Macy is doing very well in school…. Now. She is going into 10th grade and is doing just fine. Things were not always this way. Middle school was rough. 6th grade seems to have a tough curriculum so Macy was kept busy just trying to keep up. It is kind of a transition year. More lectures and homework but a lot of busy work like coloring maps and writing sentences for spelling words. So behaviorally, things did not become really rough until she entered 7th grade.
Macy needs structure. She needs limits and she needs to be held to them. That is what we told all of Macy’s 7th grade teacher’s. We explained that Macy can be challenging, she will take an inch and run a mile. Almost all of Macy’s teacher’s appreciated and followed our advice, with one exception: Mr. B.
We went in before the first day of school and talked to Mr. B. He was Macy’s science teacher. He had years and years of experience. He was quiet and reserved and just said to us that he could handle his students. We said ok, we were happy to hear it. Pepper and I told him to let us know if there were any problems. He called us for a conference about 4 weeks later.
When we came in to the room Mr. B. seemed pretty confident that he was still in control. He said things with Macy were going well. He said she needed about 5 minutes at the beginning of the class to make jokes and be funny and then she sat down and he could run the rest of his class. This did not sound like a good idea to Pepper and I. We asked if any other student in the class got this privilege. He said no, but it was ok. He and Macy had an agreement and he even seemed amused by our girl. We left a little concerned.
About 5 weeks later, we got another call to come in and talk to the science teacher. At this meeting, Mr. B explained that Macy was now making jokes and keeping the class off topic for 15-20 minutes per class period. He mentioned that he was having trouble with her making off topic remarks even during his portion of the class. We again told him that Macy should not be given ANY time to act out. That he should stop giving her these special ‘comedy central’ times and make her participate like the rest of the class. He said no, he thought that would be too harsh at this point in the year but maybe after the winter break he would get things back on track.
Our next meeting, just after the winter break had Mr. B a little more upset. He had taken away Macy’s time in the front of the class, so she was just standing by her desk and talking over him and when he asked her to leave the room, she would be loud and disruptive about it. Several other staff members were present at the meeting and they decided to set up a plan to reward Macy for being good in the room. These rewards included getting to leave the room early at the end of class, special treats from the social worker and suckers from the office. The team also set up ‘break times’ for Macy to be able to leave the room if she was becoming overwhelmed. All these rewards were to be doled out by Mr. B to ‘re-establish his authority’ in the classroom. Throughout this meeting it was clear that Mr. B was not finding amusement in our daughter anymore.
We went a good 4 weeks without hearing anything and I am a firm believer in the theory “no-news-is-good-news” when suddenly we received messages to come for a meeting. The most concerning thing about the request was that Pepper and I BOTH had phone messages to come in for a conference from the teacher, principal and social worker. Six phones messages to come in to talk about your child in one day is NEVER a good sign.
When we came to the meeting we immediately noticed a new player at the table. This gentleman was introduced to us as the union representative for Mr. B. Uh-oh. I am on the executive council of our school union…. These people did not get called in without reason. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew this was moving to a new level. The principal told us that the issue with Macy had become more serious and explained that Mr. B would give us the details. When I looked at Mr. B I saw a man who would have rather been tied to a busy subway train track than talk at this meeting. He stammered and sweated and gave no eye contact while he explained the problem.
In a nut shell, and after a very long and drawn out distraught explanation, we learned that the problem was that Macy was loudly saying in the front of the class that Mr. B was looking at her chest instead of in her eyes when he spoke to her. She basically was calling him a pervert. This terrified Mr. B. …with good reason. Teachers lost jobs, careers, family, livelihood, everything over these kinds of accusations. I truly felt bad for the man, but also… in the back of my mind I kept thinking: I TRIED TO TELL YOU! WHY DIDN’T YOU LISTEN!!
The union rep explained that the simple fix would be for Pepper and I to sign a form stating that we would not hold Mr. B accountable for the information Macy was saying in class. It took me about 3 seconds to say absolutely not. I was not signing away my child’s rights to be heard and I had no idea what was going on in that class nor did I know Mr. B well enough to trust his story.
The principal came up with an alternative suggestion. He felt we should change Macy’s class to another science that was offered at the same time with a different teacher. It took me about 10 seconds to say no to this idea too. I could see the teacher’s mouth drop when we explained why. Pepper and I explained that if we moved her now Macy would know that every teacher had their limit. We said that for the rest of her school career she would push and taunt and make life miserable for any teacher that she did not like until she could get out of the class. We explained that on several occasions we tried to talk to Mr. B and tell him about Macy and he told us each time that he was an experienced teacher and he could handle her. At this point, feeling the threat of defeat Mr. B. looked at us with tear-filled eyes and said he could not handle Macy. I felt bad for him, even though he couldn’t give Pepper and I eye contact…. He really did only look as high as our boobs.
As a compromise, a para-educator was placed in the classroom for the remainder of the year. Not to help with academics so much as to be an extra set of adult eyes in the room to make sure everything was handled appropriately. There were to be no more special treats or rewards for Macy…. She was to be treated like everyone else, although breaks were still permitted because those seemed to be most effective.
When we got home we pulled Macy aside and told her she could not talk meanly about Mr. B anymore. She told us what she said was true. We asked her if it was nice. She admitted no. We asked her if he ever touched her or did anything inappropriate. She said no, but he gave her the creeps. We said we understood, but that wasn’t illegal. (We agreed about the creepiness but did not say so!) We explained that she had to pass his class and being nice and respectful was the only way that would happen. (Macy was actually very good at science so the grades were never a concern) She tried to argue and we told her if she did not pass we would make sure she had Mr. B again the following year. (He did teach 8th grade science too….. but I’m sure he’d have opted for early retirement rather than have Macy a second year!) That fact was enough to keep her in line for the rest of the year though. We did make it through 7th grade science with Macy….. she got her lowest grade ever in science that year…. But passed. We were very grateful. ☺