childism

Please don’t talk about my kids in front of them Recognizing childism in our everyday lives

“We ask that you do not talk about your children in front of them without including them in the conversation. If you need to talk alone with teachers, make arrangements to talk without your child present.”

This quote is taken from the handbook of my children’s wonderful, progressive preschool.  It is a wonderful policy, and the kids truly are included in conversations if they are there.  The teachers speak to the children in real voice, not the squeaky, sing-songy voices often reserved by adults for preschoolers.  Children are respected in this place like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Which is why what I saw at our public school the other day bothered me.  It wasn’t my son’s kindergarten teacher, but another of the 3 kindergarten teachers in his building.  Someone I know was picking up her daughter from school.  She and I were chatting as we waited for pickup and she said her daughter has been having a hard time separating lately when it’s time for school and that it’s been really hard.

When the teacher came out, she mouthed to my friend “she was okay” and gave her a thumbs up.  My friend greeted her daughter and they prepared to walk home.  But then the teacher walked over to her to talk some more.   Mother and daughter were standing side by side, and the teacher started off facing them and whispering.  So the daughter moved in closer.  And then the teacher moved to block the child’s body.  The teacher pushed the girl backward by moving her body into the girl’s space, so she could talk to her mother about her.  The little girl stuck her head in the middle of the two adults, and the teacher moved closer to the mother again to block her out.

My son’s interpretation of being blocked out of a conversation. I love the child’s head poking through 🙂

I know many people will not take offense at this story.  But it was offensive to me, and I’m sure to the child.  This poor 5-year old was being physically blocked out of a conversation by a teacher she is supposed to trust to take care of her for many hours each day.    She knows they were talking about her, or at least about something she wanted to hear.  It shows a total disregard for the child as a person.  Imagine doing that to two of your friends.  How is this situation any different?

What she could do instead

It isn’t hard to imagine the possibilities.  The teacher could email, call, or text the parent.  Unless there is a threat of imminent danger, the adult conversation can wait until a better time.

Childism is alive and well.  Many people wouldn’t give this scenario a second thought.  We need to notice the lack of respect given to children in our everyday lives and routines. It is the first step toward improving the situation.

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