We went on a field trip to visit a very famous arboretum last Wednesday. The trip turned out to be very disappointing because of the rain during midday. However, the real downer was the surprised confrontational verbal conflict that we had witnessed before we left school.
All of my students were really excited about the first field trip of the year last Wednesday. I could sense their excitement in the air when they were lining up to entre the school. When we were ready to leave after the national anthem, O’ Canada, one of my students named RR reported to me that her lunch was missing. She insisted that she brought her lunch in a black backpack but it was no longer there on her hook. I told her to go to the office to call home in case that she left it at home. While we were on our way to the office, she returned in tears to tell me that her mom was coming to school to pick her up. I was very puzzled and told her that she could have half of my lunch if she did not mind sharing the lunch with me. My point was there was no reason for her to go home and not to go on the trip with the whole class because of her missing lunch. I told her to get in line and get ready to leave with us.
By the time we got to the office, the trouble showed up. The secretary told me that the mother was furious that RR’s lunch was “stolen” and she insisted on checking everyone’s backpack. Shortly after we got to the office, in come the mother, and she was obviously very upset and raising her voice in the office. She was stopped by the principal not to go further into our school and was advised to stop yelling in the office. I did not realize that there was bad water between the principal and the parent prior to this incident. They were arguing in front of two classes of school children and some of them were obviously shocked and shaken by the scene.
I quickly escorted my students on to the bus and asked the other teacher and parent volunteers to look after them for me. I returned to the office to get that poor girl who was crying and caught in the middle between the principal’s and her mother’s heated argument. The mother told me that she wanted her trip money back and the student was not going with us. The principal returned her comment by saying that we would give her the money back. I could see all the gloom faces in the office. It was such a chaotic situation!
I held on to the howling girl and explained to the mother that the child could share the lunch with me. I told her that the missing lunch was a problem that had already happened. A lunch would not just simply disappear. We would find it eventually if it was lost at school. If she did not let her daughter go on the trip, she was in fact creating a second problem for her daughter’s education. I insisted that the child needed to go! The parent volunteer who was in charge of the school-wide lunch program quickly gave me some snack packs to put in my backpack after she heard me. I grabbed on to the girl and gently lead her out the front door towards the bus. I was SO worried that the mother might follow and use force to have a “tug-of-war” with me to pull the girl back. Thank God, the mother did not argue with me. She followed me and the child but then let me take the sobbing child quickly out of the office. When she called the girl to turn around to get a bottle of water from her car, the rock was then finally settled in my heart. She actually listened to me!
The girl came on the trip with us and we had a blast on the trip except for the rain later on. Apparently, the parent went back to the school building and attempted to check everyone’s backpack after we left. She was discouraged by the custodian who threatened to call the security company. On our way to the arboretum, my heart was heavily burdened after this incident. All day long, I kept thinking about how to talk to my students later on to debrief this bizarre incident because obviously some of the students were really shocked to hear the loud argument and the threat to check their backpack.
We returned to school shortly after lunch. My students had had the fun experience of feeding the chickadees in the woods. Their spirits somehow were not dampened by the rain. We had a little chat about the morning incident before they were dismissed for the day. We discussed about what had happened and what they had witnessed in the morning. They seemed to understand and accept my explanation.
Before the dismissal bell, RR came to me and said that she needed to apologize to the principal. I asked her why and she replied sheepishly that she had found her lunch backpack. She FOUND it! The child apparently misplaced her lunch when she entered the school in the morning and consequently created such a conflict between her parent and the school. I pretended to be very disappointed with her and informed her to quickly go apologize to the principal and the secretary in the office before the dismissal. I also advised her to explain the whole misunderstanding and confusing chaos to her mother right away. She was the irresponsible one for the misplacement of her personal belongings so she had to take the responsibility to face the truth to explain to her own mother about such a mistake.
After the dismissal, I dragged my exhausted body and mind into the office to check with the secretary. She asked me if I had known that when we got off the bus and was on our way back to the classroom in the afternoon, RR actually swung by the office to apologize to both the principal and the secretary for her mother. My student RR did it without anyone telling her to do so! At first, I thought the secretary was talking about what had happened at the end of the day after she had found her lunch. NO. NO. NO. She actually did it before we returned to our classroom and before she even found her lunch. The poor girl must be feeling so embarrassed for her mother’s behaviour and she did so on her own. We all got tears in the corners of our eyes. Education does work! We can educate our children to be polite and respectful citizens even though every family’s circumstance may be a bit different.
RR told me the next day that her mother was feeling sorry for what she did. I sent her to the office again to explain to the principal about her mother’s words. The principal thanked the girl but told her that she could not apologize for something she did not do. The principal told RR that her mother had to apologize for her own actions.
That same evening, RR and her mother came to our school open house. I almost died when I saw them show up at the open house! When I proudly showed the mother her daughter’s journal of a three-page long recount on the field trip, I informed her that without the experience to go on the trip, RR would not be able to produce what she had written on her journal. The mother agreed and surprisingly apologized to me right there for her behavior in the morning before. Hooray!
The bad water between the parent and our principal, however, continues. Apparently, the parent passed by our principal a few times during the evening of the open house but she did not come up to the principal to apologize at all. The gap between two of them was not patched and now it has remained to be widened.
I was very impressed with RR’s innocence and her judgment to tell right from wrong. In truth, we all have our burden to carry. Mine was just lifted a little bit after the mother's apology. I was very touched by RR’s sincerity.