Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thrown Under The Bus

            “Naomi says Mrs. Jacobs swore at her.”

            “I don’t believe that.”

            “Well, I have a hard time believing it too, but Naomi’s dad was in my office for 45 minutes this morning telling me how uncomfortable Naomi feels with Mrs. Jacobs.”

            I stared back at the principal and felt an angry burn starting in my stomach.  That little stinker!  She got to her dad first.

            Yesterday as my new para Mrs. Jacobs was leaving, she paused at the door.  “I need to talk to you about Naomi,” she said.  “I was helping her find a book in the library today, and after she checked her book out, she asked if she could go on a computer.  I told her she could, but she could only look at the approved sites from her teacher’s web page.”

            “What happened,” I asked, already suspecting what was coming.

            “Well, I turned away from her for just a few minutes, and when I looked back, she was playing a video game.  I told her the game sites weren’t allowed and she had to get off the computer.”

            “That’s pretty typical of Naomi,” I reassured her.  “I don’t let her near a computer in here unless I’m able to sit right next to her.”

            “Well, when I told her to get off the computer, she called me a . . .”  Mrs. Jacobs hesitated and then spelled a not very nice word.  “Then she said I couldn’t boss her around, that I wasn’t a real teacher.”

            I felt bad for Mrs. Jacobs.  She is a 26 year old mom with two little kids, and she needs this job.  She is really good and is learning things very quickly.  The challenge from Naomi was typical but the language was over the line.  I wish I’d known about it earlier so I could have dealt with Naomi immediately.  Speaking like that to anyone was an office referral.  “What did you say back to her?” I asked.

            “Well, I told her even though I wasn’t a teacher, I was an adult in the building, and she needed to follow my directions.  I also told her she wasn’t allowed to speak that way here.  She just rolled her eyes at me and walked away saying something I couldn’t hear.  I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept my eye on her the rest of the period.”

            Naomi’s behavior was a classic challenge to a new authority figure.  “You were right to make her get off the computer,” I reassured her.  “I’ll take care of this tomorrow.  Don’t worry. You did the right thing.  Unfortunately, your honeymoon is over, and you’re going to be challenged by some of the kids.”

            The next morning students were waiting for me when I got to school, and I forgot to go to the office.  Naomi was going all out against Mrs. Jacobs.  She had gone home and complained to her dad, and he had come in first thing this morning complaining about Mrs. Jacobs.

            “Naomi was the one who was swearing, not Mrs. Jacobs,” I explained to the principal.

            “Why didn’t she refer Naomi to the office?”

            “Naomi caught her off guard.  She didn’t know what to do.  I only found out about it last night on my way out the door.  I just haven’t had time to see you about it.”

            “OK,” the principal sighed.  “I’ll talk to Mrs. Jacobs and then talk to Naomi, and call her dad back.  This is always so much harder when the kids go home and give their version first.”

            As the principal walked away I stood at my classroom door doing a slow burn.  I thought I had a pretty good relationship with Naomi and her parents.  But now . . . not so sure.    

            The bell rang and the hall filled with kids.  Naomi strolled by with a couple of her friends.  I found myself just staring at her.  As she walked past me, she noticed I was watching her. 

            “What?” she said with an exaggerated wide-eyed innocence.  I could see a tiny smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. 

            I pointed to my eyes with two fingers, turned my hand around, and pointed one finger at her.  The miniscule smile vanished from her face, as she quickly turned her head away and accelerated down the hall.  I was pretty sure her head was ducking down just a little lower as she walked around the corner.

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