Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dear School District 36 (Surrey),

HWSNBN mentioned that you called last evening regarding the incident yesterday when Darth Vader moved the chair on Luke Skywalker and he subsequently fell backwards and hit his head. Luke is very clear how this incident took place. He states that Darth pushed his light sabre off the table and when Luke leaned over to get his items Darth moved his chair so that he fell backwards. Darth made some sarcastic remarks to Luke (such as ... "ohhhhhh your light sabre fell.......).

This is not the first time Darth has been involved in specifically targeting Luke. In December I observed Darth purposely trip Luke. Darth was sitting in the chair closest to the inside door. When Luke passed to go to the library Darth stuck his foot out and tripped him. This was deliberate and Obi Wan Kenobi address it with Darth.

Somewhere along the way this child has been given the messaging that his behaviour is acceptable and tolerable. I recall that the Surrey School district has a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to bullying - however Luke has had his incidents of bullying minimized and on several occasions he has been assigned blame. I believe that by assigning blame to the bullying victim you only empower the child who has assaulted the other child. Perhaps this is where some of the messaging that Darth's behaviour is acceptable is coming from.

The behaviour that Darth has displayed to Luke is just mean and very typical behaviour of a child trying to gain acceptance from another child in his peer group. As an educator you are well aware that these tendencies do not bode well for that child's ongoing positive social development. I am speaking of the gang mentality between the 3 Republic boys. Any child who would purposely hurt another younger child while trying to gain the acceptance of a peer should be a growing concern to the adults around him.

We have been very clear to Luke that he is responsible for his own behaviour and not the behaviour of those around him. With this as our background we are teaching our son to be responsible for his actions.

Neither Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi or myself observed the incident yesterday. I believe Luke's recollection of events as he has nothing to gain from telling an inaccurate story. The other children involved do have something to gain by minimizing their involvement or observations.

I am not convinced that consensus building conflict resolution is the best way of addressing bullying at this age / grade level. The children are still at a juncture were they believe in teacher and parental authority. They need to be advised about which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. There is no grey area when dealing with this kind of issue - the messaging needs to be consistent and clear. That kind of behaviour will not and should not be tolerated.

These are teaching moments for every child in a classroom. Unfortunately for Darth Vader, he learned yesterday that if your friends fib and you lie about an incident then you will get away with your mean spirited actions. Luke Skywalker has learned that people will get away with harming him and humiliating him in class even when he speaks out and tells the truth.

I am wholly disappointed in the reaction from the school in regards to the bullying going on in the classroom and on the playground this year. This latest event is just another example of how some children believe that they have the right to dominate and harass and embarrass other kids. This belief is not being challenged by the authority figures in the class and it repeats itself again and again and again.

I am also aware of the fact that I am continually being called to the school to deal with the aftermath of SOMEONE else's kids bad / assaultive behaviour. It is my son coming home early due to being punched in the head, being pushed into a puddle, stomped on or caused to fall and hit his head while the offender walks off and enjoy the rest of the day. Perhaps their parents are not even being notified that their child has assaulted another kid in class. For the record sometimes saying sorry is not enough to absolve a child for a bullying behaviour. 'Sorry' is an empty statement if it is not followed up with positive actions and change in behaviour.

In short I am not impressed and hope that next year bring a more stringent adherence to the Zero Tolerance around bullying.

Just a Mom in a Galaxy Far Far Away

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dear Ambition (where art thou?),

It seems like just yesterday I could not sleep at night due to my ambition. It would keep me up at night - dreaming up ways that I could change the world. I had so many ideas and a naive notion that I alone could pursuade change through conversation. I had plans to write the LSAT, I had plans to travel, I had plans to be a one person change machine.

Today I am exhausted by the seemingly full time job of keeping my three kids alive (despite their valient efforts to tempt fate). Don't put that into a light socket, Don't climb up that structure, Don't eat THAT, Put your seat belt on (repeated to the same child at least 3x a day), Look both ways before you RUN out into traffic! That doesn't BELONG there, YOU need to put that stick down, Where is your helmet? Linden? Everly? Rowan? SOMEONE answer me before I call 911!!!!!

I wonder, when they are all squared away into the false safety of adolecense, if ambition will visit me again? I hope so. I miss it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dear Alzheimer's Disease,

I don't think that I have properly thanked you. It is probably very rare that you get a note indicating someone's gratitude... however I am thankful for the gifts your illness has provided to my family.

In the 1980s my grandmother became very dissolutioned by her family. Her dedicated husband died too early and she was left a widower. She had two grown children with whom she developed a conflicted relationship with. It has been mused that my Pappa kept her grounded and reminded her about what was really important in life. But when he passed she edged closer and closer to a religion that encouraged her to disown her children (and by association she lost touch with several of her grandchildren). In the end she was estranged from both of her kids.

Despite being repeatedly rebuffed, my gramma's children persisted in contacting her. One fateful day my sister stopped in and was able to drive my gramma and her friend to a doctors appointment. It was there that we learned that my gramma had Alzheimer's disease. She was slowly forgetting the tasks of everyday life. Upon further investigation it was discovered that she had been in ill health for some time (as evidenced by the rotting food in her fridge & the gentleman who took hundreds of dollars from her each month for her church 'dues').

Gramma slowly forgot why she was estranged from her family. Or perhaps she remembered but recognised that they loved her and they would take care of her in her time of need. I like to think she chose to follow the genuine love her children harboured for her than the fear her religion used.

She does not remember who I am, she frequently calls me by my mother's name. This is too bad as I was her first grandchild and I have many fond memories of her up till the age of 7 or 8. However those are my memories now to keep. Sadly I also have the memory of her refusing to attend my wedding.

For all the heartache I am greatful that my Gramma has allowed us back into her life. Her son and daughter have been tireless in their care of her over the last four years and will continue to care for her with the same tenderness she showed them when they were young.

I do not want to underestimate the devastation that Alzheimer's wreaks on a family or an individual. But for my family it has been an opening for reconciliation.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some crazy days and nights

I have been reminded lately through work what a lucky person I am. I have three busy healthy children, a wonderful husband who seems to be aging in reverse, a dedicated caregiver to my kids, a great dog and 2 'kind of' great cats (if not for the throwing up and bird catching they would be great without the kind of)...

I was reminding my 7 year old son, who is having some trouble with some friends at school, that this too shall pass. I reminded him about all the wonderful things that he has in his life starting off with his family, his home, his community, his province and all of his freedoms. I don't quite think that he gets it yet - but in time I hope that he will think of all these gifts that he has and it will help him get through the rough times. He is a pretty lucky kid.

I am always cognisant of how we are fragile but resilient. So many things can go wrong - but mostly they don't. You will have more good days than bad, you will have more wonderful dreams than nightmares and you are loved by many people whether you are aware of it or not.

Today I am grateful.