Posted by: Deanna | May 27, 2008

Off to School Today…

Friday Mary came home in quite a state. I watched as she walked with her dad. She was very animated, waving her hands and walking intently. By the look on her face I could see that she was not happy about whatever she was relaying to her father.

When she got inside and went about her normal after-school routine of cleaning out her lunch box, shedding her shoes and socks and digging through her back pack for whatever was sent home for me to see, I asked her how her day went.

Her regular teacher will be out for a couple weeks for medical reasons. Mary has a substitue teacher. She was hoping for a particular teacher they’d had in the past, but apparently, she didn’t get her wish.

Mary began telling me about the day. It was normal ‘sub’ stuff; the kids weren’t listening, not that they do on a regular basis, anyway, which is a continual irritation for Mary. The trouble began when the teacher commented on Mary’s handwriting.

As Mary told us about how the teacher spoke to her, her anger dissolved into tears and she began sobbing, unable to continue. I tried to get more details about the subs demeanor with her and other kids, but Mary started questioning her own account of what happened, saying she wasn’t sure of the exact words the sub used.

She calmed down a bit as we talked until she said that the same sub would be there on Tuesday. She broke into tears again and the look on her face was almost near terror at the thought she would have to face this sub another day.

I assured her everything would be okay as I would be attending class with her today.

Now before anyone thinks I am coddling my daughter and thinks she should get a bit tougher skin on her, that she should be able to take criticism, let me explain.

From past experience, I have learned and I realize that the account of an upsetting grade school incident isn’t always complete; that there are two sides of the story. The manner at which my daughter relayed the facts of the day and her emotional state is something I won’t take lightly. She felt attacked. She is one of the few kids in her class that does acceptionally well amid the noise and ‘pre-school-like’ atmosphere that can be the norm in the class due to the majority of 4th graders who were not taught how to behave in school. She takes her ‘job’ at school seriously and gets frustrated when the other kids don’t.

In a school environment where the emphasis is on state testing, perfecting the art of ‘filling in the bubble’ on the test sheet and being burdened with the task of making sure their teachers keep their jobs, penmanship and spelling have not been a priority since Mary started school. She has always been told that spelling wasn’t important when constructing her paragraphs, that cursive writing was not required, printing was okay.

Then she’s reprimanded for it by a sub who has been in her class for one day.

I have spoken to Mary on many occasions about how to handle situations at school. This is a daily event. She tells me about her day, her frustrations with other kids and work and I give her ideas on how to handle it when it happens again. I believe she has to find her way through school, but has to be taught how to manage, too. I give her choices, she then has to make her own decision on how to handle it the next time a similar situation arises.

Until she is attacked. No matter how subtly.

I don’t believe this sub set out intentionally to attack my daughter. I know that coming into a class as a sub is difficult, especially when the majority of the class has trouble sitting still on the best of days. But I also know that there is a line; a boundary that should not be crossed.

So today I will be a guest in Mary’s class. I don’t believe this will change the way this sub teaches, but I know she will think before berating a student. The important thing is that Mary feels better, safer, in class today.  There will be a time where she’ll have to handle this situation again when she’s older. She will have to take criticism, use it to strengthen her own resolve and strive for her personal goals.

At 10 years old she is not equipped to do this on her own yet.



  1. Hope you are able to resolve this issue to your satisfaction. You are doing a good job, Mom!

  2. so… what happened at school? You can’t leave us hanging!! 🙂

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