Wednesday, May 1, 2013

You will always know -Advocating

Shoved against a wall, by a man three times his size, defenceless, wordless and shaking with fear.

One day when J-man was in Grade One, not quite 7 seven yrs old, his regular teacher was away for the day. He had a substitute teacher that day, a well respected, old school guy with years of experience.

I was waiting for the home bell to sound, watching the class play a last minute game of scuttle-ball. As the bell sounded the teacher called the winning team (J-mans team) and sent the kids to collect their bags.
J-man was so excited by his teams victory, the excitement and hype of an energetic ball game and by the fact that a long school day was finally over.
I watched as he grabbed a small soft plastic witches hat and scuttled it sideways across about 4 metres.
I watched as his substitute teacher grabbed him up by his little polo shirt collar, and rammed him up against the brick wall of his classroom, screaming in his face.
"You are just a naughty, nasty, little boy"
"You are bad"
"I've had enough of you today".

The teacher, fully 3 times the size of my little guy, with a military style buzz-cut, red, angry face and fists clenched thrust J-man aside and stalked off to collect the other sports gear.
I was so stunned I didn't even absorb what I had seen.
J-man cried.
I got his bag, and waited for the teacher, who addressed me with the same level of anger and scorn.
"Are you the mother? Did you see what he did? I should have known you'd take his side. He could have killed someone there !" (Yeah! with a soft plastic witches hat and all his 6 yr old strength!)

I took my little boy home, cried and wondered what to do next.

The next day I was at the school early to speak with the regular teacher. For some reason I still couldn't comprehend what I saw, what I heard.
I felt silly for making a fuss... (let me tell you now, if I saw that sort of shit now I would rip his lungs out before the witches hat fell to the ground, but I was young, scared and overwhelmed :-)

I told the teacher what had happened, what I'd witnessed, that my little boy had cried himself to sleep and wet his pants in fear that the 'angry yelling man' would be back again the next day.
I told her I didn't want to make trouble.
And she stopped me there.
She told me the most important thing anyone has ever told me. The most essential thing that I have clung to and held to my heart since that day.

She said,

Twenty years from now, these teachers, this principal, will not remember your name. 
But you will always know, forever, that you stepped up and advocated for your child.

From a truly awful experience came the most important words.

If you have a child, special needs or not, there will be moments where you are called to step up and make a fuss, or to be quiet and tell your child it is okay to be treated in such a way.

Have you hit that point in your parenting when you have had to choose to make a fuss?


  1. I am in tears Lisa reading this post. How terrible for your son to have gone through that especially by a person who is supposed to be empower and have a level of trust amongst children. Good for you that you stood up for your son xx

    1. It was terrible but it was also such an important day. It was the day when I realised that not all teachers and principals are worthy of my trust. Unbelievably,the principal ignored my complaint and still employed this guy for large blocks of time (just not in J-mans classroom) up until the time we left the school. Crazy choices

  2. Lisa, shit. Taking deep breaths so I can type and think. That man lost control and should not be in that job. He obviously was not cut out to cope with the stress. I hope he's moved on or changed a lot. But the point of this of course is the advice you were given and you are now passing on. I've been torn sometimes between not wanting to be "that parent" who complains or makes a fuss, and knowing that my children deserve better and if I don't make that known, then no one will. I've not always been the advocate I wished I was for my children either, which is maybe partly why this post is so difficult to read. Thank you for writing it. xxxxx

    1. There have definitely been times when I've chosen to not go into battle. Sometimes the long haul ahead means you have to choose your battles carefully. In the end we conserve our energy for the important ones xxx

  3. Choked on my lunch. Literally. And now trying hard to swallow past emotional lump in my throat. I am seething that this happened. I agree with The Kids Are Alright: he should not be in that job. How many other children has he since deemed "naughty" enough to be shoved against a wall? I had a teacher like that in grade 3. I hated him. If the only way you can control children is to physically MAKE them listen to you, it's obviously not your calling to have anything to do with kids!

    This is a very important post.

    1. It was quite surreal to watch it happen. J's little feet on tiptoes as the teacher held him up by his collar. I didn't absorb it at all, but I had several parents stop me on the way to the car park telling me they would be happy to be n record as witnesses. Then in sunk it... like pouring hot water over an ice block.
      Thankfully, time moves on, I learnt important things and in some ways am grateful for the lesson that day.

  4. Yes, and we learn how to do it better each time. I have stood by my sons against neighbours, teachers, other kids, their father, public opinion, government departments and I plan to do more. You see I have a 10 year old who has Down syndrome and a 16 year old who is gay but that is not the reason I stand by them, I simply believe in equality for all and human rights. I also love my boys more than I could ever have imagined. So glad you reported that bully xo

  5. This made me cry! What an inspiring post. Isn´t it amazing how life always brings us good gifts from awful experiences? Thanks for sharing this.


Your comments are welcome, please be kind and respectful. We all have different views of the world, sharing your view with gentle words is Lisa