“Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History”
While we do take solace in knowing that strong character leads to tremendous accomplishments, we would also like our daughter to graduate from elementary school without sassing and/or exhausting every teacher in the place. Thank goodness for those who recognize her strengths.
When Jasmine was in kindergarten, she got in trouble with Ms. Clark, a science teacher beloved by my other two kids. So I took notice when Ms. Clark approached me one day after school at pick-up.
“I almost called you today,” Ms. Clark told me, as I was holding Jasmine’s hand waiting for her siblings to come out.
“Uh oh,” I said. “Is it about something good or something bad?”
She took a deep breath, and I could tell she was carefully considering her words. “Jasmine made some bad choices today. I love her to pieces, and she’s got such a great spirit. And a lot of times when she’s wild or talking a lot and interrupting her friends, I can’t get her to follow directions. Sometimes I say, ‘If you don’t behave I’m going to call your Daddy.’ Well, today when I said it she just shrugged her shoulders and said, ‘Fine. Call him.’”
I immediately understood why Ms. Clark was well-liked. Her demeanor, body language, and tone of voice all put me at ease. She sounded simultaneously concerned and amused by Jasmine’s behavior. The way she re-enacted Jasmine’s dialogue, “Fine. Call him,” as if she couldn’t have cared less. She had mastered Jasmine’s mannerisms.
“Oh wow!” I said. “If you had called me I would have been here in a heartbeat. That is back talk and is unacceptable.” I was working from home at the time, and had already made an impromptu visit following a phone call from one of Jasmine’s other teachers a few weeks earlier.
“I know it,” she said. “But I wanted to see if she could turn it around and make better choices — and she did. She turned it around.” She kneeled down to meet Jasmine eye to eye. “You’re going to make better choices tomorrow, right?”
I looked down at Jasmine, who was biting a fingernail. I think she was amused by her own behavior, but knew that wouldn’t fly with me. I had to hand it to her; she was doing a pretty good job suppressing a smirk. “Yes ma’am,” she said.
Ms. Clark stood up and said to me, “You know what: This child is going places. I know that spunk is going to get her in trouble, and it’s also going to help her accomplish great things.”
I thanked her, and said that her mother and I agree.
When we got home, I had Jasmine write an apology letter to Ms. Clark. Then I had her clean her room, and she spent the rest of the evening in there with no TV or fun games. Typically she melts down at the first sign of trouble, but today she was totally compliant.
While Jasmine hasn’t received any diagnoses yet, the symptoms of ADHD and impulse-control issues are clearly there. Her two older brothers both have ADHD, and one of them has impulse issues, too. This older brother has had similar interactions with teachers, counselors, and coaches. They go something like this: the authority figure holds him accountable, then my kid doubles down. Laurie and I have had to stay vigilant about building a good rapport with each of our kids’ teachers.
We attend all “meet the teachers” events, open houses, and parent-teacher conferences. In discussing our kids’ performance, we strive to support both our kids and their teachers equally. Some teachers are not amused by Jasmine’s mouth or behavior. So we appreciate teachers like Ms. Clark, who is neither intimidated nor exhausted. I check in with her frequently, and she gives me the same re-enactment of crazy stuff Jasmine’s said. Then she follows up by patting Jasmine on the back and saying, “But she’s a sweetheart. And she’s going places.”