Friday, February 03, 2006

Teacher woes

I read this post on Bowden McElroy's sight. I have taught in a long term sub position before. It is low paying. And lots of work. More work than if you are the regular teacher. Every year I taught regular school I dealt with a parent that really got under my skin. The worst part was that after the confrontation with the parent that child was lost. The child knew his parent would side with him, so he became either impossible to deal with or sullen. I much preferred sullen.

Anyway, I kept a letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News. A parent obviously had a child that had been deemed a problem by several teachers. The parent had already sent a letter to the editor which elicited an angry response by many teachers. She then wrote in again. Here is her second letter. All I kept thinking as I read it (and this was year ago) was how, in any way, can writing a letter to the editor be in the best interest of your child!. Anyway, she was bitter. Here it is, I've abbreviated hers, but you can get the gist of the letter with a couple of paragraphs (Italics are mine):

Thank you to all the teachers who proved my point: most of you can probably blame the public school system for your inability to interpret my letter correctly. For the record, I did not say all teachers are undeserved of respect or uneducated, just that I have found . . . (basically she says many are uneducated).
Is it bad parenting that causes teachers to inform me in the 5th six weeks of a six week period that my son has had work missing for four weeks?

I agree teachers face challenges; but I am tired of hearing them complain about parents as if all teachers were angels of mercy thanklessly giving their life's blood to educate a child whose mother lies around watching daytime TV (and preparing the day's discourse on disrespect). Teachers should take the energy the energy they spend blaming parents and direct it more productively.
Here is the clincher:
As for those of you who wished me luck: save it. I am confident I have taught my son what to look for in a mentor, when to be suspicious of authority, how to conduct himself in the real world and how to treat people with the measure of respect they deserve. That last part, well, what can you say.

It just so happened that I had replied to her original letter, and my letter appeared underneath hers in that edition of the paper. Here it is:

Hopefully, those who have made it through our educational system have read To Kill a Mockingbird and name Atticus Finch, Scout's dad, among their heroes. I do, especially now that I am a teacher. His treatment of Miss Caroline, Scout's first grade teacher, is above and beyond gracious; it is kingly and merciful.

I have had my Miss Caroline moments--moments when I have been too quick to judge a student and a situation. Miss Caroline is new and more concerned with teaching her curriculum than her students, and has yet to learn how to manage a classroom where one student reads the daily paper and another can't say the alphabet after three years in the first grade. She is new. Probably more importantly, she doesn't have the benefit of the many years' learning the intricacies of each particular child.

Atticus could have chosen to demand Miss Caroline's resignation. He had political clout to do so, but he keeps Scout delightfully unique by choosing to act in Grace. He could have used his pull, gone to the school board, complained, had Miss Caroline removed, and Scout would have learned how to work the political system and use power to make someone else miserable.

But Atticus teaches a far more important lesson. He tells Scout that, "if we'd put ourselves in her shoes we'd have seen it was an honest mistake on her part." He teaches her empathy.

The tragedy I mourn when a parent bemoans the actions of a particular teacher toward her child in the very public forum of The Dallas Morning News is the common lesson taught and the chance ingraining of a rare virtue lost on that child.

Anyway, its been years since that ran, but I've always wondered what happened to that poor kid.

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