Empowered To Speak Up

It was school dismissal time and I was waiting for Phoebie to appear amongst the sea of children. When kids are in uniform, they look very similar and I have to look very carefully to identify my daughter.

The crowd started to disperse as most of the students made their way out of the school. I still didn’t see my daughter. This is not the norm, so I started to get a little worried.

Finally, Phoebie appeared.

“Mama, can you wait for me?” She asked, as she handed me her school bag, “I need to talk to my teacher.”

“Talk to your teacher? Is it urgent?” I asked her back.

“Yes,” she replied, “You wait for me here, okay? I will be right back.”

With that, she walked back into the school, leaving me puzzled about what she needed to talk to the teacher about.

Less than five minutes later, my daughter reappeared and we were finally able to leave the school.

“What was so urgent that you had to talk to your teacher?” I asked as we walked towards the car.

“Teacher said she can’t do anything about the system,” she replied.

“System? What system?” I had no idea what Phoebie was talking about.

“The system after school. It’s too messy and it’s very hard for us to get out of the school,” she replied.

It was then I realised what she was talking about.

(Background story: At the start of this year, Phoebie’s school decided to change the way students were dismissed. Instead of allowing parents and guardians into the school to wait outside the canteen, they decided not to allow us in. From this year, we were given a “waiting area” right next to the side gate. However, this “waiting area” is not big enough to contain all the anxious adults. The only path that leads out of the school from the side gate is congested with adults before the students are dismissed. As a result, the students have to squeeze through the sea of adults, either to look for their parents/guardian, or to leave the school on their own.)

I had previously contacted Phoebie’s form teacher about the situation because it gets very difficult for the students to leave the school, as well as for the adults to look for their children. However, I didn’t expect Phoebie to feel that she needed to alert her teacher about the situation.

“So you went to tell your teacher about the crowded passage?” I asked.

“Yes, but the teacher said she cannot do anything about it,” she said, looking a little disappointed.

“I see… Yeah, I told your form teacher about it too,” I told her.

“I went to the general office to talk to the adults there about it, but they told me to talk to my teacher, so I went to talk to my teacher. Then my teacher said she cannot do anything about the system,” said Phoebie.

“You went to the general office?” I was surprised. “When?”

“Right before I went to look for you. I went to the general office, but they said I should tell my teacher, so I decided to come and tell you to wait for me first, before I looked for my teacher,” said Phoebie.

“The dismissal is so messy and so squeezy!” She said, “It’s so hard to get out of the school! Why can’t they do anything about it?”

I was amazed. Phoebie was bothered by the dismissal situation enough to want to give feedback to the school and hope that the school can make changes.

“Wow… Phoebie, I’m so proud of you!” I exclaimed.

“You are? Why?” It was Phoebie’s turn to be surprised.

“I’m proud of you because when something is not working well, you dare to speak up about it. And even though you have to approach different adults about it, you had the courage to do it! Not every child has the courage to do what you did,” I explained.

Phoebie gave me a sheepish smile. I knew she didn’t expect to be praised for “complaining”.

“So what do you plan to do now?” I asked, “Since talking to the adults at the general office didn’t work, and your teacher said she cannot do anything about the system.”

“I will… talk to my form teacher and see what she says,” replied Phoebie.

“Okay,” I said, “But if your form teacher also says she cannot do anything about it, I want you to know that it’s good that you spoke up about it.”

More often than not, children find it difficult to speak up about what they see may be wrong or not working well. Heck, even adults can have a hard time speaking up too. So I’m really happy that I have a daughter who has the courage to speak up and approach adults to tell them what she thinks.

Children need to feel empowered to speak up with things are not right or not going well, so I pray that with my encouragement, she will always have the courage to do that.