Malaka vs the Broad in Education

I haven’t spent much time blogging these last few days because I’ve been dealing with an issue at my daughter’s school: specifically, her attitude in class.
Nadjah has had a difficult kindergarten experience, to say the least. She spent 2 months of the first semester in Ghana where she was behind her peers, finished up the second half of the first semester at the dreaded Mimosa Elementary in Roswell, and finally got a spot at the Arab charter school where she is now. Moving 3 times in one school year can be hard on anyone – but no one, least of all I, recognized this fact. I expected her to automatically adjust, and to adjust well.

Last Friday her school celebrated Earth Day. Since I’ve been working, I haven’t had a chance to participate in any of her school activities, so I was (somewhat) happy to be at the park with a hundred screaming, running children. I walked up to two of the moms that I knew and joked around with them. In the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny woman with sunglasses and a scowl on her face eying me for a considerable length of time. She finally walked over. It didn’t dawn on me that it was Ms. S, Nadjah’s teacher, until she spoke (I had previously only met her once). Her Russian accent grated against my ears.

“I don’t know how Nadjah is at home, but she seems to be very angry all the time at school,” she said in ‘greeting’.
“How do you mean?” I asked. And ‘hello’ to you too…
“Sometimes she will just yell in class for no reason, or she will be very mean to the other children. One time she screamed so loud in class that the other children had to cover their ears,” she said. “And when she doesn’t get her way, she throws a tantrum. Once in math class, she did not want to work with another student and went and hid under a table.”

As the woman droned on and on, listing my child’s numerous infractions, I felt my countenance darken. This was Ghana all over again, and I was going to have to administer yet another butt whooping. Talking had failed yet again.

“Ms. S, I truly had no idea this was going on,” I said in apology. “She’s sometimes mean to her little sister at home, but that’s what siblings do. I’m so sorry.”

Ms. S just looked at me. I could tell what she was thinking: Here’s another one of those parents who swears their child is an angel at home, and only acts up in school. I don’t kid myself. Nadjah is a good kid, but she’s no angel. She inherited her mouth from ME…and my mouth on a 6 year old is not cute. Still, she knew better than to cut up in class as her teacher described. I committed to spending the day in school in hopes that that would offer some sort of ‘balance’.
So after we got home and I ‘ministered’ to her behind, I sent the teacher an email, apologizing again for the disruption in class and asking her to inform me of any future infractions, no matter how small so that we could address them at home immediately. I got this email in response:

Thanks. I think Nadjah does her best following the rules but she needs to work on controlling her emotions. It is not a big problem but I’d like to fix it now when it is easily fixable instead of waiting to escalate. I would suggest giving her a reward every time she controls her anger. It could be a verbal reassurance or a sticker, something to show her that you acknowledge her effort.
Have a great weekend!

What?!?!? So if this was not such a big deal, why were you mean mugging me and yammering on for 15 full minutes about Nadjah’s laundry list of violations? And the LAST thing any of my children needs is another sticker or toy. They don’t get rewarded for doing what they’re supposed to do. Heck, do I get a reward for getting outta bed and doing all the mom stuff that comes along with it? Tseewwww.

So come Monday, I arrived in class as I promised to do. Nadjah waved at me from the table where they were making clay objects. The first thing I noticed is that kindergarten is indeed a microcosm of the real world. There was a smug faced mulatto girl called Serene who is just an absolute bee-yotch; the chirpy little Indian girl; a portly Black boy, complete with Kanye frohawk; the requisite number of smart brown skinned boys, destined for Georgia Tech; a shy white kid and an autistic kid. There was even a future wife beater in the mix. It was he that I noticed next, as he gruffly ordered Nadjah to get out of her seat so that someone else could use the clay…while neither of the teachers caught this and/or asked him to use his ‘nice voice’. Humph.

Kindergarten is hard work. There was constant movement: Recess; reading buddies from first grade coming in and out; nature walks; circling up; the never ending attempts at getting the teacher to call on you as you raise your hand as high as your arm sockets will allow. I helped Ms. Theresa, the TA, with lunch with the kids stayed until I had to leave to go pick up Aya from school. I discussed Nadjah’s ‘situation’ with her at length.

“You know, she’s not a bad kid,” she said. “I think she’s funny. She’s so cute.”
“Then what are the problems then?”
“Well, she does speak out of turn…”
“Like what and when?” I pressed. Nadjah is known for interruption.
“Like sometimes the teacher will be teaching and she’ll just yell out.”
“Yell out what? The answer to a question?”
“No,” Theresa shook her head. “Like she’ll just yell ‘ahhh!’ for no reason.”

Bull. No one yells ‘ahhh!!’ for no reason unless they’re crazy or has Tourettes, neither of which does my child suffer from. I had cracked the case. In kindergarten terms: Nadjah’s classmates were telling on her when she did something wrong, but she was not telling on them. That’s all about to change. My baby is about to start snitching, and snitching big time.
Exhausted, I got home and received another email:

Hi Malaka,
Thank you for coming today. It looks like Nadjah is doing fine when you are in the classroom. I noticed that she did not interact with the other children as much as usual. She was fine the rest of the day after you left, except for a little whining about a marker at dismissal time. You are welcome to come tomorrow again, or if you prefer, we can see how she does without you.
Also, when she gets mad at home, instead of giving her consequences, you can use some calming strategies. You can make a list of activities together (count to 10, sit down for a few minutes, read a book, color, etc.) and she can choose one when she needs to calm down. After that you can discuss the problem in a nice way without yelling. Hopefully that will help Nadjah control her emotions.

What the hell do you want lady? You’re mad when she interacts a certain way, and mad when she doesn’t interact enough? I had had it.

Hi S,
Thank you for the update. I got a chance to speak with Theresa, and she is very optimistic about Nadjah’s behavior. She mentioned that she will sometimes have sudden outbursts in class, and though we did not come to a conclusion together, I do have an idea of what it may possibly be.

I noticed that some of the other kids can be very rude to one another (two stood out in particular) and as I sat down, I saw one little boy ordering Nadjah out of her seat after you told xxx to allow another child to have a turn on the computer. Nadjah also told me that Serene (?) calls her stupid and “the meanest person in the universe”. I did not see Nadjah getting up to report any of this to either you or Ms Theresa, and I suspect that if someone is bothering her, she does not tell you to allow you as a teacher to (re)direct both students.
I also informed Theresa that we were out late last night as a family and that Nadjah was probably very sleepy. She told Nadjah she could lay down once they returned to class, which is why she asked you if she could have a rest. Unfortunately, Theresa did not tell you that Nadjah could have a short break, and she sat through math; which is not a problem at all. I could see from her face that she was disappointed, but she didn’t whine or throw a fit, so I’m pretty pleased that she controlled her emotions in that moment.

We do give Nadjah positive reinforcement at home, but we balance that by informing her what the consequences for poor behavior are as well. She gets praise when she does well, and direction on how to do better next time if she does not. But I am also happy and willing to employ your suggestions as well. I’d like to see how she does tomorrow without me there, and I told Theresa if you need me to come back I definitely will.

Thanks again!

Best regards,

I was intentionally being a snotty whore, and I certainly hope it came across in my email. I have not received a response, and I don’t anticipate being asked to return to class to help or ‘observe’ any time soon.

Summer can’t come fast enough.