Kindergarten 10-30-13 – meltdown

I had the same three children to tutor as usual this week, and it was amazing to see the progress. Tutoring kindergartners is like watching plants grow. They just get more and more interesting and amazing every week. I’m grateful that their parents let me borrow them once a week. They all did really well. They don’t have their letters perfectly down yet, but it is almost there. Another week and they will be up to speed.

I chose J second and he leaped for joy when I called him. He celebrated and hooted. It is pretty heartening to have someone get so excited to work with me. It beats apathy, and he still hasn’t gotten the clue that I work with him because he is lagging behind. I hope he never does. Wanting to get tutored makes it easier. He sees it as a special treat. I’d not worked with him last week and it was heartening to see how eager he was to work.

Learning is work, certainly. We have our tutoring sessions in the hallway, just outside of the classroom. There is a little table there, just big enough for two. There are two chairs – one “adult” chair and one “kid” chair. I have recently started to use the “kid” chair because it is lower and that means I don’t have to bend over to see the kids eye-to-eye. I think it is important to be equal heights with them so there is no sense of hierarchy.

While I was working with the first child, S, there was a disturbance from another classroom (also a kindergarten). There was a shriek and then screaming from a child. “I don’t want to go home!” was clearly heard. The shrieks and screams continued. The teacher said “I’m calling the office.” I could hear through the door that the child was the only one screaming. The teacher was not screaming back. Something very bad had happened and she was being sent home, pronto. She was totally against it.

I looked at my student and we discussed this a little. I wondered out loud if I should go and check on things. I wasn’t sure what I could do. I thought if nothing else I could make sure she wasn’t having a fit or being harmed by the teacher. For the fit, I’m trained in basic first aid. For being harmed – nothing stops abuse like a witness. I didn’t think anything untoward was happening from the sounds, but I wouldn’t know until I looked.

I decided to act. I opened the door. The girl was standing near the door facing the class, screaming. The class was facing her, stunned. One blonde-haired boy was holding his hands over his ears. Everything about the scene was the exact opposite of what you should see if you open a classroom door.

I scanned the room and saw the teacher. For a moment I missed her, and I started to worry. She was standing near her desk, and she was on the phone, calling for backup. I asked if everything was ok. Obviously it wasn’t but it seemed the thing to say. This made the little girl turn around and it was like I had hit the reset button. She slowed down her screams a little. It helped. Her face was the red of a sunburn.

The teacher had things under as much control as could be expected at the time and I couldn’t see what else there was for me to do, so I went back to my student. We worked together for a little bit. The teacher then opened the door and had the little girl sit just outside the room while they waited for the office assistant. She propped open the door so she was still connected to the room. The teacher had pointed out to her that we were working in the hallway. The girl sat quietly, completely opposite how she was minutes before.

S and I kept working and I kept an eye on the girl. The assistant from the office came and got her and talked to her about how her behavior was inappropriate. She was headed home.

When I returned my first student I talked to my teacher about what had happened. She knew who I was talking about. She told me that if I met the family I would understand it all. It wasn’t a surprise to her. There are emotion-control issues here. There is some deep disturbance.

I saw my tutoring partner near the end of the scene and she said that she often tutored this girl. She said that she didn’t know her numbers yet. Numbers are usually learned before letters. The concept is easier to grasp. So there is a lot more to this story. When I saw the girl’s teacher later I asked what had happened. The girl had gotten angry and had taken her scissors and cut her own hair.

At least she had cut her own hair, and not someone else’s. At least the scissors are safety ones, so she couldn’t do a lot of harm to someone. Her anger appears to be self-directed, but that is a bad sign.

There is never a dull moment in the life of a kindergarten tutor. I always learn something. Rarely is it this dramatic, thankfully.

I’m grateful that my student was fine, and I’ve never had to deal with this kind of meltdown personally. I’m grateful that the teacher was able to call for backup. I’m grateful that my interrupting the scene seemed to defuse it. The teacher thanked me for looking in. I almost didn’t, because I felt I didn’t know what to do. Turns out, I did exactly what I was supposed to do, even though I didn’t know it.

I’m trying to learn to trust that feeling. It is scary every time. And every time it turns out exactly the way it is supposed to. I’m grateful to God for that lesson.

Forbidden food

I was at a buffet recently and a Somali Muslim man was asking the staff what foods have pork in them. It started when he was looking at some marinated chicken and it was a little hard to tell what the meat was. The labels aren’t always right at that restaurant either, so it is better to ask. He finally was able to get a cook to come out and tell him what to avoid. Even going vegetarian isn’t safe if you can’t eat pork. This is the South. Vegetables are just a vehicle for pork here.

I was thinking about how hard it is for him to figure out what is OK for him to eat. There is a language barrier to deal with. There is the fact that he is in an area that isn’t always hip to other cultures. I wonder if he has the same problem I have when I’m trying to get something that doesn’t have peppers in it. I’m allergic to peppers, but no matter how I ask, I still get food with peppers in it. I’ve decided it is just flat out ignorance or indifference. The waiter just doesn’t know what is in all the dishes, or just doesn’t care. He doesn’t think to ask the chef because he doesn’t understand how serious the situation is. Nothing ruins a nice evening out like getting really sick.

If you are asking for religious reasons, do you feel the same way I do, or differently? I’m sad and frustrated when I keep getting served food with peppers even though I was assured it is pepper-free. Sometimes I pick out the offending bits. Sometimes I can’t pick the bits out because they are too small and I have to send the dish back. Sometimes I am just so tired of it all that I send it back anyway to show I’m not kidding.

There are no forbidden foods in mainline Christianity. You can eat anything you want, and many do, to the point that they get to meet their Maker sooner than they planned. So if you are in a predominately Christian area and you ask for no pork or no shellfish, and you get it anyway, do you take it personally? Do you see it as religious discrimination? Do you think they are attacking your faith?

If waiters are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that will make them sick or kill them, they are insensitive enough to serve something to someone that is religiously forbidden. It won’t kill you if you eat pork or shellfish. God won’t strike you down if you accidentally eat a forbidden food. It is the intentional consumption that is the problem. In an ideal world, waiters and chefs would take every food concern seriously. Until then, we have to either assume they are just clueless or we have to eat at home all the time.