J is a safety patrol at his school. This position at his school has been linked to good behavior and good grades. If your behavior or your grades drop, then you “lose your belt.” Safety patrols all wear belts to designate their position. For J, and I imagine for other kids in the school, it’s a “big deal.”
October is Fire Prevention month. Our town has an annual Fire Parade in October, and the safety patrols from the various elementary schools in the county march in it. Other groups march as well – bands, dance troops, Cub scout troops – it just a little hometown event.
The theme this year was “Watch What you Heat” – kitchen safety awareness was the thrust of the parade. J and his 5th grade safety patrol group dressed up as items one would find in a kitchen – he was a box of macaroni and cheese. Just imagine the fun I had making that costume (that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it).
After the parade was over, J came home from school to tell me that one of his classmates had “lost his belt.” The reason J gave for his friend’s removal from the group was that he had marched with the football team instead of the patrol group.
I was sure that J had it wrong. I couldn’t imagine that this would be correct. J insisted he was right – of course, he always insists he’s right – that is no guarantee of his ownership of the correct facts. When I pulled out the parent’s handout about the parade (I guess I should have read it before the parade), there it was, in black and white. Any student coming to watch the parade, but not participating with the patrols or marching with any other group, would “lose his belt.”
Upon further investigation (as in “Hey, J, tell me more”), I found that the football coach had told the team that anyone not participating with the team would not be allowed to play in the “big game.”
So what are we teaching this child by these rules?
- We are not going to allow you to be part of the organized sports AND a group which has the responsibility of monitoring safety in our school – a group which honors academics and good citizenship. Sorry – you must choose.
- As adults, we cannot work together to solve problems such as this.
- No matter what, what I (the adult) is doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. Me, first.
- If the rules had been written just slightly differently, then the child could have stayed home, not participated in ANYTHING, and still have maintained membership with both groups. It was in participation with one of them, that he was punished.
- The safety patrol sponsor is considering it BAD behavior to participate with another group. The football coach is elevating the “big game” above anything else the child might need to do that evening.
Is it any wonder that we are in need of a savior? We can’t even seem to handle the rules of a silly little fire parade with any love or caring.
What do we want to teach the children?