might arise. 

As far as my boy is concerned, I couldn't be more proud.  Over the past few days, he has been a walking example of what it means to show compassion and put others needs before his own.  When I grow up, I want to be just like him.

2 comment(s). Leave yours!:

gretchen from lifenut said... Best Blogger Tips

Another post I read much earlier, then duty called...

I'm absolutely amazed by your son. He is someone I'd be proud to call a friend, someone I'd love for my boys to know. Your boy seems especially gifted in empathy and wisdom. I pray he'll have a great year.

shoutingforha said... Best Blogger Tips

@gretchen from lifenutAwe, thanks Gretchen. While he is far from perfect, my boy is pretty darn amazing. I feel so blessed to be his mother.

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