The observation room is dark. I’m sitting on a little stool watching. Observing. I have headphones on and they pipe the voices of teachers and tiny students to my listening ears.
It’s circle time at preschool and I’m a few minutes early to pick Fiona up so that I can watch. It gives me questions to ask her and let’s me see how she’s doing with group interactions.
She’s phenomenal. She’s sitting “criss-cross applesauce” with her hands folded in her lap watching the teacher intently. Her little lips move silently as she parrots back the instructions that the teacher gives.
They’re playing a game. The teacher is waving her “magic” fingers and pointing to a kid and tossing them a bean bag. The magic fingers only point to children who are sitting quietly. Fiona is silent and sitting. Waiting. Almost vibrating with restrained patience.
The teacher begins to toss bags. She starts with children on the other side of the circle from Fiona. About halfway through the circle several little boys get up. Move around. Have to be encouraged to sit. Reminded that the magic hands only point to children who are sitting.
I feel my temper start to rise when they still get their bean bags before Fiona. Her face falls when, despite her patience, she’s the last to get a bean bag.
They play a dancing game with the bags. Put them on their shoulders. Put them on their heads. She smiles and laughs and dances. Then it’s time to sit and toss them back into the box. Once again they’re directed by the magic fingers.
Once again the teacher starts at the opposite side of the circle. Fiona is left waiting. She’s still. She sitting correctly. The teacher bounces around a little bit, pointing to a few kids out-of-order, but not Fiona.
When there are only five kids left, she stops waiting quietly. She starts saying insistently, “Me! Me! I’m sitting, Teacher!”
Finally, when other kids who had to be reminded not to hit their neighbors have had a turn she stands up. “Me, Teacher!”
“Sit down, Fiona.” She’s told, gently, but firmly.
My heart hurts for her and I find myself seeing myself at that age. Trying so hard. Waiting so patiently and feeling the injustice of being passed over and missed so often. It makes me want to cry. It makes me angry.
When it’s finally her turn another child jumps up to go first and she sits back down. The teacher doesn’t notice. Finally, last of all, she gets to toss her bean bag. The teacher tells her to put away her mat and she does.
She goes immediately to the door to look for me. I’d be ready to leave too. I go to collect her. All I want is to soothe the injustice of it.
It’s hard. As a parent it’s hard to see your child picked last. It’s hard to see great behavior go unrewarded. It’s hard to decide when to sit back and observe and when to be pure mama bear.
I’m trying to choose to observe, but I’m crying writing this. I’m trying to understand what might have been happening. Was she misbehaving before I got there? Does she have a hard time when she’s chosen first? What good, rational explanation could there be?
I want to trust that the teacher isn’t ignoring Fiona because she’s able to practice self-control. But this is my daughter and I don’t trust others with her easily. Or, really, at all.
I want to go in and yell at the teacher. I want to lecture her on the importance of giving girls the opportunity to go first and to be accustomed to having their voices heard in the classroom. I want to go in roaring like a mama bear.
I’m not sure though. This was one time. One circle. Maybe today will be different. Maybe tomorrow will be. So, I’m left with choices. Do I speak up? We’ll see.
Is it time to roar?
Not yet. But you can bet your butt that I’ll be in that observation room again today. And tomorrow. And Monday. And, really, as long as it takes to assure me that there isn’t a problem. Or that there is.
It may not be time to go in roaring, but I sure am ready to.