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The creature from classroom 9

Just read the opening of yet another (published!) book where a not-quite-normal kid enters school and is immediately set upon by a blond demon in the body of a six year old girl, who turns her into a school outcast in the matter of about three seconds.

Every time I come across one of these stories (and there are a lot of them), it makes me feel a little peeved.

I work with kids. Kids with autism. If you're looking for kids who don't act quite normal, well, they're at the far end of the spectrum in the sometimes outright strange category. The oldest boy I work with just finished first grade. Even if the other kids couldn't have figured out there was something different about him, which is highly unlikely, the fact that he had an aid with him every day should have made it pretty obvious.

Was he teased? Yes. Ostracized? Heck no. He got invited to at least five birthday parties by kids in the class. One girl asked him to go roller blading with her after school a couple of times. He played tag with the other kids at recess, and impressed them with out fast he could spin a Bay Blade. He's doing okay.

I see a lot of 5-6 year olds working with the other kid, because I shadow him at the daycare. Every now and then a few girls will gang up on another girl or two and decide the others aren't worth playing with. This usually lasts at most an hour, and then they're all playing together again. Even the girl who tantrums and kicks and sucks her thumb on occasion.

When I worked with 8-10 year olds in the rec centre, I saw a little more of that sort of thing, the old 'we can't play with so'n'so because she's weird'. But even the weird ones had their own weird friends, and the "non-weird" ones weren't actually mean to them, they just didn't mingle a whole lot.

From my own primary school days, I don't remember any clichey-ness. There was no popular group until I got into junior high. There were no blond girls going around with little posses dictating who was cool and not. No one cared in grade one, or two, or three. Any squabbles were usually forgotten in the course of a day. I can't recall a single kid with whom I knew this is not a person to associate with if I want other people to like me, who had no friends at all. Things just didn't work that way, not in the early grades.

Am I just missing something here? Or is the first grade popularity demon really, as it seems to me, a total literary myth? And if it's a myth, where the heck did it come from? Surely most authors are not so befuddled that they mistake their junior high experiences for primary school ones. Who got this idea that six year old girls (or boys, though less often) are so awfully vicious? Petty, I can see; bratty, sure; but downright nasty... very seldom.

Thoughts?

mlc

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
tufted
Jul. 8th, 2003 05:47 am (UTC)
Well, I recall cliques didn't really start in my elementary school (grades kindergarten through 5) until around 4th grade, but there were definitely subtle groups before then - mostly the "normal" kids and the "weird" kids. Around second or third grade kids started to notice that they weren't getting invitations to all of the parties.

megancrewe
Jul. 8th, 2003 06:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know that sort of thing happens. What I'm talking about more is these stories where the "popular" kid (usually a girl) decides that the other kid is weird and then goes out of her way to make life as miserable as possible for that kid--malicious comments, freezing out anyone who's friendly to the "weird" kid, etc. Even in junior high I didn't see anything quite that extreme, but in grades 1-3? Nothing like it.
dorable
Jul. 8th, 2003 07:13 am (UTC)
Weeell...I agree and disagree.

We had cliques since first grade, and by second or third grade things started to get really miserable for the "weird" kids (including me). And weird is anyone who is defined by the popular kids as weird.

However:

1. The "torturing" was mostly covert and unintentional. Mostly. It was a lot like what would happen to me today if none of the people at university liked me -- except in university you choose your own friends and in grade school it may be considered socially unacceptable to befriend the "weird kids." Plus, kids are meaner and less polite than 20-something-year-olds.

2. The really mean kids -- the ones with the malicious comments and the freezing and stuff -- aren't necessarily the beautiful popular ones. The ones on top of the social ladder have better social skills, plus they need to preserve at least a semblance of pleasantness in order to keep their place. It's the second-level kids who are insecure about their social status and so often take it out on the ones below them.

I'm ranting. This is a pretty complex issue. But my point is -- these things do happen.
megancrewe
Jul. 8th, 2003 10:01 am (UTC)
Ranting is okay. :) Thanks. My experiences are still pretty limited--it's good to hear from someone with a different perspective (though not so good that you had to deal with that).

I've seen some kids do some things that could be considered pretty mean, but they never seem very purposeful (or perhaps what you would call intentional) about it, which I guess makes it seem less bad. Though I'm sure it's still just as hurtful to the kids it affects.
tufted
Jul. 8th, 2003 08:08 am (UTC)
"Evil" behavior against one student did occur in my 3rd grade class, and it was significant enough that I remember clearly how it started. But honestly, I think that teachers and parents were the most to blame in that situation.
somedaysawriter
Jul. 8th, 2003 06:50 am (UTC)
Hmm, I don’t think it’s possible to have an elementary school tale that does not include some sort of drama- whether it be bullying or cliques, but I agree first grade seems a bit young. It wouldn’t be realistic to have everyone love each other, but the majority of these stories do tend to center on the tow-haired super-bitchy golden child. It’s definitely a cliché. I’ve seen it down well, but very rarely.


I think it would be far more realistic if the not-so-normal child was immediately set upon by a “helpful” girl who wanted to mother and take care of him. I volunteered at a head start program in high school. In my very limited experience with kids, I’ve found that girls will initially take on this sort of role out of concern, but soon there good intentions turn nasty. The child becomes a pawn in their little turf war. The bossy girls will fight over who will take care of their “pet.”
somedaysawriter
Jul. 8th, 2003 07:27 am (UTC)
oops
DONE well, not down well.

I must start proofing.
sallyrei
Jul. 8th, 2003 09:24 am (UTC)
I thnk you're entirely right. At that age, children might be nasty to one another. They might be nasty a few days in a row. But it's very basic stuff; "I don't like you." At six they haven't got the capacity to destroy someone's life - that comes about, y'know, age 12, 13 :p They don't have the words, the subtlety, and in all honesty, they don't have the desire to hurt someone that much.

If I read some story about bullying - especially if it's between girls, when it has to be generally verbal, messing-with-your-head - amongst a group of six year olds... it just isn't believeable. It would ruin the rest of the book: the language wouldn't fit that of a six year old, for one. The behaviour wouldn't.

Very weird.
ashtray_girl
Jul. 8th, 2003 10:22 am (UTC)
From my own experience I can say that the whole ganging up on other kids thing does happen in kindergarten. I'm half-indian, and when I was 6, my family moved from Canada to Poland. Lets just say that Polish children weren't exactly very tolerant. Most kids called me a negro and didn't want to play with me. I remember that the only friend I had back then was a girl who didn't really have the grasp on basic personal hygiene, and nobody wanted to play with her either. I really started making friends about halfway through grade one, and even then some kids wouldn't really play with me because of the color of my skin.

Of course even the most bigoted got used to me after some time, but i can tell you that most people under-estimate little children's capacity for cruelty.
penmage
Jul. 8th, 2003 12:33 pm (UTC)
I have very vivid memories from first grade. I had just moved into the neighborhood - all the other kids in my class had been in the same class in preschool, and knew each other. I also lived farther away than most of them, not really in the two-block walking radius that most of them inhabited.

I very vividly remember the first grade bullies, the kids who picked on me and ostracized me because I was very small and from somewhere else. It wasn't the flouncy blonde brat, but the bullies and mean kids were there, as well as the beginnings of cliques.

I still know some of those kids, and some of them have grown up to be wonderful people and good friends. But they were monsters in first grade and made my life miserable.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 9th, 2003 10:49 pm (UTC)
You obviously didn't go to school where I did
We had little girls dictating who was cool and who was not in my kindergarten class. Also in first grade. In second grade I remember one girl, Jennifer Buckner, deciding that I was Not To Be Associated With and thus spent all of 2 - 4th grade having only one fleeting friend. Usually any girl in the class who was the second least popular.
megancrewe
Jul. 10th, 2003 04:32 am (UTC)
Re: You obviously didn't go to school where I did
Interesting. I wonder what accounts for the wide range in experiences people have had? Why would the little girls where I live be nicer than the ones where others live? Something to ponder...
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books


Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014


The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015


A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015


The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012


The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013


The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014


Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014


Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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