Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mean Boys

Large has been athletic since he was a little guy.  He mostly plays baseball, but he’s also played football and basketball and he loved both.  This year, however, he has decided that he doesn’t want to play basketball, and we think we know why.

Two years ago, Hubby was coaching Upward basketball.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is a Christian basketball league, complete with a little halftime prayer and an everybody-wins mentality.  You know,  just like real life.   Personally I don’t like to mix religion and sports unless I, myself, am playing, and then it’s relegated to the occasional prayer for my safety and/or a quick and painless death. 
Look at that sweet face . . . 

Coaches are given strict instructions on how to match skill levels and how to keep any actual competition to a minimum.  I guess God’s not a fan of competitive sports.  Who knew?  

Unfortunately, there was a young player, whom I’ll call John, on Hubby’s team who had some behavioral issues.  During one particular play, John felt the ball should have been thrown in to him, but a teammate threw it to Large instead.  In a flash of anger and frustration, John threw Large to the floor and began punching him in the stomach.  Large was stunned and shaken, but physically he was unharmed even though the other child outweighed him by at least 20 lbs.  Yet another reason why he needs to eat his veggies.

We assured Large that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that he hadn’t provoked John in any way.  But how do you explain to a 6-year-old that a teammate has "behavioral issues"?  And how do you do so without excusing the other child’s inappropriate reaction?

Fast forward two years:  guess who’s in Large’s PE class, music class, art class, etc.  (If you don’t know the answer to this rhetorical question, please begin visiting another blog as this one is way too intellectual and smart-like for you.) 

It’s the third week of school.  Already Large has said that he covers his head or puts his hood up when John enters the room because he doesn’t want John to notice him.  He even told Hubby he doesn’t like going to PE.  And not for any of the reasons I hated PE:
  • Fear of imminent danger from any object resembling a ball
  • Ridicule by classmates who were able to run without tripping over their own feet
  • Fear of tooting during sit-ups
  • Lack of cat-like reflexes.  Or even turtle-like
  • General shortness of breath and aversion to physical exertion

He doesn’t want to go to PE because he’s afraid John will get frustrated and have a temper tantrum, which scares him.

Large is not being bullied, so I don’t want to come across as melodramatic or to minimize the unfortunate incidents of bullying that are happening in schools.  On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to ignore what could become a bigger problem.  And it’s only the beginning of the school year . . . I don’t want Large to ever not enjoy going to school. 

I have been on the other side of the fence.  I’ve been the teacher in the inclusion classroom who tries her best to educate ALL of the students, regardless of their learning issues, behavioral or otherwise.  It’s difficult to strike a fair balance between giving every child an opportunity to learn and protecting every child’s right to an education.  At what point does a behaviorally-challenged child become a hindrance to every other student’s positive learning environment?  I’m generally not one to cry “it’s not fair” because I have a pretty solid understanding of life not being fair.  Why else would Ryan Seacrest be a cultural phenomenon? 

See?  Life’s not fair. 

But here’s the thing: it’s NOT fair that our child is frightened in the classroom because of another student’s propensity for inappropriate outbursts of anger.

Large’s teacher suggested that she reassure him that he is safe at school and that he can tell her or another grown-up if he’s having a problem with John.  She’s in a tough position, because the fact is that she’s John’s teacher too and she is professionally bound to advocate for him as well. 

We keep reminding him that he should be nice to everyone but that he should never let anyone treat him badly.  Meanwhile, I feel like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Stay tuned!

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Be nice, kids.