I just realised that I never did update on what happened about Maxi Minx being called names at school. Forgive me – I’m in the middle of 5 birthdays and as many teaching workshops, as well as all the standard gubbins, so I’ve not been writing much at all. The school’s response was very heart-warming:
Maxi showed Moore’s quote to her teacher that very morning and asked for it to be discussed at Circle Time* that afternoon. The teacher decided to call Circle Time straight after the immediate admin of registers and school dinner lists. He and a more experienced teacher discussed general name calling with the class. It sounds like they covered some brilliant points: what constitutes name-calling, why it hurts, where it stems from, and what they can all do about it.
*Circle Time is when the class sit in a circle and discuss a sensitive topic. Chatham House Rules apply, though they don’t call it that.
The thing that struck Maxi the most was probably the first and simplest thing:
“Mr S asked everyone who’d ever been called a name that hurt them to put their hand up”, Maxi told me. “And every single person put their hand up! Even the teachers!” she said, eyes huge. “Can you believe that, Mummy? Every single one of the grown-ups, too!” Well, yes, sweetheart, me and your Daddy told you that, but I guess you had to see it for yourself to believe us…
After Circle Time, Mr S pulled Maxi aside and checked how she felt. They agreed a little secret signal they’d use every day at home-time to use as a barometer of how she was feeling: he’d spot her in the line and give her a thumbs-up. If she returned the thumbs-up then that was fine and she could get on with getting ready to go home. If she gave a thumbs-down, she and he would stay behind and have a chat about what was bothering her. Maxi said she felt very reassured about that, as was I when she told me.
The teacher also discussed Maxi with the more experienced teacher of the other class, who then took Maxi aside later that day and sat her down. She told her that she (Maxi) was a very special girl; that she loved her; that the school was better for having a Maxi Minx in it; that there was no-one else in the whole world who was a Maxi Minx, and that she was never, ever to change.
When Maxi related this to me, I welled up. What sensitive, lovely teachers! I caught them both before school a few days later over another matter, and thanked them for the kindness and understanding that they’d shown my little girl. Mrs T gave me a huge hug, but Mr S and I just smiled broadly at each other (hugging a male teacher half my age doesn’t really feel appropriate, no matter how wonderful. And he, and Mrs T, are both wonderful people).
The headteacher told me that he’s planning to have a Special Educational Needs teacher come in at some point, as an intervention, to go through different social scenarios with Maxi. The aim would be to bolster my and Mr S’s attempts to help her become more emotionally resilient.
I hear that the name-calling in the school general has gotten worse, though. Perhaps before it gets better? The school sent a letter home to parents asking us to discuss respect for others with our kids. A whole school target of respecting others was made. Closer to home, I taught Maxi 5 or 6 different styles of shrugs so that she’s armed with suitable non-verbal replies to the idiots still trying to get a rise out of her. I know that as an adult she’ll have name-calling and snipes to deal with, that will hurt just as much but will be less overt, so I think that it’s important that she learns to deal with it rather than have the teaching staff lay down a ban and try to enforce it. And that’s why I’m so proud that she managed to discuss the issue with her teachers and then the class by herself, without me wading in with my size 5 feet.