Wednesday, December 08, 2004

It's not just kids who hassle substitute teachers

I had to go ballistic on a substitute teacher today during my volunteer time in the library. I have the utmost sympathy for substitutes, honestly I do -- they do a hard and necessary job, and they get no respect. But this woman ... She was subbing for a 4th-grade class that came into the library to do some work on the computers. A few boys had to sit at a table and wait their turn. And I guess this one little guy was talking too much or trying to grab his friend's bookmark or something, because the teacher and the aide started in on him and insisted he go sit at another table by himself. He resisted and they escalated until finally he stomped to the table and sat down, but kept up a commentary, complaining about the move and why did he have to sit there and it was just a bookmark and so on. Every so often the teacher or the aide would tell him to be quiet and mind his own business, and he'd go off some more. I'll admit, I have a soft spot for boys who can't keep their mouths shut when they need to, having one myself, and I shot him a sympathetic look or two and sent out some good thoughts to try to calm him so he wouldn't get into more trouble. The aide threatened to send him to the principal, she threatened to call his mom to take him home -- and then the substitute teacher, in a tone half-serious, half pleased-with-herself jokey, and not at all quietly, said, "Did you forget to take your medication this morning?"

It didn't seem to faze the kid at all, but it fazed me. She must not have noticed the degree to which my jaw had dropped, because she came over and started talking to me all conspiratorially about how he wouldn't act like that if he had his medication. I told her, patiently at first, sternly at second, passionately at third, fourth and fifth, that it was INAPPROPRIATE TO MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT A CHILD'S MEDICATION -- inappropriate to do it jokingly, inappropriate to do it in front of other children, inappropriate to do it in front of random adults. I mentioned that it was particularly inappropriate since she didn't even know if he was medicated, to which she merrily said that no, the aide had told her that he was. Whether or not it was inappropriate for the aide to tell you, I said through clenched teeth, it's inappropriate for you to tell me. But she just prattled on about a little girl she'd had in her class who was having trouble one day and suddenly said "Oh, I know what's wrong, I forgot to take my medication today!" and wasn't it smart of that little girl, and clever of the substitute to make that connection. Over and over I said, you shouldn't be discussing this with me, it's a privacy violation. And finally, she smiled and shrugged and moved away. I called the boy over to my desk and chatted with him for a while to keep him off her radar, and the librarian later sent him on an errand to another classroom, and he stayed blessedly out of trouble for the rest of the period.

I was feeling pretty good up there on my high horse, and so promptly threw myself off of it by telling the librarian -- who had been out of the room at the time -- about the teacher's comment and my response. And she said: "Oh, I didn't know he was medicated." So now I've violated his privacy, too. Whether he cares much about it, or his parents would care much about it, I don't know. But I care much about it. And I'll tell you, that kid's going to be in the very good graces of this library volunteer for the rest of the year. Whether he remembers to take his medication in the morning or not.

No comments: