Fight Club for Five Year Olds

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
My son has been back to school for three weeks and I have already had three meetings with the assistant head (vice principal).  He's five years old and has just started in year one (1st Grade in the US). Let me start from the beginning though.
Last year, I was the class mom.  I went in nearly every week to help.  I got to know the children and  both teachers (he had two that split the week).  I got along really well with one of the teachers, but clashed with the other from the beginning.  At the end of last year, we found out that my son was going to have the teacher I clashed with again this year (full time without the other teacher).  When my son found this out, he cried and said he wanted to switch schools.  I can't say I blamed him, but I talked to him and finally convinced him to give her another chance.  I never told my son I didn't like her (or that I had gone to see the Head teacher/Principal to complain about her), but he sensed it so at the end of the year, I went in to help on one of her days.
When I arrived, my son was not in the class, but within a few minutes he was brought in by the assistant head looking miserable.  She let him give me a hug and sent him to his seat.  I stepped outside with her and asked what happened.  She told me he was sent to her for fighting.  I was shocked.  I have never seen my son hit anyone.  She started by telling me that he told her her was defending himself and that his Mommy told him that he was allowed to defend himself if someone was hurting him (this is true!).  She told me me not to worry.  It was the end of July, we were in the middle of a heat wave and all the kids were hot and bothered.  She then added,
'If you weren't here when I brought him back, you never would have known it happened.'
Again, I was shocked.  I asked why I wouldn't have been informed and she told me that it was school policy to deal with things internally and to not involve the parents unless it was absolutely necessary.  I told her (very strongly) that I was his mother and I wanted to be informed.
A little while later, the children were sent outside to play with another class.  There were sixty children on the playground running wild while the teachers sat back and chatted.  Boys and girls were equally unruly and were playing quite rough.  I went to the teacher and asked if they were allowed to play so rough.  She told me no, but did nothing to stop them and continued her conversation. I ended up stepping in quite a few times, but there was no stopping them.  They were uncontrollable.
That night, I went home angry.  I told my husband that I was disgusted by what I had seen.  I hated the fact that at school, the rules were so different than they were at home.  I told him I didn't think I would be going in after the year was over because I just wasn't happy with how things were.  In the end, I told myself it was the end of the year and the teachers needed a break and the children were just blowing off steam.
On the first day back to school my son came home miserable.  He told me he wasn't allowed to play with his friends because one of the others boys wouldn't let him.  I asked him if he asked the boy nicely.  He told me the boy never let him play (even last year).  I had seen the boy (let's call him Danny) be mean before and at my son's birthday party, I had to talk to him about including my son in the games they boys were playing (it was his party after all), but as a rule I never stepped in.  I wanted to give my son the chance to work things out himself.
After the first day, I contacted some of the boy's moms and asked them to check with their kids to see if my son was really being left out (or if he was exaggerating).  They all came back with conformation that it was true.  Danny was the leader of the game and my son was not allowed to play with them.  The boys said it was' Danny's team' and they couldn't do anything about it.  I was heartbroken, but being the first week, I knew I'd have to wait before going to talk to the teacher.
On day four back to school, my son was the last one to be let out of the class.  He had to sit looking miserable until all the other children were let out one by one until the teacher let him leave.  She never said a word to me.  He told me the other children got stickers for making good choices, but he didn't get one.  Later that night I asked him what he had done wrong.  He sobbed and confessed he was sent to the office for fighting (along with two other boys).  He was inconsolable.  I asked for details, but didn't get much out of him. I was furious that the teacher didn't tell me what happened.
After I got him to sleep that night, I sent a text message to one of the other moms telling her they were sent in for fighting and asked if we could talk to the boys together the following day to find out what happened.  She called me immediately. She had no idea her son was sent to the office and was also angered by not being informed.  She told me that she asked her son about my son being left out at school and explained what her son had told her.  At playtime, the boys split up into teams and fight each other.  Apparently, the play fighting often escalate in to real fights and these games have been going on since early last year.  The penny dropped - I thought back to being on the playground and realized it was not children blowing off steam at the end of a long school year - it was just how they played while at school.  The other mom and I agreed to go into the office for a meeting together the following day.
Later that night, another mom called me to tell me that in the morning, she caught her son trying to sneak a toy into school.  She told him that he knew he wasn't allowed to take toys to school.  He told her he had to.  She asked, 'Why would you have to?'
'Because Danny says if I don't bring a toy in and give it to him, I can't be on his team!'

Fight club or five year olds? Yep.

I will continue this post next time as I hate when posts run too long (plus, I'm late for my workout)...




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