Moving Classrooms Part II

Photo by Joy Hanford (me)

Photo by Joy Hanford (me)


Hank: Mama? Pai?

Me: We’re in the bedroom.

Hank: What’s up?

Pai: What’s up? What do you mean what’s up? I am packing for my conference.

Hank: Oh yah! I almost completely forgot about you leaving kind-of. I forgot one minute ago, but I remembered all day until now. ANYWAY can we talk?

Me: Claro (of course).

Hank: I spoke with Beatrix today and she said that yes, in the new classroom they do a lot of fun things and there is less yelling but that her classmates talk as much as our class does and I have been thinking and thinking and I just don’t want to move classrooms. I will be in fourth grade and I have been with my colleagues the whole time since pré (kindergarten) and I don’t really care to do all the fun things I just want to finish with my class.

Me: That sounds like an excuse.

Pai: And like you are just saying this because you are afraid and that is why you don’t want to leave.

Hank: No, that isn’t it. I asked Beatrix and she said she didn’t want to leave either and would have stayed, too. And I really like my teacher this year and I want her to be my teacher again next year. I do fun things all the time so I am not missing to do them in school.

Me: Then why did we go to all this trouble?

Hank: I am sorry. I guess I didn’t realize how much I liked my class until I knew I would leave. It didn’t make sense altogether until yesterday.

Pai: I am fine with abandoning the idea as long as you really mean what you are saying. It isn’t right to abandon an idea just because you are afraid and this isn’t about your teacher. I really like your teacher, too.

Me: Me, too.

Hank: I am not afraid (pause) Well, maybe I am a little. I am always a little afraid of things, but I feel in my heart this is right.

Me: You have to listen to your instincts, which is science for your heart.

Pai: Oh it is, is it?

Me: Absolutely.

Pai: Who taught you science, Oprah?

Me: (smirking) Damn strait.

Hank: Who’s Oprah?



Moving Classrooms

Photo by Hank Antique Roses that cover our neighbor's walled garden

Photo by Hank
Antique roses that cover our neighbor’s walled garden.


Hank: (teary eyed) Mama, can we talk?

Me: Always.

Hank: I am thinking I don’t want to switch classrooms next year.

Me: Really? Yesterday on our photo walk you were all excited about the opportunity. What changed your mind?

Hank: (panicked) I don’t want to leave me friends and my teacher and papa has to go and talk to my teacher and he could miss his plane and it is just better that I don’t leave my class because I can’t turn in my matricular (matriculation) papers tomorrow like my teacher wanted and if I don’t I’ll get a red (bad behavior mark) and I just don’t want to do it.

Me: (throwing an arm around his shoulders) Whoa there, sailor, slow down. Let’s punch fear in the face and talk about this.

Pai: (entering the room) Your daily participation grades are not what matter. How well you listen, what you learn, your test scores and homework grades are what matter. Do not get those two confused and you will not get a red because I will write your teacher a note. I cannot fill in that paperwork until I finish another form to move you to Irina’s class.

Me: This is an adult issue and not something you can control.

Hank: But my teacher will be mad at me so I don’t want to go.

Me: Your teacher will be mad about the paper or that you are moving to another class?

Hank: BOTH!

Pai: (deep breath) It is normal to be nervous about changing classrooms, but it is not okay to abandon something you’ve wanted because you are nervous or scared of what someone will think or both.

Me: We have been working on moving you to Irina’s class for two weeks and you were excited until today.

Hank: I changed my mind.


Pai: Why?

Hank: I don’t want to leave my friends.

Me: You aren’t leaving your friends. You will see them during breaks. You play with kids from all different classes and of all ages on breaks. We talked about moving you because a lot of your colleagues now don’t have the same priorities as you do and disrupt the class and misbehave to the point where the whole class is punished and you aren’t able to do all the actives and fun things that Irina’s class does. This is why your friend Beatrix moved last year why you have this opportunity this year. You didn’t move last year because you wanted to stay with Mariama, but next year she will also move.

Hank: I don’t need to do activities and fun days. I am fine.

Pai: You get so many yellows (warnings for bad behavior) because your classmates don’t have the same interest in learning as you do and every time you come home crying because it wasn’t your fault but you were punished by association. I have talked to your teacher about this often.

Me: Moving classrooms isn’t because you don’t like your teacher. This year you were so lucky to have this teacher and she will not be mad at you for moving classrooms. She and Irina’s teacher are tenure colleagues and have worked together for years.  They are partners. This isn’t because of her, this is because your colleagues had a bad three year run of temporary teachers that couldn’t manage and some of your colleagues got away with controlling the class with their bad behavior. Your teacher this year has done an excellent job of wrangling this bad behavior but it still is an issue. She knows that. You know that. We know that. This isn’t your fault and you have an opportunity, which your teacher supports, to move to a new group of colleagues that share your same goals and you can have a calm learning environment. You’re now letting stress and fear stop that move.

Hank: But papa…

Pai: Hank, I set up a meeting with your teacher at 2pm on Tuesday. I catch my train at 5pm to Lisbon and I fly to my conference the next day. Do you really think I would arrange my life so I would miss my plane? I have plenty of time to finish the paperwork and catch my train.

Me: Don’t create a stress for yourself that isn’t there.

Pai: It is normal to be nervous. You have been nervous every first day of school since you started. It is natural and not fun but you can’t stop your life because of temporary nerves that go away.

Me: And you are not alone. You know all the kids in Irina’s class, plus your have Beatrix who has been your friend and classmate since kindergarten. Talk to her tomorrow. Ask her about Irina’s classroom. Ask her about being nervous. She has lived what you are about to do and after you speak to her come home and we will talk about it all again.

Hank: (crying)

Pai: We will make no decision about next year tonight. We will only talk about this again tomorrow after you speak with Beatrix.

Hank: Irina already told all her friends I am moving to their classroom but I just…

Pai: No decision will be made tonight. This conversation is over. Please think about what we have said and speak with Beatrix tomorrow. I will now go write a note to your teacher.

Hank: (crying)

Me: (hugging him close)


Family Photo

Illustration by Joy Hanford 2013

Illustration by Joy Hanford


(Door Bell)

Me: Molly, who is it?

Molly: (wrapped up in Disney Jr.) Ah-bah, bah bah.

Me: (opening the door) Hey, girl!

Ana: Good morning! How are you feeling today?

Me: Like I have been hit by a semi then dragged 40 miles through gravel. You?

Ana: Oh, I’m sorry. I am fine. It is warm weather.

Me: (leading Ana into the living room) I know, Miss Molly is dressed accordingly.

Ana: OH she is sooooo cute. Good morning, Amália.

Molly: (giggling, excited to see Ana)

Ana: Oh, it was so sad about yesterday. The kids were so upset about the family photo.

Me: What family photo?

Ana: The one we were supposed to have at school yesterday.

Me: I know nothing about this. What, photo exactly?

Ana: Mariama said we were all supposed to be at school yesterday so we could take a family photo.

Me: (racking my brain)

Ana: And I had to have a talk to all of them because they were all so sassy and upset and I tried to call you.

Me: I didn’t have my phone and we were stuck in traffic. We to get Molly then run some errands and it was rush hour and also some event so streets were blocked off.

Ana: Mariama got so upset that she got mouthy with her mom and I had to seriously talk to Hank and Irina.

Me: (realizing) OH! Yes, now I remember. We talked about this last week. Because you, Irina and Euclides are leaving for Ireland and Mariama and her family are leaving for France they wanted to take a group “family photo” and I said we should do it before Friday because of swimming school and Irina’s after school catechism, but we didn’t make formal plans and I completely forgot. Man. Hank didn’t even mention it, but that explains why he was so upset last night. He hardly spoke to us and went to study for his test today in my office. I kept asking him what was wrong and he kept answering nothing.

Ana: We still have time next week. We can do it then.

Me: Yes, but still. I feel bad.

Ana: Kids get ideas in their heads.

Me: I know. Our merry band of friends are all breaking off in different directions. It is so hard for them.

Ana: And for us. (tossing an arm around my shoulders)

Me: Truth. It worries me that Hank didn’t say anything.

Ana: He’s sad. We talked for about an hour and he probably felt better after that.

Me: I am sure, you always say the best things, exactly what he needs to hear and he takes your advice better because you aren’t his mother.

Ana: We will take the photo next week and make it a lovely celebration. Not to worry.

Me: Sure. (sigh) Our kids are like dandelion down off on a journey to plant themselves in fertile ground and grow and bloom.

Ana: (smiling) Yes, but with the internet.

Me: Easily connected to their roots.

Molly: (holding a pretend phone to her ear) Hello? Olá? Hello?

(together giggling at the timing of all things)