I’m going to write a long post about the letter I got from the girls’ school today in Maxi Minx’s homework folder because I feel very emotional about it. I might even have a little rant. I will quote some of the letter, only to make sure that there’s less chance of mis-construing what’s been said: eg I’ve not been told to stop blogging, I’ve just been asked to stop blogging about the school and its pupils. Typing out the entire letter would feel underhand to me, so I’ve only reported the bits that I think are relevant. Should I not wait until I’ve spoken to the Head first? Probably! But I need to get this stuff out of my own whirling head so that I can sleep tonight (I got an hour’s kip last night in between Midi and Mini kicking me. Not being able to sleep now means I’m *really* upset!). And perhaps the poor man’s waiting up, refreshing this screen all night, to see if I update my blog anyway 😉
After this post, I don’t intend to mention it again, really, because in the greater scheme of life this isn’t important. As I was reminded by a friend whose home is facing devastation while he’s on another continent at his mother’s deathbed. So here it is in a v-e-r-y long one-er!
Let me set the scene: I’ve spent all day aimlessly wandering around the local town and a garage waiting on my car being serviced. The weather was cack. I should have got a taxi home, but thought me and Mini would enjoy our adventure. And I’m trying to tighten the purse strings so much that I’ve stopped dyeing my hair blue and purple (!). We didn’t enjoy the adventure – she’s teething and grumpy, I’m sleep-deprived and uber-grumpy, I was cold and wet, and had to make the Call of Shame to an understanding friend (“Please can you mind my kids at pick-up time? I’m going to be a little late”). The car service finishes 5 mins before the bell goes, so I get there 5 mins late, and am stressed parking in a really anti-social spot, on the pavement down from the school, humiliatingly aware of my usual blog rants about inconsiderate parkers. I am now a hypocrite. Great. We get home, I have a lot to do to get the girls ready for Hallowe’en parties tomorrow, get homework done, feed 2 cats who’ve been out, cold and wet and hungry all day and who are telling me how much they hate me, the house is a tip, and I’ve got a meeting tonight to get ready for. There’s a letter in Maxi’s homework folder. I open it while taking peanuts out of Mini’s hand, pushing a cat away and crunching through an upended box of cereal, yelling at Midi to come and do her homework Right.This.Minute.
“I am writing because I have been made aware of your blog […] by concerned parents and staff“. OMG, parents plural? Staff, plural? You mean that many people actually read this blog? And they’re concerned? About me? Oh bless them!
“Whilst I recognise the internet is a free forum for any opinion, I am asking that you avoid issues related to the school“. So not that kind of concerned, then? Oh-oh… But I’m a stay-at-home mum; school takes up an awful lot of my energy and time. I’d have nothing to blog about. What’s up?
“As was discussed at the induction meeting for the Parent Council every member has a role in promoting the school in a positive light and supporting the school. As a member of the Parent Council it is expected that you engage in constructive dialogue with the school, raise issues on the agenda of meetings, or you can complain as a parent individually. Other parents recognise that you are on the Parent Council and give additional weight to your opinions as they perceive that they represent the Parent Council or that you are privy to additional information“. I didn’t say that I was on the Parent Council on this blog, because I didn’t think it was relevant – I volunteered, there was space, so I became a member. I wasn’t elected or chosen. Yes, we Parent Council newbies were told by the Local Authority (it wasn’t debated or discussed) to be positive about the school at all times and watch what we said in public and to other parents. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable about that, but recognised that I *do* take all my big concerns straight to the school (crikey, I’ve done just that 3 times this year already!) I honestly (perhaps naively?) thought that my feelings about the school were transparent. In case they weren’t, here they are: (Brace yourself). The policies and staff are not perfect, but the entire teaching and support staff genuinely try hard and overall I’m extremely happy that my girls go to the school. I’ve whole-heartedly recommended it to more than one person who wasn’t sure whether to send their children there or not. But apparently at least 4 people (parents plural and staff plural) have seen this blog from a different perspective. So I clearly have a simple decision: omit everything about the school and pupils and remain on the Parent Council, or maintain my right to spout my lily-livered, wishy-washy, handwringing, free speech and resign from the Parent Council. I chose the latter, and resigned this evening at the start of the meeting. And och, it’s not so bad – I’m still happy to help out at the school when and where I can, keep voicing my larger concerns in person, and maintain my right to voice my own, insignificant opinions on here. I don’t believe my presence on the committee will be missed at all. Win-win! No-one loses!
“I am particularly concerned that you are referring to children in school other than your own by initials. […] is a small town and children are easily identified from initials“. I felt a strange mix of horror, anger and disbelief, here – I’ve only ever used a single initial to identify anyone (and here’s a shocker, it’s not always been the correct initial…). But you know what, it’s perhaps a fair point and maybe warning; from now on I’ll use x, y and z to refer to people and I shall edit any previous posts to reflect that. So I’ll change S to X, and M to Y, etc. That kind of thing. Just to be on the safe side.
“It is very upsetting for staff teaching and supporting your children to read negative comments about them on the internet.” Ouch, ow, ouch. Oh gosh, that stings! I started to cry at this point, and shake. “There will always be areas of school that you will not like or agree with but there are routes to give your opinions to school. The identification of staff and opinions about them is not helpful to school and our image in the community“. I didn’t take that lightly – I know that harsh words can leave some people feeling absolutely devastated. Remember that I think the staff at the school are hardworking, caring human beings. Who very occasionally do daft things. Because they’re human (and God Almighty, this entire blog is a testament to lots of the stuff I do wrong, every single day). So, to think that I’ve caused another person, or worse, people, who by definition I like and respect, any kind of hurt or misery makes me feel like a total shit. Like a vindictive, horrible bully. I feel very ashamed and miserable. But I’ve got no-one to go and say sorry to! I don’t know who’s pissed off! Reflecting on my posts, I know I was very snipey about the actions of one fellow-parent around a year ago; I criticised a member of staff last term (the chocolate prizes – but the Head promised to have a word with the member of staff responsible, so my rant shouldn’t have been a surprise, nor should it identify them, because I had and have no idea who they are, either!); and a teacher and a pupil in a very recent post. Let me deal with the last 2…
I expressed a very negative opinion about a pupil whose actions have made one of my daughters sad, hurt and perplexed for the past 2 months. This pupil is only a little child him/herself, maybe 10 or 11? So yeah, I did indeed say their actions were hurtful to my wee girl, and I didn’t say anything factually incorrect. But in hindsight I should have qualified my rant with “but little 10 year old kids do these things to other little kids, especially ones who’re being a clingy pest hero-worshipping them – it’s normal and part of growing up”.
The teacher… Oh God! I do feel guilty. Well, it’s one of 2. I don’t know which one did the actions that ticked me off. Both are very hard-working, kind, loving teachers. I absolutely know I’ve said as much more than once on here, and to other mums – I’ve definitely sung their praises (quite rightly). I sniped about their actions that unwittingly resulted in my little girl spending the afternoon sobbing in my arms. Unless my recollections are wrong (could be – I’m permanently sleep-deprived and forgetful!), though, again I didn’t lie. That’s what happened. Do you know, last time my daughter had a planned absence, I got a phonecall from the school asking where she was even though I’d written the class teachers a letter in advance. Someone had forgotten my letter. So for this planned absence I wrote to the teachers AND the administrator, so it wouldn’t get missed. But that can’t have hurt the teacher / teachers’ feelings, could it? Could it?! Oh dear, I think it might have, because I can’t think of anything else. Don’t make me read this entire sodding blog to check, will you? Please? I’ll be good from now on…! And do I go see both to say sorry if I hurt them? Or wait for them to collar me?
This evening I feel hurt, angry, guilty and resentful. I’m going to read some of this blog again to see if I owe anyone an apology. If I do, it will be unreserved, wholehearted, and there may even be (more) tears from me. And shaking. I’m doing lots of shaking just now because I really, really don’t ‘do’ strong emotions. Did I tell you that on some kind of level I’m perhaps more than a little bit autistic? But I’ll leave that for another post – hey, this blog is supposed to be the rantings of a middle-aged, grumpy old git about her little cherubs, not about me!
So in summary: I didn’t commit libel or slander because I haven’t said anything untrue and haven’t named any person, school or town (and never will); it wasn’t so terrible that I was phoned or spoken to in person (just a wee letter in a homework folder). But then again, it was so serious that it warranted the use of the colour printer! Sheesh, that’s me told! 😉