Thursday, February 28, 2008

Let's Lighten Up On The Labels

Yannick started kindergarten in September and in making the transition from pre-school to a more formal classroom set-up, I must confess, he’s exceeding all of my expectations.

It’s not that I don’t know my son’s an incredibly smart, creative, thoughtful, funny boy, but his pre-school experience was based on the Gardner method of education, where individuality and self-expression is valued far beyond fostering the traditional classroom structure. Yannick not only thrived in this environment, he was also loved and doted on daily by the teachers and staff.

I’m not sure what I expected, but so many of my friends warned me that boys are very different than girls, and Olivia has always been so easy about everything, I couldn’t predict how the boy would do. I am now happy to report that my boy seems to be, for the most part, making out just fine.

Yannick’s teacher, Maestra Maricarmen, is from Venezuela and she runs a very tight ship. She's a wonderful, energetic teacher and the children love her. Maricarmen includes a comment notebook in the kids’ homework folder everyday, and recently she’s sent messages about Yannick’s chattiness in class. The messages all begin with, “Miss Mango Mama (not really, she does use my real name), Yannick is being a bad boy by talking to his friend during class time.” So far, we’ve received three of these notes in the last two weeks.

Loverman and I have been quite responsive to these notes and talked with Yannick at length about paying attention to the teacher, not being disruptive in class and so on. We cut out all TV, no ice cream after dinner, the whole bit. I know this boy gets it, but I must admit I was heartbroken the other day when Yannick referred to himself as a bad boy. I explained that he indeed is not a bad boy, but talking out of turn in class is unacceptable. He’s free to talk up a storm during lunch and at recess, but while in class, no habla ingles or espanol.

Thankfully, there were no notes today or yesterday, and Yannick says he kept his mouth shut, but I may talk to Maricarmen about telling Yannick he’s a bad boy. Kids are so impressionable at this age and it’s such a crucial time because if they’re turned on (or off) to school and learning now, it will inform their impression of school for years to come.


jillybean said...

Mango Mama,

I would speak to Maricarmen about the power and impact of her words for all children. As an educator, she should understand that children are not "bad." They may make bad choices, but they are not "bad." She should also be careful that she isn't only using that description of a bad boy for a little Black boy and not others who exhibit the same behaviors.

I admit that I am sensitive about characterizing children and squelching their spirit with harmful words, consciously or unconsciously. We don't want words to box in a child and prevent them from reaching their full potential.

Love to you and yours...

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Mango Mama,

I would mirror what Jillybean said. African American boys many times are treated differently by teachers. Behavior that in other kids would not be admonished is bad behavior in Black boys.

Society constantly reinforces the perception that Black males no matter the age are inherently bad.

Pretty soon Black boys become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Melissa said...

I can't imagine why any teacher would use terms like "bad" to describe a child. And for Yannick to now refer to himself as "bad" is heartbreaking. What other labels is that little word going to lead to? I'd have a pleasant chat with the teacher if it were me. Chances are, she's not even aware of the impact of such a little word.

PS When I was a kid, every report card had the same comment..."she talks to much in class." That's where my nickname Melissa the Mouth came from - it stuck.

Barb said...

I agree with all that has been said...on the other end, I attended a conference with my daughter and her teacher. In front of my daughter the teacher kept referring to her as"perfect". Why do we have to label anyone? She's not "perfect" and she doesn't have to be. God forbid she thinks it's a possibility...anyone say "eating disorder"? Rumi said something like...out beyond the ideas of good and bad there is a field and I'll meet you there.


Mango Mama said...

Well ladies, thanks for letting me know that my instincts are right and I need to move forward with meeting with Maricarmen. Loverman has reached out to her and has scheduled time to spend in the classroom during class time and Yannick's not aware of it, so hopefully we'll get a real sense how he behaves in the classroom.

Barb, I love that quote from Rumi. It's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Yes, little boys especially little Black boys can have trouble in school. Its a system set up for girls, girls' behavior, and run mostly by women.

Little boys are different, more rambunctious and have more energy.
Black boys are suspended 10x more than any other group and it starts in daycare.

Its not easy dealing with some school teachers and administrators.