Follow-Up on AIBU

I saw the headteacher yesterday about the couple of instances of inappropriate messages the school had been sending their girls. My girls. So I thought I’d report back on what happened, just to complete it, really.

I started by simply relating that Maxi had come home with a prize: a chocolate make-up set. And the boy-winner had received a chocolate tool kit. He knows Maxi well, but I still stressed that she was just 6 years old. He winced, rolled his eyes and said, “Oooooo, chocolate: that’s hardly sending out a healthy message, is it?” Then he giggled. I think in embarrassment. I didn’t say anything. Nope, not even a ‘Hello? Make-up? For a little girl?!’). Just related how Midi’s nursery class had been helped to dress-up after the brilliant hospital visit, and how the girls were dressed as nurses and the boys as doctors. I think he saw then where I was going, and gulped a lot. I then described another incident that I won’t go into, because he explained, with enormous relief and a pounce, that the potentially sexist-sounding event had in fact been open to boys too. Well, phew, I’m very relieved. But don’t think you’re off the hook, yet…

I explained that I didn’t want my daughters to be fed any non-verbal messages that their abilities or potential would be constrained or hindered by their sex. Single incidents wouldn’t do any damage, but a number of them would, over time. He listened actively, stressing that he shared my concerns as a father of daughters himself.  It turns out that the PTA had bought the gifts. But surely, I asked, the gifts would have been handed over in school? Surely a number of people would have seen them, and could have sensitively acted as filters to say that they were inappropriate because they were chocolate, fake make-up and stereotypical. He said that they had arrived wrapped and that the teachers had not known what was in them. I pointed out that this maybe wasn’t appropriate – they could have contained worse than chocolate make-up…!

We talked for maybe another 15 minutes. To be honest I felt that although he listened to me more carefully, nothing really would be done. At one point I asked what the school were doing to promote equality of opportunity, as they were required to do by the Gender Equality Duty 2007. I got a long silence. I did feel sorry for him, as he hadn’t been aware of the incidents I’d described, but I didn’t get a confident feeling that he would deal with it. I believe he wants to, and I really hope that I’m wrong and that he’ll take a firm lead on this, but my gut instinct says no: I couldn’t get him to commit to a course of action. He also kept raising other, related problems he had that were being imposed on him rather than specifying what he *could*, or would, do..

At the end of the meeting, I did a bit of a recap and tried to pin him down to an agreed action: “So, you’ll have a gentle word with the PTA about what gifts are and aren’t appropriate and I’ll … [I offered to help out with some pro bono training work that I’m not talking about here because it’s off-topic]”. He didn’t actually say ‘Yes, I will’ but made more definite noises than the previous 2 times in the meeting that I’d asked him to do that. Today, funnily, the kids brought home leaflets talking about how few children ate healthy snacks, and advertising the (excellent) Healthy Tuck Shop they’ll be running for a few weeks.

Anyway, I achieved most of what I was after: that he realised that I’m not a shouter or yeller, that I will tell him when I have concerns about my minxes rather than just chunter about it in the playground, that I do expect him to do something about it; that I’ll do what I can to help, too – I’m not just a whinger and moaner – and that I really like, admire and respect the teaching and non-teaching staff at the school. I’ve said a few times that they come across as being a genuinely caring and dedicated group of lovely people. And I think he also knows that I’ll be watching out for other instances like this…

Gosh, I really hope that if he *does* talk to the PTA about the gifts that he’s very, very sensitive about not hurting the gift-buyer’s feelings!! As I said in my last post, I expect that it was probably a very well-meaning gesture from a kind person who’d just not thought through what their present ‘said’. Oooooo, I hope I’m not responsible for (more) hurt feelings…

One thought on “Follow-Up on AIBU

  1. Pingback: Babywearing Daddy « (Reasons Why I'm a) Grumpy Old Trout

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