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How Did I Get Back to Middle School After 28 Years?

Submitted by on June 7, 2011 – 7:01 pmNo Comment

Guest post by Cindy Watts

You really look at peace sitting there.” Does she really know what is going on inside my head or body? I can feel the tension throughout my back and neck and my entire community is wondering what is going on.

How did I get to this place with only 18 days remaining in school: sitting in the hallways of my daughter’s middle school with students thinking I am a hall monitor and staff offering me chairs to sit in during class? I guess they think the floor is a little bit hard for my old body to stand.

I have always thought that by being an involved parent, I would be able to help my kids in school. I could help by keeping in touch with all their friends and their families, knowing the kids by name, and being available to the staff at the school. Right now I feel helpless and frustrated with the procedures and policies about bullying in schools. Sitting on the PTA board at several schools for 12 years and the PTA Council board for 3 years, I feel that I am in touch with the school district and all the great things put in place for our kids. Then why am I attending middle school again after 28 years?

I am not a loud parent who is always complaining about policies or procedures at school. I have always been a big advocate to teach other parents about why certain policies or procedures have been put in place. The staff does have a very hard job trying to educate the kids while also keeping them out of trouble at the same time. Parents are not always the nicest people to communicate with and sometimes they get very angry or are not supportive.

Today I sit in middle school, following my daughter to each of her classes so that she feels safe until the end of school. How did I get here and why do I want to speak up for other children and their families? Maybe it is because I really did not begin the reporting process early enough and now this situation has lasted almost the entire school year. Maybe it is because I want more students to have a happy, successful educational experience because their parents are not equipped to help them for a variety of reasons. “Paying it Forward” is a term I use a lot when trying to motivate parents to support their kids and their schools.

When we were in school they did not use the term bullying nor did they have policies about this type of behavior. Cell phones, internet, or social media were not available to add to the nasty behavior. We only received consequences if you were caught fighting in school. It did not include ongoing verbal comments or hallway aggression. We were told to toughen up and just let it roll off your back. It did help me in my years as in management because I knew that people talking behind my back did not need my attention, but it did create some bad memories about school.

When my daughter’s grades were dropping and she literally cried when I dropped her off and picked her up at school, I had to dig a little deeper than our regular conversations. When I used my “open-ended questions” to find out more, I learned that two girls had been creating a very uncomfortable situation for my daughter by talking in Spanish in the hallways about her out loud and to other students, although her best friend would translate for her, was just one of the many verbal aggressive behaviors. Surrounding her in the hallways and pushing their bodies up against her while asking her if she said something about them or telling other kids that she was talking about them were other behaviors. It just would not stop and the behavior was becoming more and more aggressive.

I decided to report this to the Assisstant Principal at the school. I did learn that middle school is where this type of behavior is the most prevalent and does not get reported as often as it occurs. Many students do not tell their parents and if they do their parents do not know when it is affecting their kids or when to report it. The schools can not tell you the consequences which the students are given due to the confidentiality rules, but it would be nice to know the district’s procedures and steps taken for bullying in schools today.

As I sit here in the hallways reading, typing, and watching the students wandering the halls as if they are going to the bathroom during class, I wonder how this has affected the other families involved. Have they altered their work schedule to be able to attend middle school with their child? Have they given their child any consequences at home or are they allowing them to go about their life as usual? Are they actually monitoring their child’s online activities on social media? Is texting with friends still occurring as if nothing has happened?

I can tell you this, my family has had to make some tremendous sacrifices to make sure my daughter is safe till the end of school. You probably are asking why don’t I just transfer my daughter to another school? My daughter does not feel that “they should win” and she will miss her friends that she has spent 7 years making. She often asks “why are they allowed to roam the school like nothing has happened?” I don’t know what to say to that question. I do ask her if she wants me at school and she says, “yes, of course I don’t know what they will do next, there is only 15 days remaining of school”. I don’t want her final grades to drop, especially since her math teacher has recommended her to be in honors math next year.

I am currently monitoring their Facebook pages and taking snapshots of their comments which involve my daughter. I want to make sure I have the proper information if this goes any further. You will be surprised what kids will do online if their parents are not monitoring them. It is a good thing I actually teach parents how to monitor their kids with and without them knowing.

After the last episode, when my daughter was surrounded by the instigators at dismissal telling her that they felt like punching her, I felt the need to help create a safe learning environment for my daughter. That’s how I ended up back in middle school after 28 years.

I am suggesting that parents and students receive the education necessary to understand what type of activities are really considered bullying and what behavior is too much. When should students take a stand alone or together? When should parents report the instances to the schools and when should they take them into their own hands? We need to educate parents as to what the policies and procedures should be followed with these type of recurring situations.

Kids will stick together and comment on each other’s conversations, not knowing the student or situation at all. They are encouraging the nasty behavior of their peers and fueling the fire. Watch children’s conversations on social media and you will learn more about kids than you ever wanted to know.

It is actually peaceful in the hallways during class, but I never thought I would return to middle school on a daily basis 28 years later. I am glad that testing is not on my schedule.

Final tip: Ask questions, listen to everyone involved, and talk WITH your student when you think something is wrong. Maybe you won’t end up back in school like I did!

Cindy Watts is a Plano mom and long-time PISD PTA member. She can be reached at Cindy Watts <guru@outtatheboxmarketing.com>.

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