Saturday, March 22, 2008

Baby's first petition drive

I'm reading: Baby's first petition driveTweet this!

Cross-posted to Chicago Moms Blog.

Okay, he’s not a baby. My boy is ten years old now, but still, this is a step worth commemorating. My son’s been having trouble at school because of the behavior of some of his schoolmates. He's not been bullied or picked on directly, but he often comes home in a foul mood reporting he had a bad day because of a classmate's disruptive or mean-spirited behavior.

Forget, that we've emptied his college saving account to pay for the private elementary school that's making him miserable (which he loves, even as he hates), he is suffering an emotional meltdown. He's even meeting with the school social worker, partly to help him learn to develop a Teflon exterior and partly to help him learn when to assert himself in a problematic situation.

I asked him how his recent meeting went."You don't get it! Neither does she. It's not my problem," he insisted. "I'm not the only one who's getting upset by the kids who cause problems. There are a lot of other kids who get upset, too."

He is sensitive and has a strong sense of justice, which is good, but also exacerbates his view of the situation, it is his problem. At the same time, I've talked with enough other parents to know he's right. My son isn't the only one who has a problem with the school's current behavior management policies.

I invoked Gandhi, "You've got to be the change you seek in your school. If you're not the only one who's having a problem, then you've got to make that clear to the headmaster. Maybe you should write a petition." We discussed what a petition is and how it works.The next day, he went off to school and did just that. In fact, during free time in one class, he started writing it out: We the undersigned students of .... Unsure of his spelling of discipline, he asked the teacher, who requested he stop working on the document during class. I guess free time doesn't allow for free thought. Interesting.

He eventually finished the petition. "We, the undersigned students believe that [our school] does not have enough discipline and that discipline needs to be more enforced."At lunchtime, he worked the cafeteria. He collected nearly 30 signatures--more than ten percent of the school's literate population!

I was so proud when my little activist showed it to me. I figured he'd only get two or three signatures, especially given that his theme sounds something like, Detentions for all.

The next day he turned the petition in to his homeroom teacher. I’m not sure what will happen next as the school is on break now. My boy and I discussed the fact the real solution is not, indeed, detentions for all or any laundry list of punitive measurements, but in fact involves teachers and students working together to create a safe, fun, and effective learning environment for everyone.

I hope that his action sparks some much-needed dialog and improvements. I want him to know he can make a difference.

I also blog at MOMformation.


pinks & blues girls said...

Wow, good for him. It's not easy to stand up for yourself and other like that, especially when you're dealing with private schools. I know - I went to one! Their motto is "For the Honor of Truth" and I took major issue with that. Still do, 10 years later.

Jane, Pinks & Blues

Linda said...

I think you should be very proud of your son for being sensitive and proactive. My son had a similar experience, he was sensitive to the behavior of others and this became an issue in his life.Art therapy with a very liberal therapist helped him to articulate what was bothering him (outside of the school which was a CPS school) He didn't do a petition, he didn't have to. The school found some kids who were in serious trouble with gangs and only then did they start to crack down on discipline.
The solution for my son was to remove him from the environment and place him in another school where he began to thrive socially and his interpersonal talents blossomed. Good luck. I hope you will keep us all posted.

Lindsay Lebresco said...

I absolutely love this. I love to channel Ghandi in that same way whenever possible- I'd love it if my children did the same. Very inspirational and you should be proud.
I tried to turn my son into an activist at 3 months when we went down to city hall with a onesie on that said "I have the right to be smoke free" when the smoking ban came up for vote.
At this point he has only used his activism for bedtime and dinnertime causes but I'm hoping it rubs off on him like it did for your son.

Allison said...

Wow - what a great first! Kids are mean, always have been and always will be...but that doesn't make it right. Hopefully his petition opens the eyes of the right people and some action is taken to make a more friendly environment for your little guy. Keep us posted!