Tales of a Fourth Grade Boxer

by Janelle Hanchett

So…wanna hear something great? My daughter got a “pink slip” for punching some kid.

Yeah. Not that great. Or really at all.

The good news is it wasn’t in the face. It was in the arm, which somehow, in my mind, makes it better. And she was provoked, which makes it better only when I consider the alternative: child randomly punching people without being provoked (totally more alarming, don’t ya think?).

So…she was trying to do her work (which is totally believable given her oddly driven, focused and responsible approach to the world), and some kid started making farting noises in her face repeatedly. She tried moving; he followed her. She walked over to the teacher but the teacher was busy – the kid kept on and on – she grew enraged, hit her max – and punched him. The end.

When I first heard this story from Ava, entertained the image of some boy tormenting my child, invading her space and disrespecting her requests to back off, the first thing I wanted to say was “Good. Sounds like the lil’ fucker deserved it. Next time, kick him in the teeth too.” But if I regularly followed the first thought that entered my mind, I would undoubtedly be in jail, so I waited for something more suitable to creep in.

Winning Idea #2 was that it was the teacher’s fault. She wasn’t watching. Why the hell was she letting some spaz walk around bothering kids who were trying to work? Clearly she’s a bad teacher and I should call the school and yell empty threats.

Upon more careful consideration, however, I realized that one was a fail as well.

“Because the bottom line is, kid, no matter what, you just can’t hit people.” (Unless they are touching you, in which case you have every right to go to town wailing their asses into oblivion.)

This one is kind of complicated though. Of course she shouldn’t have lost it like that. On the other hand, I hear this kid has ADD and didn’t take his medication and was, apparently, pretty much batshit crazy toward her. And everybody has their limits. But no matter what he did, Ava can’t hit people. That’s obvious and I told her as much.

What bothers me is that it feels like my kid spends more time dealing with the antics of her classmates than doing any actual learning. Maybe it’s an age thing (4th graders, anyone?) or maybe it’s a public school thing (this is my first time with kids in public school, though I went there as a kid).

Her old school was really structured and traditional and strict, which has its own drawbacks, but at least I can guarantee every kid was given ample space (metaphorically and literally) to do his or her work, and there is no way a teacher would not have intervened if some kid was chasing another down making farting noises in the classroom.

Part of me wants to stick it out and see how it develops, see if it calms down, see if she adjusts. Part of me wants to get her the hell outta there.

You guys have any experience with this sort of thing? Would love to hear it.

  • Michael Ann

    You said the right thing and handled it well. That’s what we always told our kids too. First you use your words and if that doesn’t work, tell a teacher. Which is what she tried to do. But yea, no hitting unless it’s self-defense. I definitely think self-defense is ok. When my oldest was in 6th grade, I got a call at work that he had been in a fight. But the principal immediately told me he was ok and that he wasn’t really in trouble because he was defending himself against a known bully. They had to go through protocol (I forget what it was now) but she told me my kid wasn’t at fault and I really appreciated that. The bully was taunting my son and then pushed him, so my son punched him in the gut. I wanted to do a little cheer 🙂

    I’d be curious how your daughter’s teacher approached you about it? How does she deal next time this happens and the teacher is unavailable? Should she give her a signal of some sort that this is really important? And hopefully she has moved your daughter away from the annoying kid.

    Stick with it. These are good lessons in life really. We can’t protect them from everything but she will learn how to protect herself in acceptable ways.

  • Shan

    Yeah, my kid would have been the one getting punched. All the same, I had the same two first thoughts as you did. In the teacher’s defense, if that boy is anything like my son, she is probably exhausted, overwhelmed and at her wit’s end. My son retired two teachers. Technically, they decided to go back to school. The principal from those years was reassigned for, among other things, laughing at my son’s antics (especially bad if the teacher is in tears at the end of every day).

    On the whole private vs. public, very often you get what you pay for. I know, taxes, blah blah blah, but there’s an accountability that comes from having your customers hand you your paycheck.

  • kim

    I’m ready to pull my kids out of school on a weekly basis. Seriously.

    But here’s my train of thought. Choo-choo. There is no “perfect” school. But there is reality. And the real world requires that we know how to deal with annoying little fuckers who distract us when we are trying the do the right thing. We practice the coping skills at home, where it’s safe, and the not-perfect-public-school is where we put those skills to good use.

    Our kids (all six of ’em) are being brought up in good homes. They’ll be fine because they are being exposed to the real world, which is where they will hopefully end up as adults.

    At least this is what I tell myself. Choo-choo.

  • Carrera

    Hi, it’s me again…again, don’t have children, but work with them on a daily basis, as a teacher. I can guarantee you that it was probably really hard for that teacher to give your daughter the pink slip. In fact, she probably wanted to give her a high five. Or at the very least, say “Thanks, Ava. Now, Little Shit, go back to your seat.”

    But that wouldn’t be fair. A good teacher has to enforce the same rules for every child, whether or not they like one better than the other. The only way a class of children can learn that there are consequences to their actions is if there are, in fact, consequences to their actions. Ava will probably have learned from it; that other kid did in his own way too…mess with the wrong people and some bad shit will go down. He got his, and she got hers. Very rarely does that happen in real life!

    You gave your daughter the right advisement and support her no matter what, and that is all that matters. Who knows if that other child has that same privilege?

    Public school prepares kids for the public, and the public are a bunch of dicks. Your daughter will be a stronger person for it.

    • Dee

      Yes, all of this.

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife

    I’m with your second thought…the teacher is partly to blame for allowing the situation to escalate to this point. Teachers are always telling kids “Come to me if you have a problem with another student.” Ava did just that it sounds like and didn’t get the assistance she needed. You’re right she can’t go around swinging her fists but at some point the instigator needs to get a clue and sometimes it needs to be a jab to the arm to get the point across. I agree with Carrera that unfortunately Ava had to be given the pink slip.

    I went to private school grades K-8 and then was thrust into public high school and the difference between the two schools was like night and day. I’d talk to the teacher and ask her what Ava should do in a similar situation and the teacher isn’t readily available to offer assistance. I think his or her answer will be telling and you can take it from there.

    And if nothing else, Ava may have a future career as light weight boxer.

  • mamawolfe

    I’ve been a public school teacher for over 20 years, and it’s hard. I run a firm, fair and consistent classroom and kids feel safe there. The problem is that just like in society, our customers come froma variety of moral upbringings, beliefs, and backgrounds. Parents parent differently, and when kids are on their own they try out different behaviors. It’s really hard to make an individualized program for over 100 kids each day in your classroom, but I would say that safety is the number one priority. Learning can’t happen without it, but even the best of teachers are spending much more time than they used to with basic manners and management in the classroom.

  • Char Klassen

    Choo Choo. Love Kim’s commments…and I am all for the real world exposure philosophy. We have our kids at a public school and I have to say I know the day is coming when one of my boys comes home with a black eye. I just can’t do it any other way. It’s real and it’s life…and you are a great Mom, BTW.

  • proveb32mom

    I have tried every school situation(homeschool, private, charter)t there is no perfect solution. Love MLK Jr, one of my favor all time books was, Strength to Love.