I sent my son to school last week with a note for his teacher. He returned it to me that afternoon with her answer to our query written on the bottom. By the way, she added, the note had been found on the floor in the cloak room and was brought to her by another student.
She just wanted to let me know.
I have worked in this particular school, in fact, I have worked in this particular room, I happen to know that the cloak room, for instance, is shared by two classrooms. It wouldn’t require that much imagination to picture my son taking the note out and then in the chaos of 40 something children organizing all of their educational and winter paraphernalia for the day, leaving it behind. In the 5 months that he has been in school he has, up until this day, rather miraculously, not mislaid a single item. But leaving aside her concern, the thing that annoys me about it is it’s tattle tale-y nature. I hasten to add here that my son earnestly adores his teacher, I actually don’t think it is so much her nature as the nature of the institution.
As a para-sub I am expected to tattle on my wards everyday. They go so far in some schools as to give me a piece of paper that is divided into sections or class periods with a blank circle above each segment. I am suppose to draw in some sort of emoticon to denote the child’s disposition or behavior for each period. Some of the children carry the charts around themselves, kind of like a scarlet letter. I find them creepy and somehow always forget to fill them out. I can hardly imagine what I might draw anyway: now a smily face? Now a pout, now pulling his or her hair out, now I’m pulling my hair out, wait, no, it’s not my chart, erase that. Maybe we should have one. We could all walk around with them hung around our necks. If we annoyed someone with an unpleasing aspect they could – pull out a pen. Just having it might incite a perverse desire in me to growl or stick my tongue out.
It’s the institutional version of that irritating command to “Smile” that some people think is an appropriate thing to say as you are mentally calculating the sum of your purchases while simultaneously trying to remember how much money you have left in your wallet or bank account, or maybe just…I don’t know, not walking around with an insipid grin plastered on your face. “Pardon?” “Smile! haha.” I doubt there is a less friendly provocation.
I’m expected to report on the class’s behavior as well. It is nearly always perfectly fine. “How were they?” “Fine.” “I heard there was some trouble?” You did? From whom? I try to think back, stretch my mind backwards 5 minutes, 9, 23, oh there was that moment when a passing teacher was “talking” to one of the students as we waited on line in the hallway. Oh dear, I wasn’t really paying attention. I think he was squirming a bit. Not really my idea of trouble, more like my idea of how a normal 10 year old behaves. Perhaps my parameters are too widely set.