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Where I Almost Tumbled Off My Soapbox

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Where I Almost Tumbled Off My Soapbox

Occasionally, I get up on my educational soapbox.  Before I had my oldest son, I was a teacher for 5.5 years. I taught 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies, K-6 Instructional Support, 8th grade Science/Social Studies, 3rd grade, and then finally 5th grade. I once wrote a list of suggestions for how to deal with your child's teacher.

But, I was oh-so-very-close to breaking some of those rules. Because I wasn't sure what to make of Monkey's kindergarten teacher.

I had sent in two notes to her...that went unanswered. And I started to get self-righteous. There's evidence on twitter- I'm totally guilty. Because I said, "Well, when I was a teacher, I always responded to every note the day it was sent in. And if it was something that required a lengthy response, I sent home a note requesting a conference or would call that parent."

And both of those notes really only required a yes or no answer. What the heck????

Then there were two homework assignments that he DID and DID get sent to school in his homework folder that she didn't check off on his homework calendar, that she circled in red, like he didn't do them. Trust me, he did them and they were turned in. What the heck?????

Plus, I wasn't seeing ANY papers being sent home. Nothing. And I saw a friend's son's stack of kindergarten papers- GIGANTIC. My son goes to school full-day and hers only half-day. So, where were the papers?

Then, Monkey tells me that his teacher yells all the time. Now, this one, I was very, very hesitant to believe. Because I used to be accused of this- but often, when kids say "yell," they really mean that they got in trouble for something or another child did and the teacher was correcting them. Not "yell" as in "volume," but as in "scold."

BUT! A friend of mine used to work with Monkey's kindergarten teacher and she told me that she always heard this teacher screaming. This is totally breaking my guidelines for dealing with your child's teacher- to gossip about them, ask others what they think, and generally get yourself riled up by talking to others about what is going on instead of going right to the teacher.

And then there was the recess issue. My son kept telling me that he had to walk laps that day. There is a law now that kids have to have 30 minutes of physical activity every day, so taking recess away just isn't an option- so in its place, a lot of teachers around here have gone to "walking laps" which means that instead of playing whatever game the teacher/TA has planned for the kids that day, they walk laps around the playground.

I don't doubt that my son has done things that require correction. And I really don't think that I need to hear every. single. thing. that he does wrong. Major, yes, but not minor. But, if he does something bad enough to have to walk laps, I think I should know about it.

Then, I emailed her with a question. And it went unanswered. I did use the school's system to do this since I didn't have her email on hand...so I gave her the benefit of the doubt. And emailed her directly that afternoon when I had my son's folder in front of me, with her address. That one did get returned.

All of this left me with not the best impression of her.

Hubs had his haircut by a woman whose oldest son had her as a teacher last year and she requested that her youngest have her this year. I thought REALLY? I was thinking that I would be requesting that my other boys NOT have her.

So, last Thursday, I had a conference scheduled with her. She wants one conference with each family every grading period, more if you/she feel it necessary. So, this was our turn.

I went in, completely unsure of what she was going to say and what I would say in return.

Because part of me wanted to go in all mother-bear and ticked off. But, I remember from my teaching days how the best conferences where- and that was when the parent came in with an open-mind, ready to listen, and not jumping to crazy conclusions.

As we talked, I found out that it's best to email her. That part of EVERY child's 30 minutes of structured recess is walking laps(not a punishment), that she had his work all there for me in his portfolio and sent some home, and that she adores my son.

She spoke really highly of him and said that she just loves his personality and the very unique way that he thinks(complete with stories that I won't bore you with). He's either where he needs to be on his kindergarten objectives or ahead- some he's already mastered the end-of-year objective.

As she talked, I could really tell that she loves what she does. And that she loves her students, my son included.

She even answered some questions that I had about pre-K and she helped me out with some concerns I have with Bear, too. She said that her students' families are her families and if something is affecting any member of one of her students' families, then she wants to do whatever she can to help.

I am so very HAPPY to have been WRONG. And glad that I went in with an open-mind and not with a big mouth....because I would have just been putting my foot right in it.

And maybe, instead of requesting that my other children have any teacher but her, I will be requesting that they all do.



Blogger Oka said...

I am glad it worked out for the best. I think the not getting answers in the beginning would of flustered many parents (especially me).

October 25, 2010 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Foot in the mouth just tastes terrible. Glad you didn't have to digest it!

October 25, 2010 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Dot Com said...

Glad everything turned out for you! :)

Didnt' know you were a teacher!? Why did you stop teaching?

- enjoy your day!


October 25, 2010 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger The Mommyologist said...

So happy to hear that this turned out ok!!! I am kind of dreading the whole "real school" thing. I'd keep my son in his preschool for another 10 years if it was socially acceptable. I LOVE it there.

October 25, 2010 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Good for you, Shell! Way to hold back and be open-minded - I'll have to read that other post!

October 25, 2010 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

That is great that she turned out to be an amazing teacher...I guess we can't always believe what our kids tell us.

October 25, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Evonne said...

I'm so glad that you were wrong and he does have a good teacher.

But even if you know the teacher isn't the greatest, it's still wise to go into a conference with an open mind.

October 25, 2010 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Kmama said...

I'm glad you posted about this. I was hoping you would.

I'm so glad that you ended up being happy, rather than angry after that conference!

We have Buddy's conference tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it.

October 25, 2010 at 8:50 AM  
Blogger BNM said...

thats great!!! its so easy to jump to conclusions

October 25, 2010 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Venassa said...

Judging by what was going on at the beginning I would've felt the same way about her, but it's great that you were wrong about her. She sounds like a great teacher.

October 25, 2010 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Gigi said...

Glad it all worked out..but did she ever answer why she didn't answer your questions and original emails?

October 25, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Wow that's awesome that she turned out to be a god teacher. I would have gone in there ready to chomp her head off lol! It'd be nice though if she updated you on how things were going before the meeting though... :P

October 25, 2010 at 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad it turned out - but what about the non-returned e-mail? The work that wasn't recorded? Just curious!

I have found through years of experience that when I get inflated like a balloon ready to pop over issues - that usually there is a simple explanation. However, last year, we did move one son because is was truly a bad situation.

I bet you feel better now!

October 25, 2010 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Joann Mannix said...

I have done the same thing, gone in with preconceived ideas because of things my kids have told me, only to be dead wrong. What a relief it is to be wrong at times like those.

October 25, 2010 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger The Random Blogette said...

I am so glad to hear that this worked out so well. I had the same thing happen with my son's teacher. I had all of these preconceived notions of her but when I sat down and spoke with her I learned that she really did like him and that he was doing very well. There was only a small incident that happened in the beginning of the year and then he has been good since then.

I do have a question for you though, how do you feel about students being in the parent teacher conference? We got a note saying that in the teacher's old school that she taught at the kids had to come to the conference. She said it is up to the parent. I just don't know how I feel about this.

October 25, 2010 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I was starting to get angry right along with you! Unanswered notes really do make me crazy. So glad you were worn and everything is wonderful again:)

October 25, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Megan (Best of Fates) said...

Whew! So glad she ended up being amazing and you didn't embarrass yourself! Though I'm sad for you son running laps - that doesn't sound like the joy of recess at all!

October 25, 2010 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I am so glad that you were wrong too. :)

October 25, 2010 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

LOL, I was all fired up reading this (how dare she!). Then I calmed down. Mostly because you did. My blood pressure thanks you. And I'm glad you feel better about her!!

October 25, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Awesome story -- I have been in your shoes already this year, and I had to keep reminding myself what my MIL (a teacher for 30+ years) said she told the parents she saw: "You believe 50% of what they tell you about us, and we'll believe 50% of what they tell us about you." Which worked wonders when my daughter told her teacher I thought she was too young to teach...

I'm so glad it worked out for you!

October 25, 2010 at 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The parent teacher relationship can sure be tricky sometimes!

I usually just go in after school and talk to teachers directly. Cause I know my boys have lost notes before! And then I was all mad that the teacher wasnt answering me, only to find out she never got the note to begin with!

October 25, 2010 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Di said...

I know I'm going to have trouble staying open minded so congrats for doing just that! And how good did you feel hearing all those accolades about your little guy? :)

October 25, 2010 at 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Theta Mom said...

Glad to hear it had a good ending but I have to say as a former elemntary school teacher, I will go with my gut instincts - this should be interesting when my kids start school!!

October 25, 2010 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I'm SO glad things are working out well for you and Monkey. I'm working on balancing the Mama-Bear attitude with actually understanding what goes on at Baby's day care. Communication is key in this delicate balancing act.

October 25, 2010 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger adrienzgirl said...

I'm glad it worked out for you, but what about all the unanswered notes? Did you get an answer as to why you got no response?

October 25, 2010 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Kristy @Loveandblasphemy said...

I am so glad this was a happy ending for you! So many parents would just stay pissed and not want to go in and talk. I too have been a teacher and am in education. It is going to be hard when the little maniac goes to school - I'll always be wondering if he has a "good" teacher!

October 25, 2010 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay!! I am so glad that you ended up being wrong about the teacher! As a former teacher, I totally think that open communication is best. I am sure you feel the same as well!

October 25, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Cheryl D. said...

It's really great that you keep an open mind--that's so important!

Because I have a daughter with special needs, I really get involved any way I can. I'm always a room mom, and volunteer to work in the classroom whenever the teacher will let me. Mostly, it's so I can monitor how my daughter is doing. But I also like to make sure I like the teacher. My daughter's kindergarten teacher did like parents in the classroom (made her nervous), but I ADORED that teacher (my daughter did too). This year, the first grade teacher is excellent, but STRICT! I'm blown away by what she teaches though. I keep an open line of communication with her at pick-up. So far, so good!

October 25, 2010 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh man, crow tastes pretty bad, doesn't it? I have eaten my fair share too. Glad you found you have a good one - a great teacher is priceless!

October 25, 2010 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger One Photo said...

Good for you being so open and honest as to post this story and how wonderful to have a happy ending.

October 25, 2010 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Alex@LateEnough said...

This was good to hear. Because I often have to remind myself that with all my mama-bear tendencies that it is VERY easy to misread my son's teacher. I have often emailed or called again to clarify because I'm pretty sure that *I* have misinterpreted.

October 25, 2010 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

As a fellow teacher, I KNOW there have been parents who have come in all annoyed by something...a miscommunication, a embellished story told by their child...whatever it was, they came in ticked off. I loved being able to diffuse those situations.

I am a loud teacher. I say it like it is to kids and parents alike. Many people need a little while I get used to that, but when they see how much I love what I do, it makes it all worth it. Glad you kept a cool head!

October 25, 2010 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm glad your thoughts were wrong...its so hard not to go in as mama bear when it has to do with your child. I have so much respect for teachers and all they put up with.

October 25, 2010 at 2:31 PM  

we have been so blessed to have awesome teachers every single year for henry. i truly do love all of them and we are so happy when we see them bc they were wonderful and we could tell they loved our son back too. great story.

October 25, 2010 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

I often say things without giving people the benefit of the doubt. I'm glad you resisted the urge, and I'm glad it all worked out!

October 25, 2010 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm glad you feel better, but I still think she dropped the ball on communication and owes you an explanation for the red homework circles and other stuff. Just sayin'. ;)

October 25, 2010 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am glad it went well. I always try to go in with an open mind because I feel you able to get more done.

October 25, 2010 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Laurel said...

That was a fabulous story. I'm gonna keep this in mind next time I start to get worked up about something. :) I'm so glad you guys had that conference and that Monkey is in a supportive environment. Hopefully it all stays good for the rest of the year!

October 25, 2010 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger mintifresh said...

I've had some slight irritations with my kids' teachers this year and I keep telling myself to chill since it's the hardest job next to motherhood and pays about as good so things might get missed. I'm glad yours turned out to be a misunderstanding!

October 25, 2010 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am so glad it went well. Hadn't thought about the fact she was holding papers so you could look through them.

October 25, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Babes Mami said...

I love all the fabulous future kid in school tips I glean from your blog!

October 25, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

I've been wrong so much lately that I've decided to try adopting this technique of withholding judgement and being nice. More flies with honey or whatever.

I'm glad you found her to be a good teacher, it's truly the best outcome you could hope for.

October 25, 2010 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

YAY! Just YAY! I'm SO glad... that whole I was a teacher and now I'm a mom thing is such a tough shuffle! YAY!

October 25, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Daisygirl said...

I was reading this and getting so scared and angry! why didn't she ever respond though?

I am so happy to hear you loved her in the end. I am in love with my daughters 1st grade teacher!

October 25, 2010 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger shortmama said...

Its always nice to be proven WRONG!

October 25, 2010 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Liz Mays said...

A perfect example for all of us on not rushing to judge. So glad you shared it!

October 25, 2010 at 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Making It Work Mom said...

I also taught middle school for several years and then moved on to a management position in the early childhood field. Sometimes I let this experience and education interfere with what I know is best.
My son is in 3rd and recently had an assignment to do. As we were working on the assignment I was ranting and raving about the out datedness of the assignment and how it needed to be updated, etc. My son came home from school the next day and told me that he had told the teacher what I had said and that the teacher said that I am welcome to come in anytime to discuss homework.

October 25, 2010 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Helene said...

This is such a wonderful example of how to remain open-minded even when you want to seriously blast the person!

I was guilty of listening to gossip about Cole's teacher and I was a little scared to have a conference with her. But I found her to be very warm and she seemed to fully understand Cole and his personality. She's just a teacher who is very serious about teaching and can come off a bit abrasive. I learned my lesson, too, about not judging before actually having a face-to-face with the teacher!

Glad to know, after all, that you're happy with the teacher and that your baby is having a good experience in school!

October 26, 2010 at 12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad it worked out this way girl. :)

October 26, 2010 at 12:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Awww! I'm glad you were wrong too. I was getting all huffed up. LOL It's so nerve wracking to send them off, and not be able to know exactly what's going on. Especially kindergarten. Glad he's doing well! :)

October 26, 2010 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

Glad to hear that you went in open minded about it. I had a similar situation with Miss K and I was hell bent about going in there with guns blazing( ya know what I mean?) but I went in and listened first then asked questions.
Glad to hear that she has turned out to be a great teacher and who knows? maybe she will be the right teacher for Bear too. You'll have to see how the rest of the year goes for Monkey.

October 26, 2010 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Joy@TPMG said...

I am so glad everything went well and she was completely different from how you thought.

October 26, 2010 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am so, so glad that it went so well! It's hard to trust our kids to someone else, and I'm glad your experience as a teacher helped you keep an open mind (remind me of this when I'm faced with a situation like this!0

October 26, 2010 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

This is the best way to be wrong! Though I can see why you were concerned. I would think most parents would think it to be weird if papers weren't sent home.

October 26, 2010 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger MommaKiss said...

GAWD, I'm so glad this went better than you hoped. So glad. We just had our first ever conference for the big kid. He's ahead on somethings, "improving" on others. I kinda like that - in the middle. Does that make me horrible?

October 26, 2010 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Mrs4444 said...

Well, that was big of you, and I'm glad you're relieved.
Still--Laps? That's weird, if you ask me. Do 5 year olds really have to be told to get exercise? :)

October 26, 2010 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Nancy C said...

Thank you for giving me such good advice. Truly. I will remember this.

October 26, 2010 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Tracie Nall said...

I'm glad it all worked out. I was getting riled up while reading this (and I totally remember that tweet! ha)

Doing homeschool, we haven't encountered this-because I always answer the notes I leave for myself.

The laps thing is weird though. Couldn't they just play games the whole time that would keep them moving? random!

October 27, 2010 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger mypixieblog said...

I'm also glad this had a happy ending... but I understand that the momma bear will come out where the kids are concerned and I'm sure that she realizes that, too. He's your baby! Of course you want to make sure that all is right in the classroom when you're not there to supervise.

You are an awesome woman for a wide variety of reasons, but I think the fact that you were willing to remain level-headed and give your son's teacher the benefit of the doubt speaks very highly of your character :)

October 27, 2010 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger Goodnight moon said...

I am having some issue's with my daughters 2nd grade teacher. Too much to even leave in a comment. I feel that when her teacher comes up to me, she completely catches me off gaurd and basically complains to me about my daughter IN FRONT of her! But like I said...I'm always caught off guard about it...and get mad at myself because I don't say certain things back to the teacher.

I have a conference with her next week...and am totally DREEDING it!

October 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger L said...

Whew! I totally thought you were gonna have to unleash the "mother bear" and ask her what was up but so glad you didnt! Its so nice to have teachers that love what they do.

Wow you taught a variety of grades I'm curious which was your favorite!

October 29, 2010 at 9:38 PM  

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