* Happy Learner?

Yesterday while I was at the library I ran into the mother of one of Rio's former classmates. She asked about Rio and his new school (Rio is always well-known by everyone, everywhere he goes), and I told her the good news. The conversation progressed, and we talked about Rio's old school. I realized that she had no idea that Rio had been kicked out, and she was shocked when I told her. She then informed me that Jezebel, the other "problem child" in Rio's class, had been held back a year.

I wonder if they would have tried to hold Rio back, if he had stayed. Thank God he got out. Poor Jezebel.

This mom had a very high opinion of that school, so it was hard for her to believe my story. But her daughter is a Happy Learner (that principal's favorite buzz phrase - still makes me cringe), so she's never had any problems with the administration. She's never had to go to bat for her kid to keep her off meds or from getting expelled. But she did say that she has a son in preschool who's just the opposite of her daughter, i.e., more like Hercules, and she and her husband are already beginning to wonder how he'll fare in school. Let's just hope they teach him how to be a Happy Learner, or he won't last long, at least not at that school.

Meanwhile, young Hercules is still learning to resolve playground conflicts peacefully. Lately he seems to be suffering from a vigilante complex, in which he feels obligated to swoop in and rescue any child who's being manhandled by ruffians. Unfortunately, sometimes it's just a couple of kids playing around and no rescue is needed, so when Rio shows up all fire and brimstone, it's trouble. Even when the offense is real, Hercules hasn't yet mastered the art of nonviolent conflict resolution, either. Tact? No chance.

So when Hercules sees what he perceives as bullying, the perpetrator is usually wrestled to the ground in short order. And then Rio gets pretty pissed off when he's the one who has to sit out the rest of recess. His counselor and I have been teaching him alternative approaches, and slowly it seems to be sinking in. But it's going to take some time before Hercules learns to resist that instinct to whoop ass.

Not to mention what happens when Hercules is targeted by playground thugs. You know the type, they steal your ball away from you in the middle of your best game, they block the stairs to the playground equipment, they reek of anarchy! Yeah, thugs! And unfortunately, the thugs are wiser and more calculating than the very impulsive, though generally benign, Hercules. While the thugs never lay a hand on Hercules while they torment him ruthlessly, Hercules always throws the first punch. And those clever thugs, they go straight to the teacher. "HE HIT ME!!"

Which always gets a much more passionate response than, say, "Teacher, those kids won't let me play on the equipment!" Or, "Teacher, those kids stole my ball!" Because we've been trying to teach Hercules to get a teacher involved rather than taking matters into his own hands. However, this approach seldom works to Rio's satisfaction. He wants the bad guys to go to jail, every time. And he's tired of taking the rap for the bad guys. We've also been teaching him to "use his words" - you know, talk things over. No need to resort to aggression, this is not an international dispute! Let's talk about our problem and try to come up with a solution. This is a great theory, but in practice it absolutely requires the intervention of an adult. And on the playground there's never an adult around when you need one. Have you ever seen two six year olds try to talk through their problem? It's kinda like watching a political debate on Fox News. It quickly devolves into a screaming fit of name-calling. No, six-year-olds (not to mention many adults) just don't have the maturity. Not that that will stop me from teaching young Hercules this approach, mind you. God forbid he should grow up to be like Bill O'Reilly. I pity his mother.

But I digress. Of course it's worthwhile to teach these skills to Hercules, even though he may not be mature enough to implement them on his own yet, we're laying the groundwork. And despite these playground conflicts, Hercules has made great strides at school. I'm just pleased that he's able to succeed in the classroom for now. The rest will come in time.

OK, this day is nearly over and the weekend begins soon! Did I mention that Hercules and I rode our bikes to school today? And it was his idea? I've been resistant, because there are a some tall, steep hills on the way to his school, and I wasn't sure we could get there in time for me to make it to work. But it seemed worth a try, and so I agreed. And we made it! That's one more way we can save on gas:) Hurray for alternative transportation!

One last note: About commenting - I thought maybe I'd finally hit the big time when I received my first comment spam(at this post), but the novelty quickly wore off. I am now receiving instant comment spam as soon I post a new entry. Therefore, I have turned on that option where you have to type the letters shown in a little box. I apologize for the inconvience. A pox on the spammers and all of their progeny! Carry on.

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