Dear Nameless Teacher (the same one I addressed a few posts ago),
I finally got to meet you today in a conference. I wish we could have met under better circumstances. You see, I couldn't wait until our original date of Thursday because my daughter was hysterical this morning. So hysterical, in fact, that my usually school-loving child refused to move, begging through tears and hysteria to please, please let her stay home. Her legs, apparently, hurt too much to go to school. I guess most kids get headaches or stomachaches, but that's my kid--gotta be original.
I guess I'm kind of slow on the uptake, because I found myself in the middle of a completely ludicrous argument at 7:30 this morning about going to school. Finally, after guiding said child into another room and having her sit down and breathe, the truth came out--she was scared to go to school. More specifically, she was scared of you.
Meeting you today, I was kind of taken aback. I have taught in your school system before, and expected a very intimidating soul across the table from me. Instead I found a very young teacher at the beginning of her career, a bit defensive and definitely full of self-confidence. Thank goodness the assistant principal sat in on the conference with us.
You were quick to point out all the ways my child is struggling--she is missing a few assignments, is disorganized in the three (yes, three) notebooks that you insist they keep, and that she doesn't correct her work to turn it back in. I acknowledged all of that was probably true. She is, after all, eleven years old, in her first year at middle school in a new state, and managing seven different classes for the first time. And she likes to try things on her own, which definitely isn't paying off in this instance. Of course, all of this information would have been helpful when it first appeared as a problem.
You asked me if I was checking her homework each night, if I was keeping up with her assignments online. I told you no. I didn't know she had assignments every night, nor did I know until today there was a way to check them online. If you told me, it was on the syllabus that we had to return to you after the first day of school. With two kids in a total of fourteen classes, all of which want their syllabi back, it's hard for a mom to commit those things to memory.
I told you my concerns. That you roll your eyes at my child, that you dismiss her questions with rude comments, that you huff at her and insult her in front of the class. I told you that right now she doesn't like you. And she doesn't. And quite frankly, even as I sat and acknowledged what you said and was on my best behavior, neither do I.
The assistant principal helped my child understand that you are sometimes a little harsh in your tone and your expectations. She explained it's nothing personal against my child. That you're a beginning teacher and are still learning.
Somebody asked me recently if, as a teacher educator, I would hold my students to the same level of accountability as I have held you. The answer was, without a doubt, yes. My students would have been in serious trouble, with serious repercussions, if they ever treated a child with the disrespect you have shown my daughter. At the very least, my students would be counseled extensively on how to build appropriate relationships with children. I hope that maturity and experience teaches you that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It's an important lesson for every teacher.
I am hopeful that the next time we meet, our meeting will go more smoothly for my daughter's sake. I hope that our conversation today helped you see that your forceful style isn't effective with every child. And I really hope that you come to realize the tremendous power you hold over a child's self-esteem and self-confidence, because in the end, that is what makes or breaks so many children.
An Anonymous Mom