Courageous Conversations

Leticia and I are friends. Our children have been in the same classroom for the second year in a row at our neighborhood school.

Together we would like to share with you our experience with an Art Teacher.  Our children are now in Kindergarten together.  

Both our children mentioned that the teacher yells.  I had to pep talk Carlos every Tuesday following an incident where his teacher’s yelling resulted in his finger getting pinched with a marker top.  He mentioned that she was upset that he took the tops of the markers and her yelling at him to put them back made him “nervous.”  He came home with a band-aid on his finger. He said he “cried alot mami.”

By mid September, we are informed that the same teacher had the entire Kindergarten class throw their work in the garbage because they were not “doing it right”.  

Leti’s little girl loves art and takes pride in her art work.  I agree with my friend, this instruction is lowering their self esteem.

By October 4th, I tell Leticia that I am going to exercise my parental right to observe the class.   While volunteering in the classroom, instruction began with the word “stupid” and the children in the Kindergarten Bilingual class to react to “a bad word/una mala palabra.”  The actual teacher did not read the word “stupid,” rather a random reading voice did.

In our culture, “stupid” is a really bad word. I would categorize it in the “fighting words” category.  We do not allow the word to be spoken in our home.  It is not taken lightly, like in the monolingual English speaking community.

Leti shared, “The first thing that ECFE teaches is to not use bad words and to respect, and then the school is the first to talk badly.”

The art teacher also denied my son the right to go to the bathroom (twice).  This after having granted that right to another child right before.  I was forced to undermine her and took my 5 year son to the bathroom.  

I write them an email the evening of the observation and request a meeting.

At the meeting the response to the marker incident is no recollection that the marker incident happened, but an apology was offered.

Le digo a Leti: “Como que me suena como un desculpa de boracho.”   Leti me dice: “Andale.”

The response regarding the children’s work in the garbage, was “the material was too difficult.  The plan was to try it again when they were better prepared to handle the material, in a couple of weeks or so.” Also, she had the children put their work in a container, not the garbage.

Le digo a Leti: Es arte. ¿Le debía de ver preguntado si fue  un contenedor de basura?

Regarding the word stupid being used in her material.  The context was sarcasm.  I then ask if they believe that sarcasm is a concept that 5 year olds can grasp?  They both said yes.

That the word being used in any context is not okay especially toward historically marginalized communities, in a school setting, and so young.  

I owned up to taking my child to the bathroom during class. She was having trouble remembering how she told me “no” TWICE when I asked her on behalf of my child to go to the bathroom.  She claims to asked me for 30 seconds to finish instruction upon returning from the restroom. But she did not. Had she I would have kept her to her word.  She wanted to talk more right then. I responded with “no.”   

We agree that this is not about me. This is not about her. This is about creating a positive environment for our children to love art and to continue to love to learn.

Art is a much better experience for our children and no more Tuesday pep talks.  

All thanks to really uncomfortable courageous conversations!

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