The J test

**Warning: Inappropriate language**      ** Some names and initials have been changed**

Kindergarten is over and Z made it out unscathed, for the most part.  This was his first encounter with children from truly diverse households, and he came home with some very interesting stories and, on a couple of occasions, a more colorful vocabulary.

To my thinking, children should not begin to see the world for what it is until third or fourth grade, when it is a must to experiment with inappropriate language and talk about the opposite sex and the changes that hormones will affect.  I never expected that first stealer of my son’s innocent ears and vocabulary would be a fellow Kindergartener.

Welcome to 2012!  Shocker!

The little boy in question, J, is a sweet boy and really doesn’t mean to offend – most of the time.  With big brown eyes and a cute smile, he is an energetic young fellow who looks like the most innocent of the innocent.

Then he starts talking.

The Kindergarten teacher, Ms. O, got her first shock the second day of school.  Being a veteran Kindergarten teacher, Ms. O was accustomed to the rigors of twenty 5 years-olds getting used to her classroom rules as well as to each other.  She anticipated that there would be those students who complied with her wishes, those who would not comply, and those that complied and felt compelled to make sure others did as well.

She didn’t anticipate J.

Ms. O asked the students to take their seats in order to move on to the next event. As she anticipated, some kids began taking their seats, others were not, and others felt obligated to help her out.  J was one of the latter.

Iz, a petite, tow-headed girl, continued to stand by her chair, so Ms. O asked Iz one more time to sit down.  Iz didn’t respond as quickly as J thought she ought, so J decided to help Ms. O by urging Iz to take her seat.  

“She said sit your ass down!” J yelled at Iz.

Shocked at what had just been shouted in her room, Ms. O nicely thanked J for trying to help and gently explained that that language was inappropriate for the classroom.

J looked confused and told Ms. O, “My dad says that to my mom all the time.” Looking at Iz still standing next to her chair, J yells, “Bitch! I said sit your ass down!”

If you were like me, you laughed at that, and then you caught yourself and silently scolded yourself. The humor comes from the unexpectedness of what was said and not from exactly what was uttered, so you can give yourself a break from any further guilt trip.

J had a rough year.  A mixture of the delinquency of the Herdmen children (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever), the energy and mischievousness of the ransomed Red Chief, and a hefty dose of gangster vocabulary and attitude, J was simply a piece of work.  Although many sympathize with Ms. O having to deal with J day in and day out, I felt sorry for J.  He wasn’t without his sweet moments.  He was doing what he had been taught at home, just like every other student in the room. The teachers and administrators at the elementary school spent this school year teaching and modeling appropriate behavior to J.  Ms. O went out of her way to reward him for the smallest improvement, there were always those days that rewards for good behavior couldn’t curb the bad behavior, and, here in Tennessee where spanking is still allowed in school with the parents approval, little J would get a couple “licks.” By the end of the year, J had less offences and was on his way to behaving the “Bear Cub Way” – be kind, be respectful, and listen.  Because of Ms. O’s persistence and, more than likely, a slight fudging of points, J was able to take part in the last Cubs event of the school year (special outings for those who exhibit good behavior), a trip to the zoo.

Although J made some great strides during the school year, I can’t help but wonder if what he has learned during the school year is all for not because it won’t be reinforced at home during the summer.  Then I wonder about my own children. What am I teaching at home that has to be “corrected” at school?  What is it that they learn at school that I should be reinforcing at home?

It can all be so overwhelming, so I am sticking with the basics: be kind to one another, respect others and their belongings, and listen.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  – Frederick Douglass


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