Let me start by recommending a good relationship with the principal of your child's school. It's always a good idea to get to know this person and make sure that he or she knows who you are and who your child is. Even if you have to do this in the guise of getting your child acclimated to a new school, a new classroom, or a new school leader, find some way to get on a "hi, how are you?" basis with the person in the front office. Keep it cool, and do it before there's an issue.
Because when there is an issue, with a teacher, another student, or the stupid math book (Grrr, Investigations, Math!), you want to deal with someone who is going to listen, even if he or she can't immediately make a change. Over the years, I've seen too many parents come in with guns blazing (okay, maybe that's a bad figure of speech to use about a school); when they haven't taken the time to see the teacher, or the other student, or the principal, as a fellow human being. Most of these parents wind up more frustrated than when they came in.
The principal of the boys' school called me last Fall to let me know about a couple of incidents on the playground where Pumpkin was being chased and teased by other boys. He told me that he had spoken to all the boys involved, that he and the playground monitors were keeping an eye on the situation and that he'd let me know if anything further developed.
When I talked to Pumpkin about it, or tried to, he clammed up. When you try to address anything serious with him he physically curls into himself. If you've ever pulled a snail or periwinkle from its sticking place on a rock and watched it close up its shell, you'll know what I deal with. Every time.
Eventually, I got from him that a bunch of second graders had been teasing him, and that he mostly plays by himself on the playground, but he didn't want to talk about it much further than that. I let it go and try to approach it in a less direct manner from time to time.
Now I've talked before about Pumpkin's hypersilliness, but I may not have mentioned that he is aware that some kids find his behavior funny. Funny haha. What he seems not to be aware of, or is deliberately ignoring, who knows, is that he is getting to be the age where some kids find his behavior "funny peculiar." So I can totally see him starting something with the older boys thinking that it was going to make them laugh, and not realizing that they might think he was weird and respond by chasing him away or calling him names.
So let's fast forward to January. One Sunday evening I get a call at home from Pumpkin's Sunday school teacher. She's been incredibly supportive of the boys and has seen quite a bit in terms of quirky behavior from many other children in the congregation. She's used to Pumpkin drawing and sticking mostly with drawing as a form of expressing the lessons in the atrium. She called me because that morning, out of the blue and apropos of nothing, Pumpkin looked straight at her and said "I don't understand what the kids on the playground are saying to me." She didn't know what it meant and she couldn't get him to talk about it further, but she thought I ought to know in case he was being bullied, and I needed to address it.
A couple of days later, I went to the prinicpal. He told me he wasn't aware of any escalation with the original group of boys, but he would ask around and try to take the time to observe Pumpkin out on the playground (there's a large panoramic window in the upper hallway where he can look down on the playground and see quite a bit).
For his part, Pumpkin acted like he didn't know what I was talking about.
In the past couple of years there has been at least one other boy that Pumpkin connected with. I would hear that child's name constantly. Last year, several girls in his class would run up and hug him. This year, I'm getting none of that. He's more frequently mentioning one child or another who is "mean."
The school deliberately split him from his best friend of last year because the two of them together would not be conducive to learning. I supported that decision even though I liked this other kid and his family. First grade is not Kindergarten. There is much less "play time." Unfortunately, I know almost no one in Pumpkin's current class. The one kid I did know, I was worried about, not because he was mean, but because he could be a significant distraction. As it happens, the two of them don't seem to spin in the same circles. This is where I feel at a distinct disadvantage not being there during the day. Since I'm working in an office all five days, there is no way for personal observations to support or refute what I think is happening.
Last week, the principal called and left a message. Pumpkin happened to be in the room when we heard the message and he likely recognized the voice as the same person who does the Pledge of Allegiance and the Peace Builder's (anti-bullying program) pledge over the PA system every morning. The message was essentially this: Pumpkin does a lot of climbing, he is completely oblivious to the kids in the same space as he is and often climbs right over them, plows right through them, leading to protests from the other boys. This is completely consistent with behavior we have seen in other arenas and something we've been trying to correct for years, but can only seem to address on a case by case basis.
The next time I saw the principal, he had a story for me. The day after his last phone call, Pumpkin came into the principal's office with an offering of sorts. He'd drawn a sign with the name of the school on it and he wanted to give it to the principal for his collection.
Now Pumpkin won't talk to us about his reactions to things, but clearly he's thinking about them. Too often, I'm left wondering what goes on in his head.