By Denny Mather
I walk almost every morning. It's my time to think as well as get a bit of exercise – and the dog loves it. I miss Vincent going with me and listening to his chatter, but he's in college now and has a different schedule. Yesterday I was trying to come up with an article related to home schooling but all I could think of was when Vinnie got the "bad boy" label in public school.
As I've said in several columns, when Vincent was in public school I went to his classroom once a week to help. He had a pretty good time in kindergarten but really hated the forced nap in the afternoon. His teacher finally allowed him and a few of the other non- nappers to sit quietly by her and color or look at books.
First grade was more interesting for him. They started learning how to read and do simple math. Vincent's main problem was that the other kids did not do what they were supposed to and cheated at games both in the classroom and on the playground. Vincent was no angel but he really did have a very high standard regarding what is right. He complained bitterly about class punishment...
Second grade was when my boy turned bad. I got a call from the principal asking me to come to his office to discuss Vincent's anger management problem! We agreed to meet the following morning. Dale, my husband, who was taking classes for his masters degree at the time decided to skip one and go with me. Mr. X seemed rather taken aback when we showed up together and I really believe that he had thought he'd be able to intimidate me.
Mr. X told us that Vincent had lunged at another kid the day before and when pulled off was furious for an inordinate amount of time. Vincent had been made to wait in his office and was told that he would be punished by losing recess time, at which point he became mad again. We were told that Vincent would benefit from talking to the school psychologist, a student from the local college, and Mr. X wanted our permission to have him do so.
Dale and I said no. We would talk to Vincent and let him tell us his side of the story before doing anything. Mr. X was not happy and said that kids his age were prone to lying.
That evening I waited until Dale got home before I said anything to Vince. He told us that he had already been punished and did not think it was fair for us to punish him as well and went to his room. We followed and again asked him what happened. He refused to say anything other than it wasn't fair to be punished at home for what he'd done at school, especially since he had already lost one recess and would lose another. (The kids losing recess had to sit or stand in a painted square near the playground, but I didn't know that until later.) Dale and I told him to let us know when he was ready to talk and that we really wanted to hear his side. We told him it wasn't punishment and left his room.
Luckily, the student aide in Vincent's class room was in the same biology class as Dale. Tony told Dale that Vincent was a real wild cat when angered and that he was the one who pulled Vinnie off the other kid. Tony had seen the whole fight so was able to tell Dale that the other kid had hit Vince in the head when he was passing by. Vince defended himself by pummeling the other boy, who happened to have a history of being a bully. Tony also told Dale that Mr. X had already had the school psychologist talk to Vince!
I made an appointment with Mr. X and told him that number one, I did NOT appreciate them going behind my back re the psychologist and number two, it was up to them to keep known bullies under control. I also asked what kind of punishment that boy had had. He wouldn't tell me.
Dale and I told Vincent we knew what happened and were on his side. We asked him to go to an adult rather than take matters into his own hands if he were being picked on or hit. We also told him that he could defend himself and we would back him up but that he was not allowed to start a fight.
The "bad boy" label followed Vincent throughout his public school career. Whenever Vince did anything wrong I was asked about his anger management problem... One time a teacher told me that Vincent was hyperactive and should be on Ritalin (a prescription drug to calm such children down). I'd seen what had happened to one boy whose parents took that advice: he went from a mischievous, bright eyed child to a kid that drooled. Really!