Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Sting

So I'm driving along, having just come out of a meeting, towards the end of last week. I hear the phone go, and when I have a moment look to see who the caller is.

It's the children's school.

The only reason the school calls me is if something bad has happened. I brace myself, and listen to the message. "Your son has been stung by a bee. Could you come into the school and take out the sting, as we're not allowed to do it."

What? What? So you're able to take my son and teach him, feed him, demand that he go to the toilet on time, tell him off for not paying attention, let him play in the enormous playground, tell his friends off for being rowdy, tell me off for somehow not teaching him at home enough... but you're unable to administer basic first aid if he is stung?

I go to the school. My son is sitting on his tiny chair, whey-faced, blotchy with shock, clutching a bear, and streaked with tears. He sees me and goes completely to pieces. He is utterly terrified by the ordeal of having waited for me. The sting is clearly visible, hanging from his grubby neck.

Teacher and teaching assistant are, to be fair, as frustrated as I am, protesting that they are simply forbidden to deal with such things.... although it's not entirely clear why. Health and safety gone mad? The possibility that they might hurt the child more by dealing with the problem? That they themselves might be hurt by the flailing arm of a protesting mite? Not really sure there.

I ask for tweezers to extract it with. They haven't got any... wait a minute, the teacher has a pair the children play with... she produces a savage-looking pair with a sharp protrusion between the two prongs. It serves no visible purpose, but could spike anyone who picked the tweezers up. This the children are allowed to play with? But you don't extract bee stings?

I point out that I have never performed this operation. We try to scrape son off the ceiling of his own fears, which takes so long that all the children are running back in after break. I suggest politely that we adjourn to the medical room. There, after further tears, I pluck the offending sting, which will have done more damage to the poor bee than it did to my son, from his neck, and the crisis abates, like the air coming out of a balloon.

I must needs stay and read with son, cosset and comfort him in his hour of need. I think ruefully of the book review I am late with, of the party planning I had on the go, of the book I am supposed to be writing. And I put my finger under the line and start sounding out.

Do I need to spell out the reason for this post? I am infuriated on several counts — not with individual teaching staff, I hasten to qualify, but with the systemic failure this incident highlights:

1. Don't leave a child in pain and shock while you call his mother. Treat the problem.
2. Don't just automatically call the mother. He has a father.
3. Don't waste my time. I am the parent, I parent. You are the teacher. You teach -- and you are in loco parentis. It is a contract.
4. Don't make me feel somehow guilty for saying any of this. I love my son, but how can I love being forced into such a ridiculous position. And why do I need to be?

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