Walker: the best reader, writer, and mathematician in TZ's first-grade class, by far--leagues ahead of the rest of them. He's tall for his age, too--and probably outweighs TZ by 10 pounds. But he's dragging around the social skills of a four-year-old, which means he's disruptive and loud.
Steven: a boy in TZ's class and on his baseball team--energetic, funny, good-hearted, and easily distracted.
Sally: a girl in TZ's class--totally cute, with a wonderful, charming smile--sparkling eyes, the works. She "loves" TZ and spends a lot of time chasing him around the playground, which he finds, predictably, "really annoying." He tries to stay as far away from her as he can. More on this in another post.
TZ's teacher, Mrs. H, re-arranges the seating arrangement in the classroom every once in a while. At one point, TZ was seated next to Walker for a couple of weeks, most likely because he's a "good" boy--quiet, focused, obedient--whom Walker would be unable to recruit in his classroom shenanigans. Again, W is not a bad kid, just really bored and still working on self-control and the concept of personal space. But combine this with TZ's um, still-developing assertiveness, and you have a miserable day in school for TZ.
Apparently, TZ endured a couple of weeks of W bonking him repeatedly on the head, poking him, wagging his own face in TZ's face and going, "WAAAAAGH! Hi, TZ! WAAAAGH!" Finally, Mrs. H asked me if TZ was okay sitting next to W. I didn't know, not having heard a word about it yet. When I asked him, TZ said no, he was not okay with it. It just hadn't occurred to him to ask for a change.
By coincidence, a new girl from Japan came to class the next week and TZ got moved next to her because he said he spoke Japanese (what?), and all was well.
Then last week the seating chart got changed, and TZ somehow ended up next to W again.
"Mom, I'm sitting next to Walker again," he said after school one day, his shoulders sagging. "And--Steven is on the other side, and they pass notes to each other. And I have to pass their notes for them, but I don't want to."
Ohhh? Tell me more.
"Well it's annoying because I can't concentrate on my work because they keep interrupting me and making me pass notes. And I don't want to get in trouble."
(first of all, props to TZ for having his priorities straight. second, hooray that he told me about it this time. third, passing notes in first grade? what can they possibly be writing? their handwriting is, like, two inches high--how can they possibly write on a piece of paper small enough to go unnoticed by the teacher? and they can't spell, for crying out loud. well, steven can't. walker can spell lots of words.)
RT's solution: Be a conscientious objector. Refuse to cooperate. "Just don't do it. Say, 'if you want to give your note to W, just get up and give it to him yourself.'"
I know from painful personal experience that this amounts to social suicide--you can't refuse to pass notes in class, because then everyone hates you. At least, they did in 7th grade. Besides, especially this time, a refusal to pass notes wouldn't solve any problems.
So I emailed Mrs. H and told her the situation (omitting the note-passing part--not sure if that was the right thing to do, but one doesn't like to tattle on two good kids); she said no problem, she'd have a chat about it with TZ and move him. I counseled TZ about what to tell her--say that W's nice and all, but it's stressful and distracting for you to sit next to him, and could you change seats.
So tonight at dinner, I asked TZ if he'd talked to Mrs. H about the seating issue.
"Yeah, she changed me today. She moved me across the room."
"That's great! I'm glad to hear that."
"Yeah...but now I'm sitting next to Sally," with a groan.
I couldn't help it. I laughed. No, I guffawed. Poor TZ.