Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bear Hugs

About a month ago, at school, we had a 2nd grade student having a tantrum. He's a big, boy who is extremely babied by his mother. When I came upon the scene, the boy was running around the playground while screaming at his mother. Apparently, he wanted to go home with his mother after she had brought him his lunch (maybe if she'd brought him a treat she could have tricked him into staying).

We politely told the mother to go ahead and leave because we could handle the situation. Of course, that was before we realized just how crazy this child could be.

With the mother gone, the boy began screaming even louder. Since loud screams aren't generally conducive to children learning, we - being the DARE officer, teacher, and myself - decided to move him to the office. It took all three of us to catch him and then carry him to the office.

While in the office, the boy continued to rage and scream. According to my secretaries, it sounded like I had decided to play table tennis with a herd of wild baboons.

And the screaming went on and on and on.

After an hour or so of us pretending to ignore him (and not noticing the blood running from our ears), the boy decided to up the ante by clearning off the items on a table and pulling the books off the bookshelf. Nice of him, right? When he began pounding his head on the concrete wall, we sat him down on the floor and restrained him so that he wouldn't hurt himself. Basically, the teacher just hugged him and the officer and I held his legs to keep him from kicking us (this we figured out after I got kicked in the face). Within minutes, he calmed down. Unreal. If I'd known that, I would have held that boy sooner.

Now as bizarre as this sounds, tantrums are just a fact of life in an elementary school. Not common but not out of the question. Just like a pig loves slop, some kids love to demand attention in the most inappropriate of ways. Restraints are only used if they are in danger of hurting themselves or others (for instance, one shouldn't let another kick one in the face).

After a while, I called the child's mother to let her know what had just transpired and that now the boy was okay. She became enraged! "How dare you people TOUCH my child!"

We were shocked. This crazy child had taken up our ENTIRE afternoon, destroyed my office, and made countless parents coming into the office wonder what shenanigans were going on at the school, not to mention the affect that the child had on our personal well-being (and I got to sport a couple of lovely bruises for a few days afterwards).

My children are understandably jealous. When I told them this story they both recounted times when their arms were no longer attached to their sockets for merely hinting at an attitude. A kick in the face? Why they figured that they'd have been buried under the house.

The next day, the mother came in again, still mad. She demanded to know what our policy was on "Bear Hugs." The secretaries just gave her a blank look and deferred to me. Upon further questioning, she said her son claimed he was held in a bear hug (which is pretty close to accurate). When told there was no policy on bear hugs, she said that she was going to be sure that the school system created one. ARRRGH!

I wish I were kidding and there is no way I could make this crap up.

Can you just hear it? Bear hugs, you say? Ummmm... well, yes. Here it is on page 37 of the student handbook. The Bear Hug policy clearly states that blah, blah, blah...

After going to the superintendent's office and to several board members, the mother finally dropped the subject. And to this day, the mother still refuses to speak to me when she comes in (And I so enjoy talking with her. Really. I always speak to her just to see her stiffen up and turn her head as if he had just smelled a turd.).

So life is good and all is well and time passes.

Yesterday, Mr. Strong, Mr. Happy and I went to an old, abandoned school to look around. This school is in the process of being torn down and there are books, toys, desks, and papers everywhere. It is a bit like time stopped.

And there I found it. Who knew it existed. Ta da! The policy on bear hugs does exist.

I am so recreating this to hang in the front office.


blognut said...

Bear Hug 1 - The kind of hug you get from a really sweet kid without having to ask for it.

Bear Hug 2 - The kind of hug you give to a little shit who won't stop throwing a tantrum and may cause harm to self or others. This hug can also help prevent you from killing the little shit if it makes him stop kicking you in the face.

The policy on both should be to give/get as often as the situation warrants.

Beth said...

Blognut - I agree!

Cat said...

That is a very odd coincidence. And it seems there are a lot of abandoned, condemnded schools around these days. I just read about one at Sweet Juiniper's site not long ago. It's very sad! Loved the story, thank you for sharing :)

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I love hearing from the admin side. This was a great post.

My colleagues and I (especially those of us who are mid-life age) sometimes lament the "good old days" when we were kids and the punk, didn't-want-to-be-there students could actually get expelled (I teach high school).

At the school where I work a teen can say "fuck you bitch" right to a teacher's face and be back in class before the end of the period. A student can fail all classes, be a chronic class cutter, be a bully who take intimidates other students and be around the whole four years.

I'm glad you stood up to that mom. Otherwise she would always try and bend the school rules to suit her son and his lack of self-discipline.

Errant said...

nice story .. but the mom anger at the first place has no justification .. but, the feeling that u may kud handle the situation better than how she wud ..

it's so hard to deal with kids .. let alone other's .. it take a lot , but at time you feel like it worths all the trouble

Beth said...

Errant - Everyone is allowed their feelings on how a situation is handled but few have actually been in that situation to be handled. I'm not sure how you think the situation could have been handled better because we have continued to be very kind and patient with the student and the parent.

Sometimes laughing about a situation is a great release for stress and frustration.

And it keeps me from bringing sharp objects with handles to school.

only a movie said...

Hi Beth - hopped over from Pseudonymous High School teacher. This post hits close to home for me. I teach in day treatment and we do restraints all the time. You are right about needing a sense of humor when working with a variety of kids and parents! :-) Nice blog - I will be back.