Look at my Nose

When I asked Daniel about his day, he was eager to share that it was good, and that he was happy. I asked what had made him happy, and he explained that Ms. L is back from maternity leave. I am not sure if he was more excited that she is back or that her son’s name is Daniel, but he was happy enough that he couldn’t stop talking. He told me he had given her a hug and that he had missed her a lot. Then he said, “Finally, we don’t have to be around Ms. P at lunchtime anymore. She makes all the kids feel bad.”

In the last two weeks, Ms. P has made two comments on Daniel’s log, both saying that Daniel had pushed another student. Daniel cried both times I inquired about the incidents. He said, “That woman never gives me a chance to talk! Can I please talk? I am a person! Can I tell you what happened?” The first time, another boy had been playing around while they were lining up. He had begun to walk backwards, and Daniel had stretched his arms to keep the boy from bumping into him. The second time, two boys had begun to fight and Daniel had come between them and stretched out his arms to keep the boys apart. None of the children had complained that Daniel had pushed or hurt them. Without a doubt, my son was telling the truth. He kept asking why he hadn’t been given a chance to explain. I couldn’t answer him.

Once, he told me that he hadn’t eaten enough at lunch because K had left his food in the classroom and Ms. P had refused to let him go upstairs to get it. So Daniel had given half of his lunch to K, who had begun to cry, unnoticed by Ms. P. He has mentioned a few times that Ms. P does not go up to students when they are hurt during recess, that she is rude, and that she “doesn’t know how to talk to kids.” I had to agree when he told me that when Ms. P wants him to look at her when she is speaking, she tells him to look at her nose. He said, “That’s not something you say to a person. I’m not a dog. If she wants me to look at her, she should tell me to look in her eyes, not at her nose.” My son knows a lot about dogs, which is the first thing anyone learns about him, when they are interested in getting to know him. As an educator, I wonder how it is possible to work with children and not want to know them, or to choose to see a boy pushing children instead of the boy who was protecting himself and helping his friends stop fighting. Also, common sense tells us that in order for children to make eye contact, they must feel safe, and trusted.

All this concerns the person who, upon meeting us during enrollment, had reviewed Daniel’s file and promised that he would receive all the special education services mandated by his IEP, which he then never received. So I don’t expect superior competence. But I do demand that my son never walk away from an interaction with any adult feeling like he is not a person.

I, too, am happy that Ms. L is back. Daniel says that if anything ever happens, she will listen to him, even if he’s in trouble. He says she always explains things to him and she never makes him feel bad. I am deeply grateful to her for this.

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