My least favorite part of my job is dealing with parents. Maybe that is why higher education is so appealing and tempting. Not that it would come riddled with it’s own politics and issues. But dealing with a difficult parent is probably my least favorite thing to deal with.
Today I got one of “those calls”. ”My daughter’s friends told me that you told them that they shouldn’t hang out with her, is this true?”
Well, your daughter is a ring leader. The entire school calls her a “mean girl”. I’ve watched her earn this reputation at lunch while yelling at a student walking by “Hey, are you from Mexico or something?” or a tiny 5th grader in my office who is in a puddle because M told her that her outfit was stupid on the bus. She was going to be on a “hunger strike” the summer before I was graced with her presence in my school because the girls in the homeroom she was put in “dressed… ya know…”
I told these girls if they didn’t want to get into trouble, then they might want to rethink who they hang out with. Honest statement. Guilt by association runs rampant in middle school. Choose wisely.
I recently got the Teaching Tolerance magazine for Fall 2013 and it had on there “There are no bullies, just children who bully – and you can help them.” How can I help them when they are getting an entirely different message at home? That it’s okay to bully and be mean? That putting others down to bring yourself up is an acceptable way to climb the social ladder? How can I compete with that?
And I realized the only way I can is to watch what I say to my daughter. Watch what I say around other people’s daughters. Make sure they have a model of kindness and see that it’s even cooler to support and raise others rather than bashing them down.
I told this parent that the perception in the school is that her daughter is a “mean girl”. Straight out of the movie. The four of them literally follow rules from that movie and think it is adorable. So I told her that kids talk about them like that. And that I hope that this restorative justice counseling they are talking about can help change their reputation before high school so they can start fresh. She was pretty unhappy with my honesty and said good bye bluntly. She has been dragging my name through the mud all morning long at the local hospital where she works. She called my principal to tell him she doesn’t want me having anything to do with her children.
I’m hurt, but I also know that I am right. I spoke the truth. I stood my ground. I wasn’t a bully myself. I tried to share what the perception was, and as I’m beginning to learn, perception becomes personal truths. What we perceive is what we know to be true.