|Who's that girl?|
When I was in 2nd grade, I was part of a group of four friends.
The leader of our group was a Canadian girl named Kim, although I don't remember why. And every day she decided which of the four of us would be ignored.
It was typically the girl whose bus arrived last. I guess Kim's bus never arrived last.
At some point, it was my turn. They all ignored me every day, for a month. My three little girlfriends in my second grade class refused to speak to me for an entire month.
I cried every day.
We were in a tiny foreign community in newly-independent Bangladesh. Everyone knew each other. My mom spoke to her mom, who invited me over to play, in order to fix it. Kim refused to speak to me the entire time. I was stuck and it was brutal.
I don't remember the moment they started talking to me again, but at some point Kim decided they would, and they did.
Now I think, why the hell did Kim have that power over us? And I participated. Why did I participate?
I don't know. But she did. And I did.
So, yesterday, India's teacher Ms. M told me about an incident involving my daughter.
Incidentally, her teacher Ms. M is terrific. We had her last year, and she switched to teaching Kindergarten, and I'm so glad India's with her again. I feel like she really knows and gets my daughter.
So Ms. M gave me the details as she understood them and asked if I could get India to talk to me about what happened.
Apparently, during recess, India went in to use the bathroom. It's hard for the little kids to lock the stall doors, so often they don't. This was the case.
India was sitting on the toilet, and her stall door was open. Three girls from her class stood and watched her while she was using the toilet, even though she told them to leave her alone.
One of the teachers walked into the bathroom while this was going on, and put a stop to it.
India is very close to that teacher, and cried and cried to her. India was hugely upset. Afterwards, she refused to talk about it.
My girl is bold and strong, and when she falls down, she typically gets up, brushes it off, and says she's fine.
But this isn't falling down. This is other kids being deliberately unkind. Staring and refusing to leave when you're not in the position to make them go away. When you're vulnerable.
One of them is a friend of hers, but the other two were names India has never mentioned.
Now, Ms. M explained that this is part of a larger climate of subtle bullying going on in her classroom. There are girls being mean to each other in sneaky ways. She said India isn't a target, and that the mean behavior isn't consistently directed at one person.
I asked if India is ever one of the mean girls, and Ms. M said she doesn't instigate but sometimes she will tag along at the tail end of the group.
I think about myself in 2nd grade. I think about Kim.
So, Ms. M has started assigning seats, deliberately separating girls who are tight. She's assigned them places in line, because they were clustering. The school counselor is going to come in and talk about kindness.
Ms. M said that kids don't hesitate to tell her if someone hits them. That's bad behavior; it's obvious. But she said that what's going on now is not necessarily obvious or clear-cut, and she thinks kids don't know whether they should tell or not.
She doesn't know if India would have said anything if the other teacher hadn't walked in.
She said she thinks it's due to the large number of girls with strong personalities in class this year. She's working to shift this mean girls dynamic that's begun.
I broached the topic while snuggling in bed with my little girl. She buried her head under the pillow and said, "Ms. M already told you about it. I don't want to talk about it."
I knew that my daughter would get her feelings hurt by her friends and classmates. That's inevitable. I knew that at some point there would be mean girls.
I guess I didn't think it would start in Kindergarten.