The Clothespin Nazi
August 25, 2009
Karate Boy’s school uses a color coded method for behavior. In their system, green is good, black is bad, and in between there’s yellow, blue, and red, in that order. Each child has a clothespin with their name on it, and when they misbehave they have to move it down a color. Last year Karate Boy’s clothespin sayted on green, pretty much all year. He had one red, and a few yellows, but not over 5 days all year off of green. He was crowned, “Student of the Month” the second month of school, and at every conference his teacher had nothing but positive things to say. At the first one, she told me, “I wish I had a classroom full of Karate Boy’s”, and I teared up. It was what every parent wanted to hear. He loved school, and I thought we were in for smooth sailing for the next few years.
Back to school night we found out that there were only a handfull of kids from his kindergarten class in his first grade class, and nobody he was really close to. However, I knew he would’t have any trouble finding his niche. First grade started 3 weeks ago, and since that time his daily behavior chart has became more colorful. The first week found the greens peppered with just as many yellows. The problem seemed to be talking, which he gets honestly. When I asked questions, such as who he was talking to and if they also got in trouble, Karate Boy always told me the others never got in trouble, only him. Not wanting to be one of, “those” parents, who think that every teacher is picking on their kid, I convinced myself that KB, in his quest to make new friends, was always initiating conversation at innaproporiate times.
The next week found us having the same problem. There was an incident involving the decibal level of Karate Boy’s whisper. His teacher said, “If I can hear you, it’s not a whisper.” before directing him to move his clothespin. The next day there was another involving him talking to someone in the bathroom. Apparently there is no talking in the bathroom, even if the someone you are talking to is a former classmate and your best friend, who’s first grade teacher does allow talking in the bathroom. “What’s next” I thought, and laughed inwardly at the mental visualization of his teacher saying, “If the person in the next stall hears you pass gas, it’s too loud, and you will have to move your clothespin* “. By the end of the week KB’s behavior chart had more colors than a gay pride bumper sticker.
Friday he came home and his square for the day was colored green, with blue over it. I was confused and prodded KB for information, and what I found out made me very angry. They had computers, then recess last thing that day, so they colored their squares right before computers. After coloring their squares they were asked to put their chairs on top of the table, as they wouldn’t be in the classroom any more that day. KB saw his classmate Claire struggling to get her chair on top of the table beside him. He asked her if she needed help, and because this task was supposed to be done silently, he was reprimanded for talking. As a reward for his chilvary, he was forced to move his clothespin straight to blue and miss part of his recess. An action some teachers might have praised or even rewarded, his punished him for.
Now I can’t help but be one of, “those” parents, and since speaking to some of KB’s other teachers, I’m convinced of the possibility that KB is being picked on. I don’t want him to be wrongfully labeled a “problem child” in our small school, with it’s close knit teachers, that label could follow him for the rest of his school years. I also don’t want him to stop liking school. That could make the next 11 years miserable for us all. Therefore, after spending the weekend brooding over the events, J and I planned to set up a meeting to talk to The Clothespin Nazi soon.
This week is starting off much better, with 2 greens in as many days. Maybe a face to face meeting won’t be necessary.
* Editors note: As I was typing this post, Liz, who commented first on this post, posted a status update on facebook that her first grader got in trouble, and moved to blue, for “passing gas”.