My kids have been dressing themselves for years. Aimee, the stronger-willed of the two, has insisted not only in dressing herself but choosing which outfit she would wear for the day. (Thus began the Dresses Only era, which lasted four very long years.) Most days she put on her clothes properly, but some days I would look at her and say, “You’re shirt is on backwards.”
Depending on the way she felt, she would either fix it or shrug and walk away.
This morning she put on a shirt that had a cute photo of a tiger on the back. We got the T-shirt at the Cape May Zoo (which, if any of you are ever in the area, you must visit) and she loves it. Today I noticed she wore the shirt with the tiger’s photo in the front.
“Mommy,” she announced, “I know this is on backwards but I like the tiger and want to wear it in the front.”
“Fine with me,” I said.
After school today she said something that alarmed me. She pointed to her shirt and said, “Mom, Mrs. S made me turn my shirt around.”
I was surprised by what she just said because the Montessori method is all about allowing children do things by themselves. Parents (and, especially, teachers) are encouraged to sit on their hands if necessary and allow the child to make mistakes until they figure it out on their own. Children at Aimee’s school come dressed in all sorts of styles: shorts with pants on underneath, backwards shirts, and multi-colored outfits. Only once have I seen a teacher comment on a child's clothing and it was out of concern that the child would be uncomfortable (pants zipper in the back instead of the front, etc.).
“She what?” I asked. She told me again what the teacher (who has only been with the school since September) had done.
“Did she take you into the bathroom?” I asked.
“No, she made me do it in the classroom.”
“Could everyone see?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“Did she touch you?” I asked.
“No, she just pulled at the shirt and turned it around,” she said.
I was furious. If anyone's going to crush my kid's spirit, it's not going to be her.
Then I asked, “Did you tell her you wanted to wear it that way?”
“No,” she said.
“Did you tell her I said it was all right for you to wear it like that?” I asked.
I told Aimee she needed to use her words. “How will anyone know how you feel unless you tell them?” I said.
I then told her was I disappointed in the teacher’s decision and made the call to the school. I voiced my concern, which thankfully was well received. Then was told, “But Aimee needs to use her words, too.”
Um, yeah, I thought, I know. But you are the teachers and she is 5 years old.
Tomorrow I will voice my concern again but this time I'll say it to the teacher in question. There is no reason for her to make my child fix her shirt, especially in a class full of kids.
Photo by Billy Alexander, courtesy of stock.xchng