After the defeat of the Allied forces on Sept. 9, 1922 and the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923, sweeping reforms were adopted that were designed to bring forth the new Republic of Turkey. Recognizing that children were the future of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, dedicated Sovereignty Day to the children of Turkey.
Across Turkey, children celebrate Children’s Day with special programs at their schools. My son’s school, like all other Turkish schools, already has decorations up in preparation for next week’s program. Each class has a presentation it has been rehearsing for weeks, working hard to get everything as perfect as possible. Until two weeks ago, everyone in his class had a part in the performance. However, in the week following my meeting with his teacher and the school counselor, when I was told that they did not feel he was as Turkish as he should be in spite of being a dual national, he came home with news about his part in the program.
“Mom,” he said, obviously saddened, “today my teacher told me that the part I had in the class performance is now going to be done by another boy.” Knowing that programs have a way of changing before the final production, I was not too concerned about this and asked what he would be doing instead. “Well,” he continued, with tears welling up in his eyes, “the teacher told me that I don’t get to do anything in the program. One boy has five parts to do by himself and all the other kids have one or two parts to do as solos. She told me that I can stand at the back of the stage with the class, but that I have nothing else to do.” I assumed that he had misunderstood the changes and was fairly certain that all of the children in his class were included in some way in the program.
I checked with the teacher to find out about the change in the program. She said that, as our son had already told us, he no longer had a part in the performance. His only role was to stand on the stage and watch the rest of his classmates perform. I then asked if there was a reason he was singled out as the only one in the class with no part to play. Shaking her head, she told me that was what she had decided and there was nothing else to discuss.
My husband and I spoke with our son about the upcoming Children’s Day performance. He was upset to be the only child with no role to play and he said that he would be embarrassed to be standing on the stage, obviously not a part of the group performance. His classmates, he told us, had been poking fun at him for being the only one left out of the program. After discussing it together, my husband and I asked our son if he wanted to skip going to the program. Since April 23 falls on a Saturday this year, we felt there was no reason for him to go to school that day if he felt so uncomfortable about it. Relieved, he said that he really would rather not attend.
As luck would have it, our own plans changed and my husband is scheduled to be out of the country that weekend and I have work commitments that make it impossible for me to attend the program. Since neither of us will be available to take our son to school next Saturday, there is no way that he will be able to go. Instead, he will be spending the night at a friend’s house, a much better proposition from his point of view. My husband stopped by the school to let the teacher know that our son will not be able to be at school next weekend. The teacher was not pleased, but there really is not much choice.
We still do not know why one child has no part in the program. Perhaps the teacher felt he does not sing or dance as well as the other children. If so, I think that she should have been upfront about the situation so that we could explain it to our son. However, the way it was handled makes him feel as if he is not considered a part of the class. Coming so close after the meeting with the counselor, I wonder if there is another reason for the sudden change.
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