A Note to My Child’s Teacher.

August 25, 2018

Dear Mr. Z,

 By now, I imagine you’ve had the chance to meet my kid, right?  Her name is Reece?

Chances are that she danced into your room this morning — and chances are that she kept dancing right through the Pledge of Allegiance and ALL of your important announcements! She’s probably blurted out answers at least fifteen times by now, too.  She’s never HAS been all that good at traditional school stuff like sitting still and being quiet and raising her hand.

She’s more of a “look at me!” kind of kid — demanding attention from darn near everyone around her no matter who they are or what they happen to be doing.  

And my guess is that she’s going to stretch your patience more than once this year. 

She’s going to struggle to get her work done in the time that you want her to complete it — mostly because she’s going to stall times ten before getting started.  She’s going to struggle with relationships at times and use mean words on the playground whether she really means them or not.  She’s going to be playing with slime inside of her desk when you want her to listen, her cubby is going to be a complete disaster, and she’s going to do the bare minimum on darn near every assignment.

But here’s the thing:  Despite all those quirks, she deserves your love, your attention and your appreciation, too.  

In fact, I’d go as far as to argue that you will never see her best effort UNTIL she’s convinced that you dig her.  She’s the kid who needs to “know how much you care before she will ever care how much you know” — and she hasn’t always gotten that from her teachers.

They lost their patience with her far too easily or tried to use consequences to “break her of her bad habits.”  Rules seemed to matter more to them than building any kind of relationship with her.  The result:  She’s spent the past several years feeling like she’s either “the bad kid in class” or “the dumb kid in class” — or in some cases, both.   Heck, as we stood outside your door this morning looking at your class list, she said, “Someday, I want to be the kid that teachers like, too, Dad.  That would be neat.”

#heartbreaking

And I promise that if you give her that love and attention and appreciation, you are going to find a kid that you really CAN enjoy.

She’s SUPER curious, churning through Who Am I Biographies and eating up facts on our family trips to museums and historical sites.  She’s a capable learner who can read and write and do math better than you will initially realize because she’s not the world’s hardest worker.  She’s going to eat up your science and social studies lessons — and she’s going to have strong opinions about everything that you are studying.

She’s also a heckuva’ lot more sensitive and empathetic than people give her credit for — always interested in standing up for the little guy or finding a way to make her world a better place.  She’s got a sense of humor that will make you laugh and she’s filled with energy all the time — energy that can lift others up no matter how dark their day may be.  Most importantly, though, she WANTS to please — her teachers, her parents, her friends — even if she doesn’t always get things right.

Long story short:  I’m counting on you.

I’m counting on you to help Reece with traditional academic outcomes — to strengthen her math skills, to develop her reading skills, and to turn her into a writer who understands just how important a complete sentence REALLY is!  Show her how to multiply and to simplify fractions and to add voice and personality to her writing.  Challenge her to identify an author’s purpose or to spot bias in text.  Help her to understand state government and the impact that humans are having on our environment.

All of that stuff matters.

But I’m also counting on you to be patient when Reece doesn’t work as hard as you want her to or makes a choice that interrupts your classroom.  I’m counting on you to help her develop friendships and resolve conflicts.  I’m counting on you to give her the benefit of the doubt and to show compassion and to give her second chances.  I’m counting on you to push her and to inspire her and to encourage her.  I’m counting on you to like her — and to spend just as much time letting her know that she makes you smile as you do letting her know that sometimes she makes you swear.

All of that stuff matters MORE.

I guess what I am saying is that I want my kid — a kid who has never really felt appreciated by a teacher — to walk away from your room each day convinced that you care about her as a person.  If you can pull that off, you will change her life for the better — and in the end, that’s our primary responsibility as classroom teachers.

Thanks for listening,

Bill Ferriter

Proud Parent of a Quirky Kid.

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8 thoughts on “A Note to My Child’s Teacher.

  1. Amy Claxon

    I LOVE having kids like Reese in my German class. I bet should would use whatever small vocabulary she’s gained to talk (imperfectly) about her weekend adventures and happily act out any scene from whatever story we are working on. Those kids don’t produce the straight As the “perfect students” do, but their willingness to take risks and have fun mean that they really learn the language, even if test results don’t show it. I hope her future world language teacher is ready to embrace all that she can bring to the classroom environment.

    Reply
    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      You know, Amy: You are right. Kids like Reece ARE more willing to take intellectual risks in classrooms than straight A students. I see that in my science classrooms, too. Now we just need to celebrate that, too. Too often, celebration in school is reserved for kids who demonstrate more traditional behaviors.

      Anyway…thanks for stopping by,
      Bill

      Reply
    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Pal,

      Good to see you here and glad the post resonated. I’m on a tear this year to make sure that every kid — including kids like mine — know that I like them. I just see so many of my peers and colleagues who give up way too quick on quirky kids and that breaks my heart.

      Let’s get a beer sometime soon. I miss connecting with you.

      Rock on,
      Bill

      Reply
  2. aarondavis1

    I love this post Bill. It has me thinking about my own daughter’s teachers. I was wondering though about a different response, celebrating the successes or strengths of the teachers?

    When I think about the teachers my daughter has had, there are a number of things that have stood out? For me, it has been relationships and a focus on strengths.

    Originally posted at Read Write Collect

    Reply
    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Aaron.

      Glad you dug this bit — and you are right: Relationships matter most. No kid can have a successful school experience without knowing that their teacher appreciates them.

      And I get that pointing out the fact that my kid has had some teachers that let her down may not be a popular thing to do — but I’m not kidding when I say that I don’t really care anymore.

      My daughter has had some teachers who have REALLY done damage to her — and I’ve bitten my tongue just so that I don’t make any waves. I’m ashamed of that. My primary goal shouldn’t be to keep her teachers happy. My primary goal should be to speak up when those same teachers are creating spaces that are damaging to my kid.

      What’s been interesting is how resistant those same teachers have been to any kind of feedback. There was literally no willingness to change. Heck, one even said, “I’m willing to change, but your daughter has to meet me half way.”

      My kid was eight. And it’s HER job to fix a damaged relationship with a teacher?

      #sheesh

      But I think that attitude — that “I can be a good teacher if the kid would just try a little harder” or that “It’s their job to adapt to my room, not my job to adapt to whoever they are” attitude — is more prevalent than we care to admit. Teachers have forgotten that it IS their job to figure out a way to help every kid succeed, and that starts when every kid feels loved and appreciated. And I think that teachers have forgotten that it is THEIR responsibility to take action when a kid isn’t being successful — behaviorally or academically — in their rooms.

      Anyway, hope you are well and happy.
      Bill

      Reply

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