Saturday, February 24, 2007

Stardom Week - Part 7

This is Part Seven of a Nine Part Series

Some firsts in a child's life are black letter rather than red letter days. Wednesday at around 5:30 in the evening I had learnt that J had lied to me and the best I know this was the first time she had done so.

To imagine that so many of us adults had gone into a tizzy over what we thought was discrimination and subtle racism over a child' s lie was indescribably deflating not to mention humiliating. I could not imagine how I would face Mrs H at our meeting the next day. I had acted exactly like the minority stereotype who can't get over their ethnic identity and sense they are treated differently all the time and often without good reason.

It was time to start questioning J and piece this puzzle together. After an hour of questions and lot of tears a cohesive story started to emerge. J still stood by her version of events on Monday - i.e. she had started so late that Mrs H had to rush through the poster quickly. She had promised that J would get her turn on Tuesday.

"So what happened on Tuesday ? Mrs H tells me that you got your turn but you told me she forgot all about it" I asked not without some anger and reproach in my voice.

This was met with sullen silence and then lots of tears. "Mrs H said telling the truth can't hurt you but fibbing can" was all she managed to say

"When did Mrs H say that ?" I asked

"When she read your note. She called me to her desk and asked me if I remembered talking about the poster on Tuesday" J said

"So what did you tell her ?" I asked

"I did not remember. I said nothing" J replied

"What did Mrs H do after that ?" I asked. This was getting curiouser by the minute

"She turned around and asked the class if they remembered about the poster. And they said that they did" J said.

"And what happened after that ?" I asked her

"Mrs H asked me if I remembered and I said yes. That's when she said that thing about fibbing. What does fibbing mean, Mommy ?" J asked

I told her and she looked very upset. Shortly after she and I had this conversation I made half a dozen phone calls to poll my friends on the latest twist in the drama. The common theme was that the teacher was an authority figure who had acted in an unethical manner by discussing an adult matter with a child and front of her class. It was highly likely that she had been coerced into mis-remembering the events.

It was a dangerous precedent for a teacher to mess with a child's mind and take advantage of her powerful position. Now in addition to racial discrimination there was the issue of unethical and inappropriate behavior. Almost everyone suggested that I should not discuss the matter any further with J and make her feel like she caused a whole lot of trouble. The teacher had done the child enough disservice to begin with and I should try to salvage what I could of a very bad mess.

For my part I was greatly concerned that J's version of events on Tuesday had changed ever since the teacher had told her about the consequences of truth and fibbing. She was no longer sure which was which. She reiterated that she had not had a chance to read her book that day and that she was not lying. "Mommy, did I cause a lot of trouble ?" she asked me in a small voice. I held her close and assured her that she had not. We had a long discussion about truth and the power of words and expression to convey different meanings when in fact the same thing was being said.

1 comment:

ggop said...

Another cliffhanger! I can't wait to read what happened after this twist.
My heart goes out to J. I feel no matter what happens, she is never going to be at ease with this teacher again.