Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Trial by mothers

I found myself in a very difficult position today. I had taken daughter to a playdate arranged by another mother from her class and was sitting making polite conversation with the other mums when they started to talk about something that had allegedly happened at school.

Now, remember I work at the school that daughter attends. I know the school, its staff and its workings from the inside. I know how hard all the staff work, how they put body and soul into helping pupils and how pupils are repeatedly given the benefit of the doubt and second chances, as children should be.

I was appalled at what these mums were saying. They had taken an incident, made assumptions, added suppositions and hung, drawn and quartered the school for its actions. None of them were there. None of them knew what had happened. None of them seemed to think that mattered. They made the story up for themselves, believed it and were willing to spread it. Having some knowledge of the workings of the school, I knew that their story could not be the true version, but I didn't know the true version myself.

I had two choices:

  1. Defend the school and point out that none of them knew for certain what had gone on and try to convince 12 other mums that they did not know the truth.
  2. Walk away towards the playing children, bite my tongue and leave them to it.
I took the second option. Not out of cowardice, I had spent quite a while listening to them and deciding whether to wade in, but out of the knowledge that when mums concoct a story, you cannot change their minds. Also, it would then put me in a position of being 'me against them' and jeapordise further playdates for daughter. Talk about between the devil and the deep blue sea!

However, I was shocked at how quickly and vehemently they had ganged up against the school and its teachers. Having been on the receiving end of this sort of thing a couple of times, I now know how it happens. I also know why my daughter's teacher says that if we a have gripe, just talk to her, don't spread it around the playground. Why are these mums so willing to believe the worst of a school dedicated to helping their children?


Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

From my experience when my kiddos were in school, lots of parents are so adamant that their kids are always in the right that they almost gang up against the school.
You're right..........the schools are trying to help them. Some of those mums should have to work in a classroom for a month and then maybe they'd appreciate how hard of work teaching school is right?
I would have done the same thing and have done in the past. You can't make unreasonable people see reason. Just never works!!
You take good care and........

Steady On
Reggie Girl

mr-stu said...

Mrs Stu is a teacher and I get to hear these stories all of the time about parents who don't know the ins and outs and that their child would never do this, or harm hit, or talk back....when I was a kid if I upset the teacher and I was in the right my dad would always take the teachers side and I would get grounded whether I was right or wrong!

Did the other parents not know there was an enemy in the camp then?

sallymandy said...

I'd agree with Reggie Girl. I have been the mama bear myself, though, too--letting my fears cloud my judgment when I'd otherwise be reasonable. I've lived to regret it.

If I had such things to do over again, and had been in a situation like yours, I might just have offered the opinion that it's natural to be protective of our kids, but at the same time, the teachers also care about the kids too--and it's hard to judge a situation when we don't know the facts.

No, we can't change unreasonable people but I do believe in stating an opinion ONCE and maybe others will think about it. If not, at least I know I did what I could.

It must be quite difficult for you as you work at this school, too. Hard position to be in.


Working mum said...

MMM and Random Stuff - You are right. One of the problems we have is that some parents think they know what teachers do (you, know, 9.00am - 3.00pm babysitting), unfortunately, until you've worked there yourself you have no idea what teaching entails. One of the mums today even said that she couldn't be a teacher!

Mrs Stu - no, most of the mums don't know that I work there, would that have made a difference? I'm not sure! And I'm like you, my parents always took the teachers' side, that's when teachers were respected, of course!

Sallymandy - I'll bear that in mind for next time (and I'm sure there will be a next time)

Suburbia said...

I think it happens all the time. I had something similar happen last night. @Have you heard about the knife crime at ***** school? Someone said. I knew the whole story from the inside, much like you, and knew there was nothing in it. It was hard to stay neutral so I just had to tell them it was untrue! Luckily they were fairly good friends!

Kelloggsville said...

I think you were right not to get involved. Many "playground" conversations are like this. It's like they have all regressed, behaving as they did when they were at school. Try to reason, explain, anything but nod or join in the moan and you are alienated. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't care but it can impact your child's friendships- I am continually amazed at how manipulative many of the mums are over their childs friendships. It can be hard to deal with it but have faith in yourself and let it wash over you x

Kelloggsville said...

to prove they don't just do it to the teachers, parents suffer it as well.


auntiegwen said...

I'm in the same position, I'm a teacher at my daughter's school. The mothers being in charge of friendship thing fortunately doesn't last for ever.

Maggie May said...

I'm glad you chose the second option. I think in the circumstances it was the correct one. Not cowardice but wise.

Reluctant Housewife said...

Moms do tend to take a 'us' against 'them' position toward their children's teachers sometimes. I don't think it really helps anyone.

My parents had a lot of trouble with teachers who just didn't 'get' me and my brother... I've always been inclined to be a bit anti-authority. Luckily my SIL is a teacher, so I've heard some stories from the teacher POV. It really opened my eyes. Now I see it as a partnership.

Claire Sutton said...

I'm with everyone else on this, you did the right thing and didn't get involved. Many mothers become unreasonable when it comes to their children and are too willing to jump to conclusions. Many are doing it to protect their kids but some (and I hate to say it)seem to jump on the band wagon to be seen to be in with the right crowd.

Something similar happened at eldest sons school not too long ago which got blown up out of all proportion with mothers screaming at each other in the playground, not good at all and complete madness.

Yuo have to remember that there are resonable and sensible mothers out there who can see that their chilren are not perfect and that the teachers and school have to be respected. Unfortunatly we seem to be in the minority or maybe it's the silent majority?

Polly said...

Parents always like to think they know best, and the worst kinds of parents are the one's who's children will do no wrong (and usually the children who do all the wrong). School yard gossip is so hard to deal with but I think you made the right choice walking away. It still sent a message but didn't put you in an even more awkward situation.
I hope you are ok.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

I think you did the right thing for sure. And I also think this happens far too often. Oh this parenting gig is tough!

SMS said...

Someone once suggested an ideal 'contract' between parents and teachers should involve each party agreeing NOT to believe without question tales of incidents or events at each location carried between home and school by children. It seems a reasonable place to start!
Tough to know where to draw the boundaries when ignorance makes comments and attitudes painfully unjust.

Iota said...

Oh that's such a tricky one. You were probably very wise.