“I am VERY scared…”
We move to New York when I am five.
It is the middle of May, and the kindergarten year is almost over. I am very sad that I won’t end the school year in Chicago.
My kindergarten classroom there had a miracle happening in it: In the back of the room, inside an aquarium, a tadpole was growing legs and arms! The teacher said it was going to be a frog soon, and its tail would fall off.
On my first day in New York, my mommy takes me to the door of the kindergarten classroom and pushes me through it. I don’t know what to do.
Someone tells me to sit down at a very long table where other children are sitting. Paper is being passed out. The children have already been told to do something with the paper.
They all start to write on it, and I don’t know what to do.
I look around me and try to do what the other children are doing. Then, I hear the rest of what the teacher says to do, and I feel better.
After the teacher takes our papers, she looks at them and gets very mad.
“Whose paper is this!? Who did this?!” she yells.
It is my paper.
The teacher takes me outside the door of the classroom. We stand in the open doorway under the big American flag while she yells and yells at me.
It turns out that THIS is what I did wrong:
The first direction the children were given, the one I didn’t hear, was “Write your name.” I had copied what another child was doing, and so I had copied another child’s name.
Annadora Perillo was that child’s name. I hadn’t recognized those Italian sounds as a name. Most everyone in our Chicago neighborhood had been Polish.
Mrs. Armano was that mean teacher’s name.
She used to throw things at us: Pencils, chalk, and once, a big dictionary that she threw at Lloyd Calmenson’s head.
I never thought to tell anyone. Maybe New York teachers were like that.
Two years later, my little sister had Mrs. Armano’s daughter Mrs. King for HER kindergarten teacher.
The daughter threw things at the children just like her mother had. But my sister was smarter than I had been. (Those of you who read my post The Best Toy Ever, Troll-La-La-La-La may notice a pattern here. Grrr.)
My sister told my parents about Mrs. King, and the other kids told their parents, and Mrs. King got fired.
ADDENDUM–What YOU Can Do
When I was a teacher, I told my students’ parents that they could enter our classroom at any time, as long as they did so quietly, stood or sat silently at the back, and held their questions until I, not they, felt I had time to meet with them. In public schools, you may learn that you have the RIGHT to enter your child’s classroom to observe, as long as you do not do it overly-frequently or disrupt learning.
When teachers know that a parent may drop into classroom, lunchroom, or playground at any time, children are safer from bullies–adult- or child-sized.
But be prepared: You may discover that your own child is the bully.