School receptionists/secretaries, I think, can have the same reputation as Doctors receptionists. Yes there are fabulous ones who seem to be able to help solve any problem or they act as if nothing is too much when my sons have forgotten something, needed to ask me something (which meant a call home) or were just having a little panic and needed a friendly face to chat too. Yes there have been some fabulous ones and the schools my boys are at both have wonderful ladies who have also helped me on those days when I’ve forgotten what time a club ends or I’ve had to change the after school arrangements for one thing or another.
We did have one school though where the receptionist treated the school office like something of a lair. She would hold court behind a desk behind a door left ajar and none of the parents wanted to ever go in and ask her anything. She had a snappy, sneering way of dealing with anything you had to say or ask and us parents never wanted to go into the office because of this. We would make jokes about it, whisper in dark corners about it and almost pick straws as to those who would have to go and ask her something, I remember one such time about the costumes for the school play.
Receptionists can be amazing but they can also be a bit difficult to deal with.
I got a phone call from Ollie’s school earlier today. His nail that he’d injured over the Christmas holidays was finally making a bid for freedom from his finger. He had a swimming gala tryout and hockey after school and to say that he was having a bit of a panic about it all is an understatement. He’d said to the secretary that he didn’t want to take part in either, had a bit of a cry as he was scared about what his nail would do.
The lovely lady phoned me and we had a bit of a chat about it and what we both could do. During the chat she did apologise for hugging Ollie. I was surprised about her apology because I understand all aspects of child protection both as a teacher and as a parent but when faced with a crying child who is clearly upset for very good reason I would hope that someone would look at the situation and see that human kindness is the answer. We can’t always assume every adult has ulterior motives.
Another thing to consider is that I have talked at length with Ollie about child protection issues. (Here’s a blog I wrote sharing how I talked it all through with my sons) He knows there are 4 types of abuse and I defined each one. I talked to him about how adults can manipulate situations, the types of things they might say and how this is all just lies. We talked about what is appropriate for an adult to ask and what is not. We talked about how he should deal with a situation that he feels uncomfortable with and we talked about him being able to tell his father and me absolutely anything and we still love him, support him and help him.
I believe child protection is a 2 way process, especially at the age Ollie is -year 6. He is mature enough to take on board some very difficult subjects and also reflect on them with his own thoughts and feelings. He is just about to enter a new stage of his life – Year 7 where he will be expected to be more mature, perhaps be on his own in certain situations away from his parents for the first time and all this means he will have to make decisions for himself at the time without any input from us. I feel that by protecting him from the ‘baddie’ all these years must now mean that he needs to learn to protect himself.
I said thank you to the secretary today for hugging Ollie. She said she’d asked him and he said he wanted one and this is a fab show of respect. I can honestly say that if a child was very distressed in the classes that I taught I would have offered a hug or an arm round the shoulder too. I know this isn’t always the done thing in teaching anymore but I took many other necessary steps -never purposely being alone in a classroom with a child, standing in a doorway if I were, never looking at a wound about the knee or taking down tights without another member of staff present were amongst the most obvious one that spring to mind.
I could tell that she was relived and said so as some parents ‘might not have liked me hugging their child’
I think this is so sad.
Are we saying that adults in a position of authority such as a school in a busy office/corridor should feel guilty about hugging a clearly distressed child. A child that the school knows suffers with anxiety and that they are working really well with to help these anxieties?
This lady didn’t.
She saw a boy who needed a hug and so she asked if he wanted one and he said he did.
And for that I thank her…