Friday, October 10, 2008

The Effect of Kindergarten Teasing?

I was discussing why I didn't understand why Flurpee says she can't read or write (she writes just fine even though she has to ask how things are spelled and she crazily erases any letter that's not 'just right' and her reading is perfectly fine for a second grader--we're working on dipthongs and she already has blends down, silent-e rule, a lot of sight words, and many suffixes though I have to help occasionally) with another mom. Flurpee also hates when people 'laugh at her' which means any laughing where she didn't deliberately crack a joke--even if I'm just laughing because I'm overwhelmed with her sweetness and cleverness. The other mom asked a very insightful question that immediately reminded me of the following events that happened two years ago. She asked if Flurpee had ever been teased. It hadn't even occurred to me. I don't know how intense things truly were and in my adultness, I had forgotten the impact that kids will keep with them for a long time.

One of the reasons I had my daughter in Montessori primary school was to have her in a place that emphasized learning where I loved the teachers (they are great) and where there was a small student-teacher ratio so they could keep a close eye on the kids' behavior. Two of Flurpee's good friends in Montessori school were very bright. One girl, who was a year younger than Flurpee, was working at an advanced kindergarten level and the other girl was also very advanced in kindergarten. Flurpee was at a perfectly adequate kindergarten level and was doing kindergarten work both of these girls had completed early in kindergarten if not even the year before.

These three girls were close friends. Being the three kindergarten girls they did many chores together, played together, and shared being able to teach the other kids. Yet those two girls also got together more frequently outside of school and hung tight during school. So it was pretty typical of some of the three-girl dynamics people have occasionally warned me about.

It didn't take them long to realize that Flurpee's level of work was behind their own. From early in the year they started comparing her work to their own. They talked about how they finished that work the year before, that they were smarter, that they were working on the green boxes in reading (long-vowel sounds that come after standard letter sounds and blends), and that they were learning money in math when Flurpee was still doing regular (non-carrying) addition and subtraction with four-digit numbers. Comments like, "That's so easy," "I did that so long ago," "I can't believe you're still working on that." Then it started with laughing and namecalling.

The teachers did not realize there was a problem for a while. They had no reason to suspect something was going on because these were generally nice girls and supposedly friends with Flurpee. Once I told the teachers what Flurpee told me, they seemed incredulous (given their friendships and the generally nice demeanor of the girls). It didn't take them long to see the teasing for themselves.

I am so glad my friend was willing to listen to me complaining and I'm so glad she was able to ask a question that led to me to such insight for Flurpee's struggles. Now I need to figure out how to support her properly to leave those taunts behind her.


Brad Williams said...

When our son was having trouble in a Montessori classroom, perhaps the most surprising thing to me was how oblivious the teachers were of his tension with two other boys, and of his unhappiness over it. It seems to be easy for a teacher of 20+ children to miss a lot that is going on in their emotional lives.

Kim said...

I find it ironic that one of the reasons I liked the school was because I wanted the small school environment to eliminate those negative interactions. I figured the class was so small, the teachers would catch that kind of stuff. Live and learn. There was also teasing in Hanover's elementary classroom, though it was a less-destructive boys vs. girls teasing.

Once it happens, the impact is immediate and lasting.

Shez said...

Kim, I struggle with this issue in our homeschool. Ben and Shira are forever comparing each other's work and I get questions like, "Mom, why is Ben only on page 1 and I'm on page 8?" or "Mom, why did Shira get 4 wrong when I got them all right?".

We talk all the time about how people are different and we all have different strengths and weaknesses, how one day Ben will do better in his math and another day Shira will.

I can see how in a classroom this kind of thing can slide past the teacher. I am just so sorry that your daughter has to deal with the fall out.

We are dealing with Shira's lack of self confidence because she compares herself negatively to her brother. She takes longer to learn new concepts than he does so she decided she's stupid. I know teach them new concepts separately. This has made a huge difference.