Every year, a few days before the last day of school, I take my class to a nearby park for our end of the year celebration. (Last year I called it our end of the year party, and one of my girls showed up in a gorgeous party dress — we had to find park playclothes for her to borrow at the nurse’s office — so this year I was careful not to call it a party.)
It’s more fun if parents come along, so this year the children made invitations to take home, and I invited younger siblings to come, too. We had a very good turnout (8-12 parents, 2 newborn babies, 1 older baby, and 3 toddlers), and it was a great morning.
We stopped at my favorite coffee shop along the way to pick up treats, and then proceeded to the park. Everyone was in a good mood, and the weather was perfect.
There is a home daycare a block from our school, and I know the sisters who run it. Every year when we come to the park, the sisters and their charges are there. Still, I had a wistful feeling when we arrived. Miss Slinger wasn’t with me last year, and Ali and Nan are gone, so I was the only one who remembered our past visits to the park, or realized that this is a long-standing tradition. Well, Ferdinand was with me last year, but this whole year he has behaved as though everything we do is new (Marvelous Mittens Day? Wow! Never heard of that before!), so I don’t think he remembered.
We ate our treats, admired the babies, played in the sand, climbed to great heights, and shared our sand toys. There were many caterpillars to be found — thrilling — and the grownups enjoyed chatting and sipping their iced coffees.
Then one of my boys shoved a toddler (the little brother of a classmate) face-down into the sand. I walked over just in time to see a crying child, with his mouth full of rocks and sand, and some of my other boys looking shocked. The Pusher (or so shall we call him today) looked at me and admitted doing it.
“Why did you push him?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” the Pusher said.
I put him in timeout at the side of the playground for a little while, checked on the toddler and apologized to his mother, and then went back to talk with the Pusher.
“It’s not okay to hurt other people,” I said. “I know you are really sad about your mommy and daddy not living together anymore. It’s really sad.”
“Yeah, it’s really sad,” he agreed.
“But you can’t hurt people, even if you feel sad or mad.”
We discussed it a little further, and then I sent him to apologize.
Twenty minutes later, he was on a climber leading up to a slide, when the same toddler tried to climb up and join him.
The Pusher shoved him off.
The toddler fell three feet and landed facedown in the sand, again with his mouth open. He could have been terribly hurt, but luckily, he was fine, just upset.
I was so upset myself that I could barely speak. I took the Pusher by the hand and put him in timeout again, without saying a word to him. Then I paced and breathed while I tried to figure out what to do.
I realized that the Pusher was a danger to this particular two year old (a two year old?! Who hurts a two year old?!) and had to leave the park. Miss Slinger, at my request, took him back to school, to the behavior room.
It put a pall on the whole morning. The Pusher’s parents, when they learned about it, were really upset. They have had a very painful year, and they know that it has had an effect on their son. The behavior lady decided to suspend him — for the last two days of school — because this wasn’t the first time he’d been violent in this way.
I was tense and depressed for the rest of the day. It’s so hard not to be affected when one of my students is struggling.