Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Troll Who Made Me Cry

There are days when I regret not writing a post. The regret is when a followup post becomes obvious. Part I is the post never posted. Part II is the irresistible followup.
Part I

Parent/Teacher meetings were the week before we moved house. I met with both girls’ teachers and had opposite experiences. Cutiepie’s teacher was orderly with written lists for every child capturing poignant comments regarding the student. Babydoll’s teacher had a cleared desktop, a large smile and vacant eyes.

Needless to say, this story is about the latter. The teacher’s greeting was, “Well I have nothing really to report on Babydoll.” Oh. Don’t worry, this Mom has questions.

There was this assignment we had been so proud of and yet, it never seemed be handed in. Each day Babydoll would say I must write my story. We would say, ok, well, what more do you need to do? I would scrounge through her backback for teacher’s instructions. Nothing. After two weeks, we were clearly lost in translation. Babydoll said another student was typing it on a computer, so we taught (oy vey) her to type. Then she said it needs more detail. So I helped her think about her readers and what might help them visualise the story as she told it.

A few days before Teacher meeting, the story surfaced yet again at the dinner table. Babydoll said it needs a taped edge. Could she fold it over and put tape on the side? It was all very confusing, but we did our best to create what it was Babydoll thought she needed.

By my fourth search of her backpack, I was very annoyed at the lack of written teacher instructions. For goodness sake, she is 7 years old. If you don’t watch, she’s still capable of brushing two front teeth and considering “brush your teeth” a major accomplishment.

So I said to the starry-eyed teacher, Please tell me about the story assignment—we really struggled and I’m not certain why it is lingering...

The Teacher said, “Oh yes. Well it is an education centre competition that all the children in the particular catchment areas are doing. The books will be sent off and judged and, well, it is very exciting.”

Competition? Books? Sent off? Suddenly, I felt I was on a plane without my boarding pass.

The teacher reached to the immediate shelf behind Babydoll’s seat to a stack of bound (taped edges!) books with illustrations and written stories, albeit one typed. My mouth fell open. I said, really? You’re kidding?

Then. THEN. THEN. (oh I’m still so mad)

The teacher said, “Well Babydoll hasn’t been doing anything for the last ten days or so. She just sits at her desk in her own lalala land.”


The teacher said, “She just seems lost.”


The teacher appears to have what I call nervous laughter. I don’t like nervous laughter—I realise it is an involuntary body language, but I still don’t like it.

The teacher continues, “She must be lost because she is moving. She isn’t doing any of her work.”

I said “but, you said you had nothing to report? Would you not rein that behaviour in? Ten days! Would you not call me?”

The teacher said, “I am sure it is because she is moving, and well, I didn’t want to come down hard on her.”

So you choose to ignore the child and let her miss out on this opportunity? Mention it as happenstance? This is my Babydoll and her gig! She goes to bed with a journal every night. She writes letters and notes and thoughts. She IS a writer! Shame on you, Teacher. How dare you withhold the last ten days of providing education, ahem, YOUR JOB!

I really felt like she was robbing my child of what she deserved and what all kids need to motivate and encourage for the next ten + years of schooling. I was so mad. Ten days was one day too late.

Back in my car, I cried. I cried at the steering wheel in the school parking lot. What if I hadn’t been a prying mom? What if Babydoll had altogether abandoned her story? What if I hadn’t asked about this confusing assignment?

Pushing my anger aside, motivated by shock and concern, I worked with Babydoll that night. I told her what I had seen of the other books. Now we could finish her story correctly. I sourced a few clip arts and inserted according to her. Then I used a sharp knife to create an illustration window on the cover. Babydoll completed it with a title page and author signature.

The next day was Babydoll’s last day in school. She turned in her book, The Troll. Her teacher was absent that day. I sent a thank you note to the Principal commending Cutiepie’s teacher for her commitment and organisation. Some things are better noticed unsaid, if you know what I mean.

Part II

Babydoll is adjusting well to her new school. We did have to explain to Babydoll why telling new classmates that you are from California is a bit of a stretch. From California and born in California have two different meanings.
I was driving yesterday as my phone messages played back on the hands free. The principal from the old school had called to let us know that Babydoll won first place in her age group for her book, The Troll. I pulled the car to one side and played the message back twice, tears filling my eyes. Twice now, this troll had me crying in my car.

There is to be an awards ceremony in Dublin in a week and do I have to say, we are overjoyed? There are no words to express my anger, sadness and happiness found in the creation that is The Troll.

I would love just one more day to walk into that teacher’s class and teach her a lesson. I’ve since talked to the Principal and despite DH’s urging, I did let the Principal know that we were quite lost on the project, and well, why was there no teacher instructions? It was probably wasted words, but she begged me on as she said, well I suppose, she did win—afterall, her mother is a writer. In the end, I will choose to take her comment as a compliment.

Today we received her invitation to the awards ceremony. I had already called nanny and granddad and everyone is ready to parade into Dublin for Babydoll. Unfortunately, only two family members are allowed to attend. We’ve decided to let Babydoll chose and I’m not sure I will make the short list. Nanny pretty much tops any list.

I’m ok with it.

I know I’ll just cry. Again. Damn that troll.