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Dear Readers,

Back to school. Every September I find I have to repeat this, just because new people need to hear it, and old people have brains like the cheesecloth we used to strain my grandfather's jugs of Marsala.

For the love of Mike, don't go telling your kids never to fight. That's insane. It gives all the bullies they are ever going to meet a free pass. The thing about bullies is that they can SMELL the free pass three hallways away. Your poor schmoe of a kid sends out a radar, and kaboom, gone is their lunch money, or their gym clothes or their new pencils. Now I'm not saying they need to start fights, or even lift a finger They just have to have no problem with landing a good kick in the shins IF it ever came to that.

Second, would it kill you to make nice with the teachers? I'm not talking about in your face A** kissing, everyone can see through that in a minute, and believe me, even while the teachers will be all sweet to your face, they'll make fun of you behind your back in the teacher's room. Guarantee. Because chances are you will insult them with the false nature of your flattery and no one likes to feel cheap. And don't complain to me that you work, and you don't have time. I mean really. You can figure out SOMETHING. Like my sister's ex boyfriend's aunt Mazelle, she had three boys, each one was more of a zinger than the others, give them a few more years, you could just see them in the back of the police cruiser. Mazelle would call the teachers up each September, explain the situation, thank them in advance, with a lasagna. She didn't make excuses, because what excuse is there when your kid muscles all the blocks in the block corner and charges the other kids a nickel to get some block time?

Third, make sure your kid knows the difference between attitude and savvy. Let's say there's a teacher who is a real whack job with a Napoleon complex, who picks on a little guy who hands out the free pass I was talking about. Your kid sees this and knows, because you told him what I always tell you, that power should always be used in the interest of safety and justice, that this is unjust. Your kid, rightfully, loses respect for the teacher. But how to deal? Your kiddo can give attitude, but without savvy, this will just make things worse. The teacher has the power, no mistake, and you don't want your kid to go down with the ship. There are a number of ways to deal, here are just two-

Ask the innocent question- Why do you tease Johnnie Jamokie when it makes him cry? This approach requires good acting skills on the part of the asker, so you be the judge.

Bring in the muscle- You make an appointment, and ask the innocent question yourself. My Angel face is very upset when little Johnnie Jamokie is picked on and cries, Can you help?

There are so many other things we could discuss, because believe me, school is like a minefield, and families have to be on their toes to be sure that everyone emerges without permanent maiming.

God Bless, Donna




Pamela Bongiorno Monk is a full time faculty member of Penn State University, where she teaches creative writing, both fiction and non fiction. She pursues freelance writing, authoring plays and feature articles. She has broken nearly as many rules of family as she has enforced.

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