Around late September, a student put in a note in my mailbox (my mailbox is there just for them, in case they have something important to tell me that they don’t want to say) that said, “At lunch, *boy* was talking about penises and sex and other nasty things.”
I sat at my desk, folding the note back up, as if maybe if I couldn’t see it, I could pretend like it didn’t happen. Of course, I had to figure out what was actually said, and let me tell you…I was shocked, to say the least.
Later in the year, another 4th grader at my school said at lunch that he wanted to “put his penis in *girl’s* butthole.”
The thing about being an elementary school teacher, at least for me, is that these little children become mine. Not in a, you’re-a-freak-going-to-show-up-on-CNN kind of mine. But I feel like they are a part of me. I feel a responsibility to them, and a fierce need to protect them.
Contacting the parents for something like this, is never fun. I prefer e-mail contact with parents, usually, simply because I’m better with written words. I feel like I can get my point across better and not sound judgmental.
Having my own children has opened up a whole new world of compassion and empathy for me. I have watch these little people that CAME FROM ME do things that I CANNOT UNDERSTAND. My 4 year old? He’s a hitter. Like, everyday at daycare he hits someone. I have tried so many things, but he still hits.
My 6 year old? When she was 4 she went to pre-school and told everyone it was her birthday. She let them sing to her and give her a sash and she got a special prize and when she pulled up on the bus everyone was yelling, “Happy Birthday!” Her birthday is in July!
Now, these are small things, I know, but we have a LONG way to go. What I”m saying is, parents play a big role in children’s behavior, but they still are kids and do kid stuff.
As I sat there, I tried to figure out if this was kid stuff, or if this was a problem. The biggest question in my mind was, “Did this kid KNOW what he was saying? Did he know what all of that meant?”
When I was in 4th grade, I played with barbies. Sometimes I’d make them kiss and live in an apartment together. I still remember the day in 7th grade when I found out what French kissing was when I saw my friends do it in the hallway outside our lockers. I walked home slowly, trying to french kiss my hand, wondering how in the world that would even feel good.
I was a junior in high school, talking to one of my friends in the band room when I found out you were supposed to TOUCH someone’s penis. I sat there and gaped at the girl who told me, my mouth hanging wide open. “You mean….you touch it?” and she answered, “Yep. It does totally weird things! They really like it!”
Now, I didn’t have brothers, and my friends and I were the group that played mini-golf and watched movies and made dinner together, so I’m positive that this puts me in a category all on my own, and most of you are thinking, you probably should have known that, girl. But, still.
What I didn’t have, though? What I didn’t have was the internet.
We have strong filters on our internet at school, but still when my students research for their projects on extreme WEATHER, ads pop up with naked women or little character people simulating sex. Ads pop up in their google drive and in their email with links to nasty things.
My students can go home, and spend the night largely unsupervised, clicking on WHATEVER THEY WANT on the internet. They watch “YouTubers” who tell them all sorts of things. They play Xbox Live where they hear older kids talking about penises and buttholes.
Then they come to school. These babies are coming to school and they are using words correctly, in context, to describe awful things. And it’s hurting them. These kids, they are knowing things that they shouldn’t know yet. They are seeing things that confuse them, make them feel unsure and probably sad, and even angry.
In my class, we talk about things as much as we can. I’m very up front with my students, telling them that even if THEY know about these things, they shouldn’t say them because the rest of the class doesn’t, and they probably don’t want to.
Of course, this is my first time as an adult, and maybe I just lived this totally sheltered life. I mean, I know people hid Playboy magazines under their mattress or whatever, but did they do this when they were 9?
Maybe. But at this point I would take a booby magazine over the words and images that these kids are seeing and hearing. They are singing along to songs on the radio with lyrics like, “I didn’t know that I was starving ’til I tasted you.”
I am frustrated. I am a little scared. Everything feels so heavy lately in our world, doesn’t it?
I know that I sound like the older people when we were young, talking about Elvis gyrating and the “Rock” songs and I know time moves on. But for some reason, this feels bigger. We have had SO many issues with kids this year, having these dirty conversations and I just fear it will continue to get worse. Shouldn’t we at least try to stop it?
I’m interested in your thoughts. Do you try to supervise your child’s internet viewing? What age did you let your kid have a tablet? What about a phone? Do you have filters? Do you see any of this with your own kids?
What’s next? What do we do?