My little girl’s teacher has broken her leg, and will be off work until September. You would not believe the chaos this has caused in our house. Gidg has a new teacher, and with this new teacher have come new rules: a sticker reward system which has resulted in my little girl coming home in tears. ‘Why didn’t I get a sticker mummy? I tried very hard’. Heartbreaking stuff having to listen to your child being disappointed over something as trivial as a sticker, but the sticker symbolises that she has been a good girl and pleased her new teacher, and I know that she desperately wants to please her. So I understand. But what I didn’t understand was how the decision was made as to which of the kids got a sticker that day. So off I trotted to school to ask.
The new teacher is about half my age, it’s a bit like that old saying ‘you know you’re getting old when policemen look like teenagers’. I explain that the sticker system isn’t really understood in our house, and that it’s upsetting, my daughter, one of her pupils. Too late, I remember I have committed that cardinal sin, of questioning a person in authority. It doesn’t go down too well with doctors or council workers either in my experience.
I struggle on in my Spanglish, ‘Why have we got the system, when we didn’t need it two weeks ago?’ Again, blank, one eyebrow raised. ‘And how do you decide who is going to get a sticker?’ By this time the teacher’s decided she’s speaking to a pushy parent. ‘If YOU want your child to have a sticker every day then I will give her a sticker,’ she says with a ‘who the hell are you to ask me about my teaching’ kind of shrug. ‘No, no, I don’t want that, I want to understand how it works so I can explain it to her’ (by this time I’ve roped in one of the other parents to help translate). ‘We give out three stickers a day.’ ‘What do they have to do to get a sticker?’ ‘They help me put away the chairs.’ And she turns on her heel and goes into the classroom.
So actually it’s not really about behaviour, it’s about being tidy. I leave the school feeling like I’ve made the situation ten times worse and wish I hadn’t said anything at all, but at least I understand why Gigi may not be getting those stickers as regularly as she would like…
That afternoon, I pick her up from school. ‘Hey baby, how was your day?’ ‘Good’ ‘Did you get a sticker today?’ Gigi looked at me with exactly the same nonchalant shrug, ‘Yep’. ‘What for?’ ‘I stood up and told the class why I was angry about the stickers.’
That’s my girl.