Life With Nine Kids

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Day Mrs. Cooley Lost Her Cool

I'm still processing something that happened today. This is me processing thoughts as I type.

Today was a beautiful day at the park. I spent four hours with my seven children having a tea party, feeding ducks, shooting off stomp rockets, hunting for robins with Sebastian(2) and playing on the playground. It ended on a really sad angry note for me though. My children won’t soon forget what they saw either. They have a raw (and not totally accurate) view at what public school could be like. Of course there are many wonderful teachers in the system and maybe this teacher is a good one just caught at a bad moment but what happened was completely inexcusable.

Hoards of kids invaded the playground for a field trip like field day looking event. I say invaded, but they were there before we got there. It was obvious they walked there and that there was many, many classrooms there. The supervision was seriously lacking and kids were going crazy. They were kicking soccer balls into the playground area, up the slides, over our heads. I was really worried about the safety of my kids so we had to hang out in a grassy area. (After Penelope (4) almost took a soccer ball to the face.) We took it in good stride; these kids should be able to have a good time and have a happy end of the school year day.

After a while teacher whistles started blowing and teachers started packing up ice coolers and gathering up trash. Soon we’d have the playground to ourselves! Teachers lined up their children and they started walking away. After about twenty minutes just one class remained. As that class was walking away I heard the teacher tell her class that was a fun day. As they got further I quit observing and started talking to my baby, Everett. I noticed a child run by me to catch up with his class. It appeared he wasn’t paying attention or something. Suddenly I was jolted by the sound of an adult yelling, “ARE YOU CRAZY? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?” over and over. It was a cross between a yell and a scream. The kind of yelling that is completely angry and out of control sounding. My kids and I watched as the school teacher belittled, screamed and got into the face of one of the school children. She walked in a circle around him yelling and screaming at him. I was so confused. My mouth dropped open as I tried to comprehend what was going on. My body was rigid and I looked at my children in disbelief. When I looked at my children I saw what I had expected to see… their innocent faces watching what was happening. I was still speechless. It was like everything was in slow motion and the teacher then waved a stick at the boy asking him if he’d like it if she hit him. She was in his face. She was screaming. She was threatening him and I thought she was going to hit him. Finally I said, “How can you scream at your children? How can you do this? STOP YELLING AT A CHILD! Look at you!” She then turned to me in rage and screamed and asked if I had seen what he did. I had not. She yelled at me in horror, “He was hitting a duck with a stick! YOU DID NOT SEE IT! He was hitting it!!!” I thought to myself that is really bad but the words that came out of me were, “You cannot teach children like that. You cannot scream at them. You just CAN’T. ” I was shaking with anger as I tried to imagine a boy, about 9 or 10, hitting a duck with a stick. As she walked away with her class my boys told me most the boys in her class were throwing things –balls, sticks, rocks- at the ducks. My boys said they had told them to stop it earlier. My boys said the one boy in particular who was being screamed at was throwing sticks at the duck as the class was leaving. He had a big stick/branch. He was hitting at the duck. He was not beating it like it was cornered as the lady made it sound; and even if he was… You cannot scream at a child like that. You should never, ever be allowed to be in charge of a room full of children with a temper like that. I’ve snapped at my kids, I’ve yelled, I’ve been out of line, I’ve been very sorry to them for it --but they are my kids. I can yell at them. I shouldn’t -and as a general rule I don’t. However I would NEVER EVER expect a teacher to behave that way. A teacher is a person of power and a person who chose a career of teaching children. That person is supposed to teach and portray a certain character and image to children. A teacher sees those children more waking hours than their own parents do. It always irks me when teachers say their responsibilities end with teaching. Like when a teacher mentions they aren’t babysitters. Our public school teachers actually play a very big role in children’s lives. Teachers do help raise our public schooled youth.

Today a whole classroom learned its ok to freak out and scream when confronted with a situation. That it’s ok to belittle and threaten someone, wave a stick in a violent manner and scream at him, “How about I hit you with a stick.”

I’m so ashamed of what I saw. My children are shocked and Charlotte was so taken back she said she wondered if we should call the police.

I know this child should know better, he is WAY old enough to know better. A teacher should know better too. Teachers and all adults should know at least a tiny bit about the psychology and brain function of children. How cause and effect, reaction time and consequence isn’t fully developed until after twenty years old! I’m not even saying she shouldn’t have yelled. I am saying she should not have exploded into an angry rage and threatened him. Period.

A strange thing happened when she left. Her class stopped down the sidewalk about 300 feet from us. I figured she was talking to her students or gathering herself. I was talking to my kids. Four of her students suddenly appeared in front of me and said, “We are supposed to give this to you.” On a piece of brown paper sack was the teacher’s name, school, principal's name and a phone number.

That is quite interesting of you to do that Mrs. Cooley. I haven’t decided why you gave that to me or what I even want to do with it yet. I just wish none of that would have happened today. I play over what happened a million times. Maybe I should have stepped in and calmly asked you to calm down and offered you help dealing with the situation. Maybe I should have grabbed my camera and videoed the whole thing and stuck it on you tube. Maybe I should mind my own business; those kids in all those classes were driving me nuts too. Maybe I should learn to keep my mouth shut and mind closed. Maybe I should go to the superintendent because the principal does not seem high enough. Maybe I could ruin your life. Maybe you are soaking in a bubble bath right now wishing you had not lost your cool and you are now crazy stressed out. Maybe you are sorry. Maybe you are still mad. Maybe that little boy learned a lesson, or maybe not. I’m glad I spoke up for him though. At the end of it all he is still a child that needs guidance and quality discipline instead of hatred --whether he meant to hurt an animal or not.


rox said...

Oh my what a day !
You are right it is different too us being Mum and other adults being adults of authority . I would not yell at another child . yes I've lost it and yelled at our children . I'm Mum . I have sat them down and told them the why etc.
not only should that teacher be sorry to her class but your kids too.
To speak for those who do not have a voice is what we are to do . That child as it sounds did not have a chance to speak.
I do not know if you are Christian but today is the feast day of ST.Catherine of Siena . I just wrote about her and the need to speak and witeness , because I was debating to write about soemone or not . well it turns out she was very outspoken about injustice and told bishops off etc. she stood up and spoke of how we are to treat each other .
That was my clue to speak too ☺
Let us hope the children & the boy did not just hear the teacher , they heard your voice too ;-)

StaceyMarie said...

Shauna! I just found you again, after having not kept up with you or chatted in YEARS! I was just looking through my livejournal that I kept when pregnant with Aidan five years ago and loved all of your comments and encouragement at the end of my pregnancy. And guess what? I'm pregnant again. :) I'm one of Sydney and Adam's friends, and I still kind of keep an LJ at Let's catch up!