Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Child Thinks Your Mean

       We have so many distractions to our teaching each day and email is just one of them.   Email is a great way to communicate back and forth with parents.   It provides a one sided conversation where words are usually put down with little consideration.   It is also public record in our state so it becomes an even scarier form of communication.   In the past I have gotten some amazing emails, but todays may top my  list.  So instead of responding in print I’ve arranged a face to face meeting.
       As I finished school today I finally had a moment to sit down and read my email.  The second message on the list was from a parent of a child who had missed school today.  The letter went on to explain that while getting ready to come to school today her child broke down into tears and refused to go to school.  When the parent asked her child why he didn’t want to go to school he stated that his teacher, me, had yelled at him and humiliated him in front of the class for not getting his books out of his desk fast enough.  With such grave accusations I made an attempt to contact the parent by phone.  At first she was in the car driving so I told her I would call her back.  Next , as we introduced ourselves her cellphone died and we were disconnected.  On the third attempt I was able to make contact with the parent.  The parent then reviewed the situation and I suggested we meet tomorrow morning to talk together about this conflict. The parent seemed happy to be able to discuss this situation so that her child would feel comfortable enough to return to school.
     Instead of preparing for class tomorrow I will be working through this child’s concerns and attempting to catch him up on the six hours of learning he missed.  I’m sure the parent will arrive moments before the other students come to school.  I’ll have to discuss why the student feels I yelled and I’m sure that it will come out that his definition of yelled is the same word as talked to.   If the boy does feel  humiliated then  I need to be sensitive to this, but I will also let the child and his parent know that at certain times this year I will be making requests such as move quickly.  It won’t be a reflection on their character, we just need to move along.  I’ll have to explain that the comment about getting books out quickly was a blanket statement made to the entire class and I did not mean this one child when I used the word, “class.” In the end we’ll understand each other and look back on this dramatic experience and say, “What was this really all about?”   
       When parents take their children’s word at face value they can sometimes get the right information.  When they immediately respond to their children’s words by storming the school they often find themselves in an embarrassing situation.  And when the whole event is all done, there is rarely an apology for the hours of time a teacher has wasted.  That’s not what email is for. 

P.S.  I had the conference this morning.  As predicted the mom and her child came five minutes before the start of school.  The student admitted that I had not yelled at him or humiliated him.  His new story is that when the other students had already gotten their work out, he felt that they were looking at him and this embarassed him.  After our chat the student had a wonderful day so I assume that he got what ever it was that he wanted.   From the parent, I never received any sort of apology or acknowledgement that a lie or false representation had taken place.  I guess it is easier to fire off a negative email than to admit that her son was taking advantage of her.   

(In the comments below, please share some of the amazing distractions you have had to deal with in the classroom.)

1 comment:

  1. My challenge this year has been texting. I can receive texts and I told the parents this fact at orientation. During the first week of school, I received several texts from moms, asking me to update them on the state of their child. Yes, I teach kindergarten! :-)

    As you can imagine, I was hopping left and right during those first days of school. In addition to the normal hectic vibe of the first few days, we had three bathroom accidents, a child in need of breathing treatments, and a child with the flu. I am trying to update the parents every few days, via the classroom blog and email. Hopefully, the texting will die down. I felt bad that I wasn't able to fire off an instant reply!