“You have to let them know whos the boss”, he said

Some things don’t change over generations. I remember crying inconsolably when Mum left me to start the new year at Puni School. I had already had a year at the convent and I should be fine Mum told me. I told Wheriko this story about how I had a scary feeling in my tummy and how there were nice girls who came and asked me to play. We talked about their names and their hair colour and how they had it tied up. The memory of those first few days are very strong. Hansa’s hair was incredibly long, black and her Mum oiled her hair and plaited it back into itself somehow. She was much darker skinned than me and shy like me. Justine’s hair was as fair as fair can be. It was straight but fly away soft with a fringe and hers was never tied up. She had blue eyes and was as white as Hansa was dark. I guess I was noticing our differences. With my tight black curls I was soon to be tagged golliwog. Wheriko told me the names of the girls who had asked her to play but she had said no. Hmmm, I wondered aloud if they asked her to play because they were lonely and thought she might be a friend for them? She hadn’t thought about that.

Then last night I found a copy of a letter Id written when Simone started school. Especially relevant with Simone settling Wheriko at school we’d been chatting about how to handle leaving her…I believed if you handled that separation with respect for the child’s feelings the child may take a little longer, but will be better in the long run.  This is Abridged version…

I am in the school staffroom with time on my hands as Simone has started school after the holidays. She is a little unsettled still. I’m really pleased with her progress however, considering she hasn’t been left at play centre EVER. Shes used to controlling the situation and this is a whole new ball game! First Monday she wouldn’t leave my side and Tuesday I went home for lunch but she threw a major wobbly in afternoon so teacher and I sat down and worked out a strategy and it seems to be working.

Simone accepts that if the teacher gives me a job, I am busy, and its OK for me to move in and out of classroom. So I toddled back and forward from the staffroom making poem cards and covering books. Being out of the classroom helps her to not depend on me and she can begin to build relationships with other children and the teacher. By Friday I was only in the classroom at bell times. She got very anxious at bell times as didn’t know what happens next. Then we progressed to coming in after the bell had rung and if she was sitting on the mat she would get a sticker and Id be sure to be there pretty quickly after the bell.

The next week I said I needed to come back home to work so she could choose which part of the day I would leave for, the morning, middle or end? She chose the middle which was perfect as I have been gradually extending it at both ends. Going a little earlier each day and coming back a little later. She’s really starting to enjoy school and I bring in my work bag and do PAYE, GST, advertising planning…Its just like Ive moved office.

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Gilbert told me Ive been too soft and I need to be firmer. Simone shouldn’t be telling me how its going to go, I should be telling her. SO on Friday I told her VERY FIRMLY. “I’ll be going by car today”…I had been going on the bus with her each morning and someone had to pick me up and drop me back ready to come home on the bus. “I will be at the gate when the bus gets to school, OK?” She wasn’t happy at all. I said to Gilbert I was worried she might run back home across the road so he better wait with her and then put her on the bus. I drove off leaving Gilbert with all the children at the bus stop.

Im waiting at the gate as the bus pulls up and the children are piling off and here she is with a massive smile on her face and Gilbert right behind her!

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