Friday, April 09, 2010

One of "those" mothers

I've recently gotten to know the assistant principle at my daughter's school. Really, I should say he's gotten to know me, because it was pretty easy to know him to a degree. He's the guy out in the street at drop off and pick up reminding parents to use the cross walk and not to park in odd, illegal places. Last semester he thanked me for using the cross walk one afternoon, and I wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic because I'd cut the corner a little, or sincere, because so many parents don't use the crosswalk.
Anyway, he now knows my name and who my kid is, not because of the unfortunate lice incident of February/March, but because I called him to complain about "Health" class.
One day Leila came home and told me this sad, dramatic story that a police officer had told them in school. The topic was bike safety, and, to emphasize wearing a helmet (apparently) the officer told a story about a boy who landed on the handlebars of his bike and hurt his stomach. His mother didn't think it was serious, but the next morning, she went into his room to wake him up for school, and "he didn't wake up, because he was dead!" Now, I guess this is a true story that the officer had some relationship to, but it did not relate to the topic, was not appropriate for 1st grade, and was related in a dramatic, not educational, way. It made Leila sad, and it made me really sad, too.
I wrote a letter to the teacher, and she replied that she was concerned about it, too. However, I thought the officer visiting was a one time thing, so I didn't follow up.
A couple of weeks later, Leila told me "Skin cancer is the number one killer in the US" or some other such startling statistic. I asked her where she had heard that, and she said, "Officer P____." Really? Skin cancer? What does that have to do with a police officer? Is it illegal or something to get it? Or to send your child outside without sunscreen?
I planned to contact the teacher again, but my husband suggested this time I go straight to the administration. So I called the school office, and got online with the asst. principal. He was pretty shocked to hear what the officer had been telling the students. I asked about what she was supposed to be teaching them, and it turned out, he didn't really know. The curriculum had been approved by the police department, (and maybe the district?) and this women was coming in every week or two to teach the kids.
When I told the teacher I'd spoken to the principal, she said, "I know what that's about." The kids had come back from their previous session with the officer asking if they could die on the playground! I hadn't even heard this one! She told me that she and the other teacher were debriefing the kids after these lessons to make sure they didn't go home scared out of their minds. (I guess your hoodie can get caught on the equipment? The smart teachers assured the kids that they were never alone on the playground, and they would be fine.)
I passed this latest information on to the asst. principal when I saw him in the hallway and introduced myself. He assured me he would speak to the officer and let me know what the curriculum was for the rest of the semester, and he's followed up with that.
My feeling is that the officer is full of stories and examples and so excited about sharing them that she doesn't stop to think about whether or not they are appropriate for a first grader. I'm sure it's important for little kids to know safety things- I think my kids probably know most of them already, but some parents may not think to teach their kids. I know health class' curriculums cause controversy, but I didn't expect that to start in the first grade!

1 comment:

Loma Kath said...

someone has to be "one of those mothers" -- it may as well be you! One thing I think is important to consider when you call to complain is whether the issue is just about your child, or all the children. Many people think rules or curriculum ought to be changed because of what would benefit their child. And you do need to be an advocate for your child to make sure he or she is getting what they need to succeed. But, parents who are committed to the school community care about the way they handle issues, the relationships they build, and about the entire school. At least that's been my experience. Anyway, this seemed like and issue that need confronting for all the children. By getting involved (without being angry) I think you helped empower the teachers to confront the issue as well. well done!