Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teacher Trouble

I have once again the need to address my kid's teacher in a manner that resembles confrontation as little as possible. So far, it has been easy to be objective about the situation, considering that the Kid, the Wife, and the Teacher have thus far been the only people both involved in and knowledgeable of the situation. The last time I had to do this, I was not so objective.

A couple years ago, I wrote an email to a teacher which, while it accurately represented my feelings, I regretted sending as soon as I clicked the button. I knew that I should have said something, but I was sure I'd overdone it. I was right in so many ways. I found out that the email was received right before a pre-marital counseling session with the teacher, his fiancée, and his minister, and I put things in quite a negative spin for the poor man emotionally. Later during the week, both he and I were at a school function. I took the opportunity to speak to him about the thing, and we made nice.

What I realize in my perfect 20/20 hindsight is that both the nasty email and the making nice conversation were essential elements in the teacher/student and teacher/parent relationships. Also, I seemed to have made a solid impression on him that will never be forgotten, which, considering he is currently a teacher at the Kid's new school, may prove helpful. Hopefully, with this new situation, I can learn from my previous experience and repeat the lasting positive effects.

Now that the thing is long over and done with, I'm posting the email for posterity. Enjoy.

    4 June 2008

    Mr. H,

    I am writing you out of concern for some of the things A has told me about his school year, in particular the emptying of his desk and backpack onto the classroom floor while he was out of the room, and his return to find his belongings in a pile which he was then required to sort through and clean up. Given the limited details I can glean from A's account, I will refrain from speculating on how many people were in the classroom when you did this and while he cleaned up, what condition his desk was in and whether or not he was warned it would be dumped, whether or not this is a common practice for your class and/or the school, and what conversations may have taken place between you and A regarding his organization before and after you did this. These things I will leave for you to explain. You should note that some of his music papers went missing after this, about a week before his orchestra concert. Also, his backpack is personal property, and should not have been subject to either your judgment of cleanliness or decision to empty onto the floor.

    It's no secret A is not always an easy child to teach. He becomes easily complacent and can be lazy. He is forgetful, disorganized, and easily distracted. He is emotionally unpredictable. As his father, no one knows this better than I, and trust me when I say that no one has worked harder to curb these tendencies than I have. I was raised and attempt to raise my children on the simple approach that good work and diligence are worth more than shortcuts and excuses, and that once responsibility is accepted it is to be taken seriously.

    A's struggle this year has been apparent to us all. In particular for us as parents, this has been a major concern for not only the emotional welfare of our son, but also of our finances as we seek professional help. There are many possible reasons for his behavior, as I have mentioned above, some that may be remedied professionally while others simply grown out of, but it is my very genuine feeling that incidents like this forced reorganization do not help. A's confidence and ability to work independently have regressed this school year. He is emotionally withdrawn, and is reluctant to discuss his school day and assignments.

    We are now very concerned that he will find himself emotionally unprepared for fifth grade, which of course will only further the issues he has developed. Considering the conversations we have had with you and J.M regarding his inattention, late and missing assignments, and occasional disruptive behavior, I'm surprised you didn't feel the need to contact us if there were problems with his organization. Also please remember that you agreed at one point to provide me with a weekly summary of his assignments so that, together, we might be able to keep him better on task.

    As his teacher, you must understand by now that A is far more than his faults, and his weekly PAW, and his crazy hair. He is a bright and sensitive boy who loves art and music, has a sharp wit and sense of humor, and has been given a great gift of empathy. For anyone to treat him in any way that might embarrass or belittle him is nothing short of bullying, which as I recall is strictly against District policy. While I understand you were probably doing what you thought best in your efforts to teach and guide our son, I can tell you assuredly that it had no constructive effect on A.

    This has been a trying year for our family, especially the kids. We as parents have found ourselves in the unique and terrifying position of having to explain death and ethical/religious issues to our kids, the youngest of whom is only five. And as the school year is coming to a close, it seems there will be more work to do besides allowing A to take a breather before his final year at L--- P--- School. I realize it's too late to change the course of A's fourth grade year, but before it ends, I am asking that you make every effort to recognize more than his shortcomings, and that you think about the effect your actions might have on the developing mind of a nine year old boy before you decide what's best for him.



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