My daughter is slightly different than the average child. She is very shy. The other kids love her. As soon as they see her they come running up to her with big smiles asking her how she is and if she wants to play with them. She always gets a puzzled look on her face when this happens. First she looks to the ground, then she squeezes out a smile and finally follows this up with an almost invisible nod. Than the little girls run off, into the playground and that magical land of play & laughter.
But inside of the classroom the teacher is not agreeing with this kind of behavior. Somehow my daughters teacher interprets this shyness as illness. If you don’t say “bonjour” with a loud and clear voice, you are not a well raised child according to the “French island culture”. So as an adult you address the child, you tell them what you think of this behavior with a raised voice and lowered eyebrows. Sometimes you throw out your hands in a gesture of shock and you might yell out something like “oh, la la!”, just to show how disappointed you are with the child’s behavior.
The tactics is to scare children into submission and good behavior. On most of the children it works. But not on my little girl. It has gotten to the point where she refuses to open her mouth in school and her teacher has now decided that she needs a special educator.
At first I felt like, finally!
Now we’re going to be able to talk about how we can help my little girl.
Yesterday we have our first meeting with the local expert. I explain to the what my daughter tells us and how she feels about school in New Caledonia, compared to school in Sweden. I try my best to deliver the message in the best light as possible.
This is the story I share :
– My girl cries several times per week when she talks about how her day was at school. She sometimes explains how the teacher has been hitting some kid in the head with a paper roll, because he didn’t find the right solution to a math problem. Or how a teacher is slamming her wedding ring into the desk while yelling out loud to get the attention of the class etc. My daughter is terrified, she doesn’t feel safe in that kind of environment.
When cultures collide
The therapist then leans over the table, looks at my daughter with kind eyes and a gentle smile.
I think to myself : – Here we go, now’s let’s see what the pro can do?
She tells my daughter :
– You see little girl. What you’re feeling is totally normal. You’re experiencing a culture shock. That kind of behavior is completely normal here in New Caledonia. I was also a teacher earlier in my career and I was screaming too. All the time.
My heart sank, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. Did she just tell my little girl to, suck it up and take it as a man?
Then the educator follows up with her professional solution to the problem :
– Every time your teacher gets angry, loud or violent. Just imagine that she has a red clown nose on her face.
Now here’s the thing. My daughter might be 9, shy and quite. But she is far from stupid. She knows what’s just been said. She tries to force out a polite smile, but her lips wont open. Her face is sealed by a huge “Dash”. When seeing this my wife who sits across the table immediately starts crying. When my daughter sees the tears in her mothers eyes, she also falls into tears.
The only thing I can say is ”Ce pas grav! (It’s ok!)”, I have no more words. something just broke inside of me. It’s time to find another sollution.
I excuse myself, take my daughter hand and we go for a walk. I let my wife finish up the meeting, I don’t want to cause a scene.
Being mindful and calm about the situation saved me once again. I’m sure there is a great sollution just around the corner.
This is the first time since I started my blog that I regret that I haven’t been fishing for readers.
I realize this is more like a message in a bottle at this moment of time.
But if you happen to stumble across this post I would love to hear your suggestions.
PS. If you want to know more you can read my now page