Tuesday, February 8, 2011

School Yard Solutions

I don't want to be a helicopter mom, who swoops in and tries to solve every little squabble my kid gets into, but when kids start getting hurt on the school yard, it's time for action. After a rough week last week, where I felt like it was starting to become unsafe for the younger kids, it was time to find some solutions. After some lackluster shoulder shrugging by a few of the teachers, I was spitting nails when I headed for home on Friday. Apparently I wasn't the only one, and I am so glad.

When I and some of the other parents talked to our kids about what was happening, their response was startling. The basic procedure is this: ask the bully nicely to stop. If that doesn't work, move away. If that doesn't work, ask a teacher for help. And if someone is hurt, ask the teacher for help right away. The two most common responses from the kids are that they don't feel like that teachers would do anything about it, and that tattle-taling would only make things worse. Red lights started going off so a few of us booked a chat with the principal this morning.

The school is listening. They had a major staff meeting yesterday morning, and when I got to school to drop the kids off after lunch, I saw no less than six yard supervisors in their bright orange vests. That's a major step forward. They're still outnumbered more that 100 to 1 though, so it's not the only answer.

In our meeting this morning, the Principal confirmed that yes, some of the teachers have been slacking off on the yard duties and that will stop effective immediately. He showed us a map of the school grounds, and explained exactly where the boundaries are. The teachers now have new routes to patrol to make sure all the areas are covered. the Principal and VP will be out there every day too. They're even going to set up a snowball throwing area off to one side that will be set up with targets, and supervised by some of the more adventurous teachers!

When we told him about the younger kids hesitation to talk their teachers, and my own personal experience with the "what can we do?" attitude, he was very unhappy. That's not the message we want to send. He promised to have a second meeting with the teachers to address that. It's simply not acceptable. He went further, telling us to tell our kids to go straight to him if they don't feel comfortable talking to the teachers.

He also promised to talk to the kids this week about the boundaries of the yard, the rules of behaviour, and reminders about what bullying looks like and what to do about it. He's going to hold an assembly for the primary grades tomorrow, and address each of the senior classes individually. All the teachers will do follow-up activities with their classes, and hopefully that will get things back on track.

I like our Principal. While some of the parents and teachers think he "should bring the hammer down on them", and bring in a zero tolerance policy on bullying, and add a bunch of new restrictions on play time, he would rather work towards fostering a sense of right and responsibility in them. Teaching them to be good citizens seems like a much better approach to me too. With the possible odd exception, they're all good kids, who get carried away sometimes. He's got a lot of great ideas about how to deal with one-on-one situations and he has a wealth of patience. He also cares very deeply about our kids. He talks about them as if they are his own.

My faith has been restored.


1 comment:

  1. Based on an email from my very wise cousin, I think I need to clarify something about the "going to the principal" option. This was my response to him:

    I don't want Jonas going straight to the top and end-running his teachers. They are his first line of support and he needs to respect that. I was dismayed at the teacher's attitudes last week so "go to the principal" seemed reasonable under those circumstances. I've told him to do so only if he can't find a teacher, or if the teacher gives him the "who cares" attitude. (I've also emphasized that his teachers are there to help him and do want to do so.) Even if they don't respond, I'd prefer that he come to Steve or me before the principal, unless someone's hurt or in danger of being hurt. We're trying to teach him that the first line of defense is to use your words with the bully, then get away from the bully, then go to the teacher. Even when I dealt with it last week, I made it clear that I was going to tell the teachers, and I did so within sight of him. I didn't solve the problem, but brought it to their attention. I want to model problem solving, not be the problem solver.

    I only went to the principal today after three shoulder shrugging responses from teachers. Mr. Head is dealing with other parents going straight to him with every little thing and that's not right. Those kids are never going to learn to deal with their challenges. Some of the parents have given up on the teachers and aren't even giving them a chance anymore but I'm an optomist. ;)

    From the stories he told us today, I think he has a mediation approach in mind. He's a reasonable man and honestly seems to want to develop good citizenship. Part of that is fostering a good relationship between the students and teachers!