Friday, October 26, 2007

The education of Tess

Beth visited Tess's class this morning. Her mission: to teach a lesson on nutrition. Tess of course revels in the fact that her mom is in the room. Beth is equally happy and proud of her daughter. Beth begins the lesson with a quick review. What are some whole foods? she asks.
A couple of kids answer then Beth sees Tess raise her hand.
Pleased, she calls on her angel who blithely asks, Would you turn on the light please?
Beth carries on slightly put off balance by her daughter's non sequiter but not too bad really. A couple of minutes later she is asking another question and again the hands go up. Beth sees Tess raise her hand and, after making sure she's called on some other kids first, she calls on Tess, not without a tinge of anticipation.
Tess looks at Beth and says, Where's Colm?
Beth has to deal with a few immediate and conflicting impressions, she does have a lesson to conduct, and there is the question of Colm's whereabouts which seems to have suddenly been elevated to a class wide concern even though no one else in the room has any idea who Colm is. There is also taking root in Beth's mind the growing impression of Tess as gadfly replacing that of Tess as perfect little student.

Later, at bed time. I sit on Tess's bed and begin the slow and circuitous process of talking her down to earth and her pillow. Tess pauses for a moment and says, What did you do in school today?
I sense in her question a certain relish. The role reversal must be delicious for her. I indulge her to best of my ability. In French we sang a song. In English we wrote poems. Tell me some, she says. I feel as though I have no choice but to try, especially if I intend to redirect the question her way. When I get the chance to ask her she seems satisfied with the deal and after thinking for a few moments she decides to tell me about how the school counselor came and taught them the difference between telling and tattling.
What is the difference? I ask her in all sincerity.
Well if someone tells you that you have to call someone stupid and you say something ....well that's telling and telling is good.
Tess pauses. I can tell she's getting a bit tangled trying to reconstruct it.
Actually, she says, it's kinda both telling and tattling.
Yeah, I say. Sometimes it's complicated trying to tell the difference.
Tess nods and turns her attention to Sugar who's jumped up into bed with her. She seems to dismiss the topic as a dead end. Easier to go to sleep than stay up trying to sort out the ethical intricacies of telling and tattling.
I'm of the same mind for now. Besides there is no doubt that the future will furnish ample opportunities to revisit the question.


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