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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Update on Tessa's school situation

It happened pretty much as Tessa said it did, except the teacher said she had an off day all day long and hadn't gotten anything done. She said near the end of the day, Tessa was still working on board work, and the teacher told her to put her glasses on. Tessa said she couldn't find them, and they were in her desk. Her teacher said she came over and there was tons of stuff in her desk, papers, school supplies, snacks, etc. She told Tessa to clean it out, and she said Ok. Well, Tessa dawdled around, so the teacher came over and did it for her. She said Tessa had hidden two or three weeks worth of work in the desk.

I told her that Tessa felt humiliated by what happened, and her response was, "I'm sure she did, but she can't keep her desk in that order." I told her that I didn't like the way it was handled, all the while seething inside that she didn't seem to care about my child's humiliation. For all the teachers, does this make any difference in your response about whether it was right or wrong?

I told her that I didn't mind Tessa being punished when needed but that I didn't think she deserved to be humiliated. She had mentioned the children cleaned their desks every Friday, and when I said I didn't like the way it was handled, she said she would just let Tessa keep her desk in that order. I told her that if the kids cleaned out their desks on Friday, then Tessa should do it then.

I also told her about Tessa saying she thought the teacher wasn't the right one for her. She said she didn't know how to make Tessa do her work, since she's fully capable of doing it. Isn't it her job to know how to make a student do their work? She also said she can't stand beside Tessa all day to make sure she gets her work done.

Since she wasn't answering my questions the way I wanted her to, I asked her for a meeting with the principal. We are meeting with him on Monday, which I am glad about, because Brian can go with me then.

I'll be honest. Confrontation is really hard for me, extremely hard. I usually forget what I want to say and clam up. It happened again today, so I'm making a list of what I want to express to the principal. Here are a few questions for me to ask. Can you think of any others?

1. Why hasn't she noticed three weeks worth of work being missing?

2. If they clean desks every Friday, why hasn't she seen the mess in Tessa's desk before now?

3. If she doesn't know how to make Tessa do her work, shouldn't she find someone who can? Isn't it her job to do so?

4. Does she really think it's right to humiliate child in front of their peers?

Please help me think of anything else to ask. Like I said, I'm afraid I'll get in there with the principal and lose it and not remember any of this. I am just as angry after this phone call as I was last night. To top it off, she said Tessa had complained about a stomach ache most of the day, and I'm sure it's her nerves. When Tessa got home this afternoon, she told me she threw up at school today. That can't continue.

I've also decided to put in a call to her pediatrician tomorrow. I want her tested for ADD/ADHD. I don't think she has it, not really, although she does show some of the symptoms. However, I want to go in armed, saying we have this appointment set up to test for it. If Tessa does have it, I want to get her the help she needs, and if she doesn't have it, then I want her teacher (even if it's a new one) to do her job and teach her.


Mom to 2 boys +? said...

There is NO excuse to treat a child that way!! A teacher is a professional and should act that way. Regardless of Tess' problems or behavior (which sounds totally normal to me), the teacher's job is to find a way to work around it and help the child learn. Tess sounds so much like Ranger- his desk is a pig sty. I started reminding him every day to bring home what was in his desk and asked his teacher to remind him. His teacher this year is a friend of mine and we've talked at length about that and him not finishing his work and she's not concerned at all. She thinks it's just a phase as they transition to more independent work. One thing I learned when I was teaching is that some teachers are some of the meanest, most uncaring kid haters I've ever seen. I was shocked, I thought all teachers loved kids. Anyway, good idea about making the list. Have you considered sending the principal an email ahead of time? That way you can think out exactly what you want to say and don't get flustered and leave something out. Good luck!

Kasey and Rob said...

As a former teacher and now a psychologist, I am appalled that things like this happen, but they do. I don't have other questions for you to ask, but I would suggest taking in a notepad with them written down, then you can also write down additional questions if they come up in conversation. If, as the teacher says it was an off day, then you should request that she apologize to Tessa. When I taught I had a few off days where I was to quick to punish a child (take away recess, extra writing assignment, etc.) but I would apologize in these situations. Good luck with this.

Amy, queen of the world. said...

Your number 1 thing? SPOT ON. I teach 3rd grade. There is a lot of work involved in 3rd grade. However, I have my students turn in their assignments to a "box" designated for Reading, Math, Language Arts, Writing, Science, Social Studies, etc. Then, the next morning, I go through every single box, count my papers, figure out WHO is missing WHAT, usually we find it in our desks, sometimes even completed but not turned in (and this is maybe 2 of my 22 students, of course, not all of them), they either finish it then, or if they have today's work to do still, they can stay in at PE/Music time long enough to finish it, and I have it THAT DAY. There would be no reason for 3 weeks worth of work to be shoved in a desk and the teacher to not know that 3 weeks worth of work was missing.

I do have one student who has a lot of problems getting her work done, and no support whatsoever at home. (She and her 3 brothers are pretty much raising themselves while "Uncle Whoever" floats in and out of her mom's bedroom, if ya know what I mean.) Because I'm a go-above-and-beyond type person, I've gotten to where I teach the lesson, give the assignment, and I DO stand by her for the first few problems, just to make sure she's actually filling in answers and not just sitting and staring. And if it's something they have to copy from a book, like math problems, I sometimes copy a few down for her to get her started. She works the problems herself, but it'd take her 40 minutes to put her name on her paper if I didn't do that. Is there something WRONG with helping the students in your class?! Does that make you a bad teacher to give some individualized attention to the ones who really need it?!! I want to sit in on this meeting too. LOL :)

And, I would really like to know how old this teacher is, if she's got kids of her own, etc. When they're young and have no kids, they tend to not have a connection to the children's feelings (I'm sure I was even that way when I first started teaching) at all. When they're old and their kids are grown, they tend to forget what they would have done if their kid's teacher had said/done some of the things they say/do. Also, there is so much more love and logic in the classroom today...there has to be. Kids aren't raised the way they used to be. They're not "spare the rod, spoil the child" kids anymore. Parents are more reasonable, but sometimes on the too-lenient side (not saying you are at all, don't get me wrong), and kids respond to that. You can't go in, humiliate a child, shut them down, and expect ANYTHING out of them. Maybe back in the day, when our parents would have busted us if we got in trouble at school, even if it was unfounded. But not today's kids.

Anyway, I've rambled all of that to say, GREAT JOB being your child's advocate and taking it to the teacher first, but when you didn't get what you wanted from her, setting up a meeting with the principal!!! She MUST be set up for success or she'll hate school. :(

Karissa said...

I am also a teacher, although I teach high school. I'm sorry that your baby is having to deal with such a difficult school situation, and you are absolutely right to be her advocate, to figure out exactly what is going on, and make it better for everyone. I have found that since having children of my own, even though they are still pre-school in age, I am much more sympathetic/empathetic/understanding of both the challenging jobs that parents have and the up-and-down nature of any given child's day/week/month/year. In any interaction that I have with a parent (a face-to-face conference, a written progress report, a phone call) it is most important to me that the parent realize that I know and like their child before I have to share any tough news with them regarding their child's progress in my class. Once a parent feels that I am there to help their child, that I understand how their child ticks, and that I like their child, they are much more open to hearing news that their child is having a tough time in some aspect of my class. It sounds like this teacher hasn't figured that one out yet...sometimes I wonder why some people go into teaching in the first place--why spend your days with other people's kids if you don't really like kids or you get frustrated with completely normal developmental issues that all children face? It's our job as teachers to help kids over these hurdles and to figure out how to make things work, not make the kids and their parents feel like there is something "wrong" with their kid!

Violet said...

When I read those two posts about what Tessa's teacher did, my nerves were shaking. That was totally uncalled for. It would not have been hard for the teacher to call you after school and ask YOU if she could keep Tessa after the next day to clean out her desk, after everyone else was gone, and have you either be there to talk over the situation with Tessa, or come pick her up.

I would ask the principle if they have any discipline guidelines for the teachers.

When I was in elementary school we had teachers aids who worked with kids individually that needed it. They would help me with math because I struggled with it. They also helped me get caught up after I missed two weeks of school from chicken pox.

As an adult I have volunteered in elementary classrooms. Sometimes I helped to do activities but mostly, the teacher would have me go in the hall with one or two student and help them catch up on school work they hadn't completed. This could mean working with kids who had been out sick, or who we knew came from difficult family situations and didn't get homework help, or just kids who had a hard time staying on task and getting in class work done.

It is the teachers job to find a way to get Tessa to do her work. It's the teachers job, the parents job, and perhaps the school counselors job. It's a team effort to help a child gain an education.

I was always very unorganized as a child, and it hindered my education. I was smart but my work did NOT reflect it. When I was in 4th grade my teacher gave me a spiral notebook for each subject. I would to the assignments in the notebook, and turn the notebook in. I never turned in loose leaf papers. Any work sheets, I'd copy the answers onto a page in the notebook, and turn that in. I also had a cubby in the classroom to keep anything besides book and notebooks in. Crayons, snacks, note from friends, trinkets, all went in my cubby. This really helped me. I used the notebook method all through high school, and instead of a cubby I had a pencil holder I kept in my backpack until I was old enough to have a locker.

My brother had a bad experience in kindergarten and had switch teachers mid stream by the pediatricians suggestion. He was complaining of stomach aches etc. every day and the Doctors said he had early markers of an ulcer. The teacher was awful and made my brother really nervous. Switching him was REALLY good, and he soared in school after that. That teacher eventually was fired because of the complaints made against him.

I really hope the best for little Tessa! I want her to be in a situation that makes her LOVE school! And that teacher can NOT know what Tessa will do when Ella gets here. My sister is 6 years older than me, and she loved me, she didn't want to go to school because she would miss me. Every kids is different. Since your so aware of how Ella could affect Tessa's life, you will do a good job of making sure Tessa still feels loved, and you will meet her needs. Don't doubt your ability to mother two children. You know Tessa, and how she thinks, and operates. That won't change when Ella is here.

Reese said...

Sorry I am a little bit late with this.

What Tessa went through reminded me of a similar situation I went through in 6th grade. My parents had just divorced and I moved to a new school where I swear that teacher hated me. One day during PE she called me back to class where she and 2 other teachers basically balled me out for not being a 'happy' kid. That teacher snooped in my desk and found a piece of paper I had folded in a book where I wrote "I hate this place" over and over again. They thought I needed psychiatric help. I tried to explain that this was the first time I had ever been away from 'home' and I was just homesick and they were completely unsympathetic. I remember one of them rolling her eyes, like I needed to get the hell over it already (it was 2 weeks into the new place).

I eventually moved back with my father, and my grades went back to being A's and I was just happier and my teacher was awesome, even when things went to complete crap with my mother 6 months later.

Children are not meant to fit in a box designed by the teacher, and bend to the will of her, but rather put in place to help your child succeed to the best of her potential.

See, I am a bit of a type A AND Hispanic, so I would have lost my shit with this woman, and would have told her off to the point she would have been begging me to stop. .....but since you are the more logical and calm one, I will say this: If after your meeting with the principal (and I LOVE the idea of an e-mail ahead of time), the teacher is still being obtuse, ask to switch teachers. Kids KNOW when their teachers can't stand them, and their schooling will suffer if they don't feel love and support from those teaching them.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.