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.