Friday, May 21, 2010

In Defense of the Teacher and Richelle

I'm not sure if I got spanked or not...  LOL!  I think I should set some things straight...  there may have been a misunderstanding with a reader.  I value her opinions and her insights, and am fascinated by the stories she tells... but I think perhaps I need to go into more detail about the teacher in question and what happened with Richelle's buying with money not her own something for a classmate. 

In defense of the teacher, she did not call Richelle any names or label her. What she did was talk to Richelle about how taking something that didn't belong to her without that person's permission is stealing.  That is a fact. The teacher has never, over the course of the year, seen Richelle buy stuff at school, and the fact that she did it and bought something that she didn't need (I just bought her a new journal recently) that would be fairly expensive (by a child's standard) made the teacher wonder what was going on...  and she wanted to make sure that there wasn't a problem. I am willing to bet she told Richelle she would be telling us what happened - this teacher is older and a bit more old-fashioned, and I like that; she won't hide anything from a parent.  Parents need to know what is going on so they can properly parent their children.  
I have to applaud the teacher, because I do not want in any way to have a child think they can do something like take money from us without asking permission and get away with it. We talked to Richelle about the fact that in the future, if she wanted something, she needed to ask us permission for it...  we usually say yes (such as when they have book orders - we pretty much let the kids pick what they want, but we do set limits on how much can be spent).  

I grew up in a close neighborhood, and everybody looked out for each other.  When any of us kids did something that the parents knew wasn't right, they got hold of the offending child's parents and told them what was going on.  It was up to the parents to discipline or punish their child.  Believe me, we grew up knowing that we would "get it" if we did something wrong (and got caught, which was more than likely, given that the neighbors and our parents were pretty sharp about what we were up to).  And if we hurt someone else in the process of  breaking a rule or what was considered generally accepted practices, we had to apologize and make it right.

I agree that Richelle had to have learned some survival strategies in the orphanage to have gotten attention and to have some sense of self...  I am probably more lenient in some ways because of that...  but the  point is, she needs to learn early what will or will not be acceptable behavior and actions in society (that starts out early as the family, and then extends to the school, the neighbors, the community, etc.).  And explaining to her and labeling the action as what it is (in this case, taking something without permission is stealing) she can understand what she did wrong.  We can't wait until some time later to teach her these things.  I cannot make excuses for her just because she came from an orphanage. 

She had a rotten start in life.  No child should be separated from their parents, IMO, unless the parents are abusive or unable to care for their child properly.  She will be fighting those learned habits and life skills from the orphanage most of her life... if we don't start teaching her the appropriate life skills that are accepted in the society she lives in now, it will be harder for her to change from what she learned from living in an orphanage.

Both my husband and I have compassion for the reason she did it...  to help her friend.  We both believe that the child in question is a friend of Richelle's and not just someone whose friendship Richelle is trying to buy.  Roy has observed the two of them together, and says they genuinely like each other and play well together.  We also have compassion for teaching her what will help her to live a good life in the future...  I don't want to ignore any of this and later in life get a call from the police telling me that she was caught shoplifting - just because her "friend" needed a skirt, or whatever.  The underlying message is still the same...  we don't take what isn't ours. 

She has had to deal with and learn a whole new way of life.  She came into the family still trying to use her old ways from the orphanage - it's all she knew.  She has learned a lot over the past 18 months, but the old ways are ingrained and have a way of sneaking back into her life.  As I've said, it will take many iterations of the message for it to finally embed itself as deeply into her brain as her former orphanage habits have.

All this reminds me of a story.

I remember that when I was 20, I was living with my cousins.  They had a 3 year old boy, whom I adored... he was such a sweet child.  One Thanksgiving, we were gathered at my grandmother's house and cooking the meal in the kitchen.  Andy (not his real name) was pushing people in the butt saying "Out of my way!" as we went through the kitchen. 

I stopped him and said, "Andy, if you want people to move for you, you need to say 'Excuse me, please'.  Can you say that for me?"  He did, and immediately his grandmother (my aunt) said, "He doesn't have to say that.  He can do what he wants."

I told her if he didn't learn how to have proper manners now, when he was young, not only would it be harder for him to learn them later, but he will most likely not appreciate other things in his life.  

One thing led to another and my aunt just went a little too far.   She began berating me, saying it was no wonder no one would marry me (I mean c'mon, I was 20 and not interested in getting married at the time... even though I'd had three marriage proposals from the time I had been 16).  I decided if she was going to be a bitch, I could dish it out as well (we DO come from the same gene pool).  I told her it was a wonder that her husband stayed married to her - that he probably had someone on the side to make life bearable. Little did I know I hit the nail on the head.

Well, I got what I deserved with that one...  she went ballistic and began to smack me about the face and shoulders with her fists - to which my brother Richard stepped in (the one time he was on my side...  imagine that) and grabbed her wrists telling her "You will not hit my sister!" (My hero...) All the time she is cursing him and me and... well, things broke down from there.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, took my side on this, and she was alone in her opinion.  However, that didn't help Andy any.

He grew up to be a young adult dependent on his grandmother. She was about to put a second mortgage on her house because he was in default on a truck he had bought (and couldn't afford in the first place) when she died.  He was left with nothing.  I don't know if he has grown up since, but I know he had not been able to keep a job since he had been working. Even after she died, he had trouble keeping jobs.  Maybe today he has learned to take care of himself...  but I have lost track of him.  But I do believe that if you bring your kids up right, there is less likely a chance of this happening.  It was almost inevitable that this kid was going to fail, because no one taught him the kind of life lessons that would help him understand how to be grateful, how to be independent, and how to show others that they matter.  It was just all about him and what he could get. And my aunt (and Andy's parents to a good extent) were responsible for how this turned out.

Teach your kids when young!       

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