How do you deal with the strong emotions that engulf you when you are upset with your child's teacher, principal or school? Maya C shares her story and tips to deal with conflict in school.
When a preschool principal wilfully betrays the trust of a 6-year-old and undermines the child’s self-esteem, she incurs the wrath of a very angry parent.
The last quarter of the year is usually a busy time for us – the kids’ birthday celebration, Halloween parties, the year-end school concert, and various term-end presentations. But, this year is different. My son is graduating. From Kindergarten! And we are excited because his principal invited him to conduct a speech in Mandarin on his recent immersion trip to Guangzhou China at his graduation ceremony.
What a great opportunity to boost his confidence in the language given his “Chin-dian” heritage, we thought.
It seemed only yesterday that I was holding his tiny hands and leading him shyly to school. Today, he’s a senior in kindergarten and all set for the new challenges in primary school. Over the next 3 days, we practiced and drilled him till he could recite the Mandarin speech by heart.
Graduation Day arrived. We sat patiently through one performance after another. We listened politely to the speeches by some of the graduating students, and anticipated our son’s turn. And then, the graduation concert was over. What happened to my son’s speech? Why wasn’t he called up? Didn’t the principal confirm with me yesterday that he was going up on stage?
The principal was apologetic when we approached her, and blamed the oversight on the teachers who were hosting the program. We were puzzled, how did they forget a speech that was confirmed days earlier?
We pressed the teachers for answers, and they admitted the principal had instructed them NOT to call my son on stage. My disappointment turned into fury. What kind of principal would tell a 6-year-old to practice because he was going on stage the next day and then pull a stunt like that? Why make us work so hard if we were not going to be part of the program. Why did she lie?
As we pressed for more answers, the principal and the school board gave us the cold shoulder. They made excuses and ignored our calls. We were shocked that this Christian-based kindergarten was behaving so badly. For a school who boasts of its “strong Chinese curriculum” and “51 years in the early childhood education”, it was showing neither morality nor experience.
Sending our children to school every day became an unpleasant experience. We were infuriated by the principal’s lack of integrity, puzzled by the school board’s insensitivity and conflicted whether to keep or pull our younger child from the school.
Luckily, we had the support and wisdom of some very good friends to help us pull through this difficult episode in school. And we want to share their wisdom should you ever find yourself in a dispute with your school.
1. Find a Support Group
We shared our grievances with fellow parents and discovered that the principal had angered many moms. Parents shared that she had pulled a similar stunt on another child in the afternoon session; that she labelled an over-active kid “autistic”, and refused to refund the school fees of many departing students, including one who couldn’t attend class because of a terminal disease!
They also witnessed her scolding the teachers, humiliating a mild-mannered teacher by telling parents she was “mentally unstable”, and spreading lies about teachers who resigned from the school!
The teachers confided in parents that they were overworked, and uninspired by the principal; that she deliberately restricted the communication channels between teachers and parents, implemented new teaching routines that were not effective and forced those who refused to conform to her ways to leave.
Now, we are not advocating a revolt. But hearing these stories made us feel less alone in our “fight” with the errant principal. It also provided us with a platform to share and support each other emotionally.
2. Talk About It – Over and Over Again
We were lucky to have friends who encouraged and allowed us to talk angrily about our experience repeatedly. Over time, it helped us to release the toxic emotion.
A word of caution: Speak with friends, even strangers, who can relate, sympathize and can give you sound and rational advice regarding your situation. You want to ensure that you are acting in the best interest of your child instead of being guided by your anger.
3. Do Something – Channel Your Negative Energy Positively
Do not let yourself ‘feel’ victimized. Think of solutions that can help you to rectify the situation. If that is not possible, take any positive action to ensure that the ‘wrong’ is not repeated. We wrote to the school board, spoke with fellow parents in the school and went hunting for a school with a curriculum that meets our needs. It made us plan for the future and move forward, which leads us to our final point.
4. Have Faith That What Goes Around Comes Around
As angry as we are with the injustice of it all – that despite her deceitful ways, she gets to stay in the school that we had such high hopes for our children to learn Mandarin, while we have to leave to find an alternative (because the standard is no longer up to par) – we believe that justice will prevail, and the truth of her waywardness will come to light.
It has been 6 weeks since the unpleasant incident and we no longer feel enraged each time her name is mentioned. In fact, we feel sorry for her that she is so misguided by her insecurities. We are resolved to place our faith in the universe that she will reap what she sows, and take heart that our son is understanding and has forgiven his principal for retracting the opportunity to speak Mandarin on stage.