Last night I posted about an experience I had with one of my children’s teacher (he’s in the 8th grade). Here is the post:
I’m sorry you don’t like that I spoke to your boss and that if I have an issue with your teaching methods you prefer I come to you. But last I checked, teachers don’t change their teaching methods because a parent says something to them. So if you are going to make comments that make my child feel insecure and inferior and suggest he is going be a failure, on day 2 of your class. You can bet I will talk to you AND your boss. Unapologetically.
Since I have a quite a few teacher friends and family members that teach, I was not expecting everyone to side me with me.
This blog is a response to one of the comments.
Here is the comment:
You set up a meeting with the teacher, principal and the student so that everyone is on the same page and understands exactly what the problem is and can talk it out together.
No way! Here is the back story first, and then I will tell you why I would not follow the advice above.
The teacher conducted an assessment with the class. I am still not sure what she was assessing or why. S presented the assessment results publicly. When she presented the assessment it made my son feel less valuable and likely to succeed in life because of how he scored.
My son came to me after school telling me how he felt because of it, also expressing that there was added confusion because he really liked the teacher, that he thought she was a good teacher, and that he could not understand why she would say things like that since it was contrary to every other experience he had with her.
I called the principal and our conversation went something like this:
Me: I just wanted to let you know that Mrs. Teacher did an assessment and when she presented the results it made my student feel less valuable and likely to succeed in life because of how he scored. I am sure that is not the teachers intentions and that my student probably did not understand everything. I personally like assessments because they can offer a roadmap to improvement. But in this case, somehow, my student walked away not feeling good about it. I figured if my student had that experience, maybe there are others who felt the same, but are not talking to their parents.
Principal: I am sorry that happened. I will talk to her. Would you like her to call you back.
Me: No, that’s fine. I can talk to her tonight at Back to School night
Later on that evening…
Me: Tell me about the assessment
Teacher: I had no intention of making your son feel that way.
Me: I know, but he did.
Teacher: I have had no other complaints, and I spoke with the Principal and he is going to allow me to continue to use this.
Me: That great. I have no problem with the assessment.
Teacher: Here is a copy of it, I suggest that you go over this with him so he knows I was trying to convey that they have the ability to change.
Me: Absolutely I will, but I think you should too. It would be helpful for him to hear from his teacher that you do not think of him as less valuable. (What I was really thinking: – what does he need to change? Can’t he just leverage his natural strengths to be successful in life instead of fitting a mold? )
Teacher: And next time (voice becoming more intense and almost scowling) come to me. You went to my boss and I don’t appreciate that.
Me: Ok, thanks for telling me you are open to those conversations.
The reality is this – if the teacher has responded with an apology and said, “I will talk to your son tomorrow and let him know I think he has great value and he is important.” I would have been thrilled. Instead she got upset with me , defended herself and told me to go about it a different way.
Excuse me? (Add three snaps in Z formation)
You see, if this were a place of business, and a customer complained to the boss, and the employee responded like the teacher did…we would all post it on a social profile and all our friends would say hell yeah, take stand! But because this is a teacher – I am supposed to tip toe through the tulips.
Guess what, my comment was not an attack on teachers as a whole, or the teacher. My comment and feelings are about how a teacher presented assessment results to a Jr. High class where the kids have begun feeling insecure about themselves and will continue to have these feelings until they get out of high school. Public assessment results might not be a brilliant idea.
The suggestion to have a parent / student / teacher / principal is a classic HR approach to handling situations for the district to CYA (cover your assets.) What ends up happening is that the principal ends up mediating a dialogue where the teacher cannot apologize because it is an admission, which in turn makes the student feel like what happened, is their fault. The principal stays out of it, because they are the mediator, and well, that helps the district avoid them saying anything that could cause legal implications.
Instead, my way did three things:
- Allowed me to defend my child when he was at a disadvantage because of the public nature of the assessment results, and the authoritative nature of the teacher.
- Allowed the principal and the teacher to talk without us there, avoiding legal liability. Hopefully this provided a way for the teacher to get feedback on how to present assessment results without impacting student self-worth in the future. Hopefully they had a discussion on how to remedy the situation publicly. You see, if we had the conversation together, any action taken with my sons current class is an admission of guilt. But by me not being there – I have no idea why she is making corrective action. To me, its just a realization that a boy feels inferior and her real desire to make him feel empowered is manifesting itself.
- Saved me a ton of time and drama. Clearly from the teachers response to me without was an indication that there would have been a lot of drama.
So there you go. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.