Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dealing with the school

In response to my previous post where I discussed being a parent and Goth, I would like to follow up on how I have dealt with the schooling system, especially when you get THAT call from the principal's office. You know the call, the one where your kid got into trouble, usually for fighting. I also think that this can be particularly difficult if you are an alternative parent and you are fearful that the school may have some negative judgements towards you. For me personally, it has happened in the past that I had to deal with my kid's school because Philip got into trouble for fighting. Naturally, the school wanted to have a meeting with me to discuss this. This is nothing out of the ordinary and is standard protocol. Yes, I had to go to school because my kid got tired of this certain kid harassing him so he took matters in his own hands.

I like to think, regardless of the way you dress, the way you handle yourself in these meetings can speak VOLUMES about you as a parent. For myself personally, I have not really faced major discrimination but there was a remark that didn't sit too well with me, which I like to think that I handled super well. On the other hand, my kid was never singled out because his mom is a bit strange. In fact, I think a lot of it had to do with me being overly paranoid more than anything else!  Knowing that there are other parents who are also walking in my shoes stompy boots, I thought it would be nice to compile a list of advice based off of my own personal experiences. Considering this is only the second year my son has been in school and I am still learning the ropes myself,  I welcome you, dear goth parents to chime in the comments if you have something else you may want to add!

(1) To tone down or not to tone down, that is the question - School officials have seen me in all sorts of clothes. My lazy day all blacks, to more corp goth outfits, to my general day to day goth wear. They have seen me once or twice in club wear too. They have seen my tattoos, the black lipstick, and all sorts of get ups. If I toned myself down now, especially for a meeting because my son got into a fist fight with another kid, wouldn't it be showing them I had something to hide? So, no, I don't pretend to be someone I am not. Besides, what sort of example would I be teaching my kid?

(2) Stay calm - Do not, I repeat, DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER! I was called into a meeting once because Philip got into trouble for fighting. The last thing I want is the school to accuse me for teaching him violent behavior. I smiled a lot and showed concern at the appropriate times. I did get annoyed over certain issues, mainly because Philip was fighting back after constantly being picked on by this other kid and I raised my voice. I immediately apologized, lowered my voice and said that I was upset over my kid being picked on so much. It's hard to not get emotional when your baby is involved but if you want to school to take you or your concerns seriously, you need to do this. I also realized that there were some issues, some behavior that Philip was displaying that I didn't approve of. I made that clear that this will be dealt with at home too.

(3) Do NOT make excuses or justify your lifestyle but do make it clear that you have your kid's and the communities best interest at heart - In my personal opinion, your child's school life is like a community, especially at the elementary school level. You may not always agree with everything the school has to offer but you need to work with them. You also shouldn't be afraid to address your child's needs either and make sure the school officials know that you are willing to work with them. Especially if there are behavioral concerns.

The school actually said to me once that I was different and may have different ways of raising my child. For the record, this is the comment that didn't sit to well with me, I immediately interrupted, smiled and calmly voiced my opinion (although I really wanted to use a long list of profanities and yell at them). I told them that in some ways, yes, they were right, I may be an individual and not necessarily look like a stereotypical mom but I want what all loving parents want for their kids: I want what is best for my son.

 I then  made it very clear with the school that I am teaching my child the importance of individuality, tolerance and acceptance towards those who are different from him, which in essence, is something that the school does too. I pointed out the various religion symbols along with a sign that says "all welcome" that  I noticed hanging on the wall, right in the school's main entrance. I made it very clear that as a community, we need to show a positive example for our children, just like that wonderful sign we see when we walk into the school!  I reminded the school that we need to work together despite any differences and this is why I was meeting with them in order to enlist their help. I am a firm believer that it takes a community to raise a child and in return, I hope to do my part within the school community by addressing the negative behavior at home but I expect them to help me by  making sure this bully leaves my kid alone too. I pointed out that he never had any issues at school until this kid purposely broke something that belonged to him. That every time my kid turned around, this bully was there taunting him. What happens when you continuously poke a dog with a stick? It eventually bites back and that is what happened! I reminded the school that thanks to our coaching, and working together as a team, Philip will make an excellent leader someday.  In other words, I threw it back in their face!

(4) Work with the school - They are not out to get me. I show them that I am on the same footing as them as long as they are being reasonable but will have no problem with calling them out if necessary. I have addressed concerns in a polite, courteous manner but made it very clear that I won't take any BS either. For the most part, we cooperate well with each other.  I communicate a lot with the teacher and she is excellent at giving me an update on his behavior. She knows we have a reward system and by working with me, she is better equipped with running her classroom. My son is known for being a rebel, for testing boundaries, not putting up with BS and will defend himself and his friends if provoked. In the past, I was fearful they may look at him as a troubled kid but after meeting with me, this is not the case, in fact, I get the impression that they are on the same page as me.

(5) Get involved - Don't just work with the school but get involved. I don't have time to volunteer all the time (I work)  but I do communicate with other parents when I drop him off or pick him up after school. I am even on first name basis with the secretaries. This helped because I discovered that my son was not the only one who had issues with that bully. In fact,some of the other parents told me their kids had the same issues as my son  I can dress the way I want and like the things I want bu being my own person should not have to affect Philip. In this case, I am a mom first.

Dealing with the school isn't so scary. It has it's perks. Any new staff member or new teacher tend to remember me and associate my kid with me a lot sooner than most parents! It makes transitions easy for Philip. They know to expect spooky things and are no longer concerned when Philip draws people with un-natural hair colours or when he says that he loves monsters. He is just quirky like his parents. They know they can communicate openly with me and I will address any issues at home if need be. They also expect to hear from me if there are any concerns. Philip is starting to think that his parents can be "lame" at times but we all thought that when we were young but often comments that his friends think I am really cool. Some of his friends even told him that he was lucky to have a mom who dresses like a vampire and plays videogames!It's nice being admired by the little people, I love kids and it always amuses me when they look up to me. Especially when I can tell their parents may not always like it but that is a story for another day!

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