" Please visit me at my new online home, www.thevolunteermom.com."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I'd Like To Know Where You Got The Notion

Sometimes I like my don't rock the boat attitude, sometimes I don't. 

A situation has come up with Emily at school that clearly requires my attention.  I have already begun addressing it and have every confidence that I will see it through but, in typical "Shazzy style"  I am dreading what has yet to come; more than likely getting myself all worked up and anxious for no reason at all.  I have no idea why I do this to myself consistently.   I suppose it would make sense to share the story.

Emily came home from school yesterday and said, "Mom, I don't feel like I am being counted in Mrs. Teacher's class."  It took me a while to respond.  I was to busy saying to myself, "Wow...did my daughter just say that?  How...profound."  I don't need to worry about Emily's ability to put her feelings in to words.  Clearly, she has mastered that art.  When I asked her to elaborate, she went on to say that Mrs. Teacher had told her that she was missing three assignments, three assignments which Emily had indeed done and remembered passing in.  After looking further,  one assignment was found in the teachers things and one was hanging on display in the classroom.  Both had Emily's name on them.  One assignment is still MIA.  Standalone, this situation is not ok.  Coupled with a little history and Emily's general feelings about her relationship with the teacher, this situation is serious.

Emily's grade in science last term was, well, not indicative of what she is capable of.  A big part of her grade was the fact that she had six missing assignments. If I am being honest here, I should share that disorganization and forgetfulness are Emily's biggest struggles in school.  This is really an entirely different entry but for now suffice it to say that Emily having six assignments missing, while it seemed a bit excessive was not exactly shocking.  When I spoke with her teacher at parent/teacher conferences last term, her teacher mentioned that she was missing a couple of labs, but that she could come during directed study to make them up.  Emily was insistent that she had done them the first time but that she would go do them again during study.  When I questioned her at the time, she indicated that she had gone and made up the labs as she was supposed to.  While I don't know for sure that the missing work at the time included the labs that she had made up, there were labs listed as missing on the report her teacher sent home before report cards with her grade on it.

So herein lies the problem.  There were some questions regarding whether or not work was indeed missing last term.  This term there is actual proof (in the form of the papers that the teacher found after the fact) that Emily followed through; brought the work home, did it and turned it in.  This is seriously a HUGE achievement for Emily.  Instead of feeling proud of herself and perhaps building off of that, she was questioned about whether or not the work had been done and as it turns out, it was actually the teacher who was a disorganized mess for a change.  On many levels, this is unacceptable.

The first thing that comes to mind is the lesson this teaches Emily.  For a moment in time, as fleeting as it may have been for her, she did it...from start to finish.  The step by step process that starts in the classroom when the assignment is handed out and ends in classroom when she turns the assignment may seem like a no brainer to some.  For Emily it is the root of every difficulty she has ever had at school.  I do not think I can stress enough how significant this is.  So she actually does everything she is supposed to do and almost doesn't get credit for it?  This is not the message I want Emily to receive.

I am trying to picture the scenario in which a teacher could actually have a paper in hand and not give credit where it is due...not once, but twice and possibly three times.  Did she go through the papers, not see Emily's at first and just assume that because Emily hadn't turned in assignments in the past that maybe she hadn't in these instances?  Was it perhaps more malicious than that?  And really, how does this happen on multiple occasions? 

While the assignments were blatantly obvious indications of Emily feelings of not being counted, there have been other, not so clear cut examples of these feelings being confirmed.  She has said many times that she has said that she didn't think Mrs. Teacher liked her.  On a number of occasions, Emily has said that she has been accused of talking when she wasn't.  There was also an instance in which the kids were working in small groups reading aloud and the teacher told Emily to stop talking when she was in fact reading as she was supposed to be.  While it is true that Emily has been talking at inappropriate times in the past, I get the feeling (as does Emily) that certain things are being assumed of her that are not based in fact and only based on past experiences.  Yes she hasn't turned in homework before and yes, she has talked when she shouldn't have.  This does not mean that every time a situation comes up, she will be at fault.  What kind of message does this kind of treatment send to Emily?  It's not a good one, I can tell you that. 

I spoke with the guidance counselor this morning.  When Emily gets home I will be asking her if she would like to take part in the meeting I will be scheduling with the guidance counselor and Mrs. Teacher. I can certainly advocate on her behalf but, I also see extreme benefit in her advocating for herself right beside me.  After discussing this with Emily, I will be following up with the guidance counselor tomorrow to schedule a meeting.

These are examples from Emily's point of view but I have no reason to doubt that what she is saying to me is true.  I will still listen to the teacher's side when I have the opportunity to discuss this with her.  I know there are two sides to every story and if nothing else, I am willing to hear hers.  I am not one to rush to judgment by any means, but, until I hear the teacher's perspective and have the chance to perhaps look at this from another point of view, I am going to go with my intuition here and say that something isn't right.


Kathy said...

I had a situation a couple of years ago where one of my sons' teacher clearly did not like him - but what could I do? When people in the class were getting Student of the Month for the second time around and my little guy hadn't even received it once - that's obviously dislike. He's not perfect - but I just thought that was plain mean. Thank goodness he is the kind of kid that doesn't let things like that bother him - if had been my other son he would have been devastated. I was told changing classrooms was not an option - so I just had to live with it - and it drastically changed my opinion of teachers.

Good luck with your situation!

Mark Belanger said...

I've tried to teach my kids that life is not always fair. Sometime they will get a teacher, or boss, or other person that doesn't treat them fairly. And that when they are treated unfairly, to stick to their principles and stand up for themselves - to stay true to their character. In short to be a-hole resistant.

Whether it's this teacher today, a boss tomorrow, or a lover 10+ years from now, our kids will not always be treated fairly. So by all means - address the issue at school - and maybe use the situation to demonstrate the qualities of personal strength and conviction that she will need throughout her life.

On occasion, my kids will ask me how to handle a situation - say like a school bully or something like "What if I do X and the teacher doesn't believe me?". To which I always answer - "It doesn't matter what the teacher believes, it's what me and Mom believe - and you'll never be in real trouble with us if you're telling the truth and doing the right thing - no matter what the teacher (or other authority figure) thinks".

Sharon said...

Couldn't agree more Mark, but there is a big difference between fair and wrong. When Emily does the work, turns it in and the teacher literally has the work in hand and somehow doesn't give Emily credit, that is more than unfair. Yes, mistakes are made but 2 or 3 times? That is inexcusable. As for the part of her maybe not liking Emily, that is not really the issue. I feel bad that Emily has to deal with that part but yes, life is not fair. Not everyone is going to like her and treat her with the respect she deserves. I get that. It was really the assignments piece that bothered me (and her).

former teacher said...

I sympathize with your situation, Sharon. Unfortunately, it will ultimately come down to Emily's word against the teacher's. Like you, I would pursue this anyway, because it's so important for a child to develop the ability to stand up for herself, a skill she needs to carry through life.