It’s all about the rules. And the rules stem from state laws. The problem is, laws do not come with instruction manuals. And they should, when they involve our children. We now have a law that requires all students to have 30 minutes of exercise during school gym class. Sounds good, right? All kids need physical activity. But there are also school rules about proper clothing that must be worn. Wearing Tennis Shoes is part of the attire that is required. Sounds reasonable, right?
But what happens if children forget to wear or bring tennis shoes to school on gym day? Well, they still must have the legal required amount of exercise so instead of playing team sports on the gym floor, they walk laps. Still sounds okay, right? It is a lesson in responsibility that helps kids remember next time to wear the correct shoes. I am all for teaching children to follow rules.
But what happens if the child who forgets is only 5 years old and in Kindergarten? In our school, he/she is removed from the class and forced to walk laps around the gym floor. Over and over until the class period is over.
This is what happened to my little girl yesterday.
It was a hectic morning for us. I had four kids going in different directions. Even with the self proclaimed brilliant ritual we went through the night before that made me feel like a supermom, we still managed to lose a sock the next morning. Then one shoe string had a mega knot in it that somehow formed overnight, which took 5 extra minutes and a chipped fingernail to get it undone. The coat that was with the book bag the night before was now gone and had to be searched for. And there was ice on my windshield that had to be scraped. My mind was doing the best that it could. But I made a mistake. I sent my daughter to school in flats instead of her tennis shoes.
I know every Monday the triplets have gym. And I know every Tuesday my 5 year old has gym. But yesterday morning all this blended together into a cloud of, hurry up we are going to be late oh my gosh you have misplaced your lunch box again?! I know they are required to wear tennis shoes. I have met that goal every week since the beginning of school.
When I picked the kids up from school that afternoon my daughter handed me a note from the gym teacher. It reminded me that Tuesday was gym day and to make sure to remember her tennis shoes. No problem, I agreed.
“When you forget your shoes you have to walk laps,” one of my older kids told me. ”Really?” I asked. “Did you have to walk today sweetie?” I asked my daughter. She hung her head and said yes. I found out that she walked laps around the gym, alone, for the full class period which was 30 minutes while the rest of the class played a bean bag toss game at center court.
To me, this is emotionally degrading for a child this young. I, of course, asked the gym teacher about this. The response was, “Children who forget their tennis shoes are allowed to walk for exercise.”
A 5 year old made to walk laps over and over, alone, for 30 minutes while the other kids are laughing and playing a game is not exercise. It’s punishment. I tried to approach this not as a mean mother bear, but rather as a human being thinking objectivly. And my conclusion was, this is wrong on so many levels. I would feel the same way if I walked in the gym and saw another 5 year old child walking alone for 30 minutes. It’s just not right.
This rule is a cookie cutter rule for all grades of Elementary. There should be alternatives given to Kindergarten. These children are tenderhearted overgrown toddlers. What works for a 3rd grader is not meant for a five year old. Period.
I don’t understand where common sense has gone in a lot of our school systems. Kids are getting expelled for stupid things, such as the 7 year old who was suspended for nibbling on a Pop Tart and shaping it to resemble a gun. Really? And there was the story of the 6 year old little boy who was suspended for kissing a little girl on the cheek. And now we have a 5 year old little girl who was isolated away from her class and made to continually walk laps, around and around for 30 minutes.
Why is it so hard to think objectively? It isn’t Rocket Science to figure out how to handle things like this.
1) If the Pop Tart gun shape was so taboo, why not just tell the kid it probably isn’t a good idea to make that shape here at school. “Swallow it. Here’s some milk to wash it down.” He is SEVEN years old not a killer!
2) “Let’s not kiss other kids, OK?”
3) “Let me check the bottom of your shoes. If they have enough tread you can play today but I’m going to remind your mommy that you need to wear tennis shoes next Tuesday, OK?”
My daughter told me this morning that she did not want to go to school. Then ten minutes later she looked down at her brown flats and told me she didn’t want to wear them to school. The school missed the mark yesterday with having the best interest of the child at heart. Yesterday, following the school rules was more important that looking at the situation through the eyes of a child.
My feelings were hurt for my child but my feelings are also hurt over the fact that my concerns about this were brushed off and instead of ”I’m sorry, I understand and agree with you,” I only received information on state laws and gym class rules.
School rules are good. But school rules should always be gray. Unfortunately today, school rules are only black and white with no room for logical reasoning and humanity.
And as the mom of this 5 year old who felt punished, isolated, and humiliated, I don’t think logical reasoning and humanity is asking too much from our school system.