A teacher talks back…A letter to Mrs. Gower

A while back, I posted about the book report from Hell… In my usual snarky fashion, I apparently took a rather anti-teacher position, which I guess riled a particular teacher (or more – but one who had the mind to leave a comment.) Though I did elect to leave her comment OFF of that post (it does nothing to further that particular post)  My bad, somehow, it did slip by and is sitting there… after some deliberation – I decided to leave it be. I will copy the entire thing here – though I will be adding in my comments…

First, it has to be said, I am not against teachers in general, and I think most of them are doing a terrific job – in fact, I have my son’s seond and fifth grade teachers to thank for a great many things. I also realize that many of the very assignments I was grumbling about are “required” and are not the teacher’s idea. But, that doesn’t make for a very interesting blog post, now does it?

And so, with that said, the lovely Mrs. Gower and my comments back…

“Wow…I’ve taught fifth grade language arts for sixteen years, and I always wondered how parents REALLY felt. Fortunately, I don’t think you are the majority. ”

As it happens – I know a lot of parents, and I’m sorry to disappoint you, but nope. I’m in the majority.

“You sound like the type parent that never lets your child work independently. It’s sad to think that your sixth grade student cannot follow these directions after reading a chapter book. ”

Wow. Way to make a snap judgement of my parenting from one smart ass post. Thanks. Meanwhile – actually, I encourage independent work and both of my munchkins are far more Internet savvy than I, thank you. I should also point out that both of my munchkins are working at well above grade level in all subjects.

“Much younger children are masters of the internet when it comes to online video games, or any other after-school activities.”

Personally, I’m not so sure the online portion of that is such a good thing, but I realize it’s true. And yes, I monitor my children’s online activities, as well as their after-school ones – shouldn’t ALL parents?

“So……why are you making a reading project sound so impossible for your child to accomplish? ”

I don’t think I made it sound impossible. And I certainly didn’t to my kid. In fact, I encouraged him to try to understand the project and to do the best he could do – coming to me when he had questions. I did, however, take full advantage of the situation to make an interesting and fun post – it’s a little something writers like to do.

“Teachers are not assigning these projects to torture children and parents…”

Yeah, I’m aware of that. But that awareness doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it feels that way. Nor does it change the fact that it’s far more interesting and humorous to write it that way.

“I assign similar projects at the beginning of each month. Students have until the end of the month to finish. (You sound as if you wait until the last night to finish.) ”

Nope – quite the opposite. Though my son does have an annoying habit of “forgetting” to note his assignements, necesitating a last minute scramble. This was not the case here, and he got extra credit for being done early. Again, nice snap judgement.

“We simply want to challenge our students to apply what they’ve learned in a creative way. I guess it would be a lot simpler to assign a book report the way we wrote them in the 1970’s, but I am sure they would all be posted on the internet and sold amongst parents for $19.95.”

Ah, nostalgia! Those rose-colored, backwards-looking glasses are so wonderful! Yes, I admit, I think it would be far easier to revert to the tried-and-true report styles of my youth – and yes, you’re probably right, they don’t do much to foster creativity, and one report looks so much like the next that it’s hard to tell who actually did their work and who used Cliff’s Notes. So, I’ll concede that point. I’m equally as sure that even the most creative of educators eventually runs out of stellar ideas and turns out more than a few clinkers.

” Those same parents are the ones that have no problem calling a conference with the principal when these stolen reports don’t receive the A+ their child truly deserves.”

Hmmm, wow. I’d never even thought of that. Actually, I had. But I elected to keep my Nostalgia Glasses firmly in place.

” “Old School” book reports would also take less time for a parent to write the night before it is due…afterall education should not interfere with sports, cheer practice, and dance.”

I agree with the point you’re making here – education should come before all the extracurricular activities, and all too often, our children are over scheduled. Though, I do take exception – you seem to believe my attitude is in the minority, and yet believe that many parents would take this short-cut (and short-changing) approach. Not so. Parents like me are the ones watching while their child does the work. We’re the ones helping to keep them on track, guiding them while still allowing independence.

“Afterall, when students are in their thirties, writing, creating, and thinking for themselves aren’t really important qualities to have anymore and following set directions given by their boss should always be argued- Right?”

So, which is it? Are we to write, create and think and not question? Or write, create and think and question, or? I’m not quite sure. Your point was unclear. However, my point was – this particular report did not encourage independent thought, creativity or critical thinking but instead provided a formula approach. Now, maybe in some jobs that’s what is required, but as for me and my career – my ability to think creatively, write persuasively, and make decisions is what has gotten me where I am.

“Just please give teachers a break….time and thought are given to these ideas. ”

Oh, I do! Believe me, I do! I am actively involved with the teachers and school, have written more than a few glowing letters of praise addressed to principals and administrators. I can honestly say, I’ve never had to make a formal complaint, and any minor issues (not over assignments – I may grumble for humor’s sake,  but I do believe teachers are doing what they can….) have been handled beautifully.

“Sometimes these activities are mandated by the schaool district or are required by state curriculum guides, but you didn’t think about that, right? ”

 Yes, I did – and you obviously didn’t think about the fact that this is an adult’s personal blog, full of pithy observations of life. Had you read beyond this one post you might have seen that.

“And trust me…critical and unsupportive parents are what make teachers turn to drugs…not marajuana, but prescription drugs like Prozac and Effexor XR so they may deal with the anxiety and stress that comes from teaching today. ”

That argument does not wash with me. Every job has its bad points. Teachers deal with children who are ill-behaved, uneducated or worse, and parents who are critical, unsupportive, etc – yeah? And?

When I worked as a medic, I dealt with people who were on drugs – being held up, and even beaten up, by someone searching for a quick fix was a normal day in the life for me. Teachers choose to teach. It’s a profession. You may say it’s a calling, but then again – so can anyone doing any career.

“We are not your enemies, although it saddens me greatly to know that even one parent has this type attitude problem towards any kind of elementary school reading project.”

Never said you were my enemy. And note – this was a middle school project. Which is perhaps another reason I found it so annoying.

“Also, remember this….You are your child’s most important teacher…They see the world from your eyes. What is this negativity you are spreading around the world via this website teaching them?”

Funny. I know that. And my kids have remarkably fabulous senses of humor, realistic outlooks on life, hard work ethics and the willingness to be “different,” to step outside the “norm” and be genuine individuals. Yep. If that’s what my “negativity” is teaching them, great! And by the way, congratulations! You are officially the first person to define  me as “negative.”

“Sounds like you might spend more time with your child rather than spreading trash talk.”

Yet another fabulous and cutting remark from a woman who sets herself as an educator. You judge me from this little slice that you see? When you know nothing else about me? May I remind you again that this is an adult’s personal blog, that the entire purpose of this space is for me to vent, bang my head into a wall and blow off steam in the best way I can – in writing.

Sometimes it’s pithy, sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes it’s even painful – but it is always and forever a slice of my mind at that moment. It’s not the complete picture – good grief that would be boring! It was never meant for this to be about parenting, about me as a mom, or about my kids. That would be too narrow. I am far too many things to allow my personal, creative space to be so defined.

I highly doubt you, Mrs. Gower, will see this little message, and I’m not too sure you would even grasp the point I’m making, but I try to not make those snap judgements.

You see, I know nothing about you beyond your few words here. I could say that you remind me of every bad experience I ever had with teachers while I was a student; that teachers like you are what drive parents like me to draft letters of complaint, etc. – but I don’t think any of that is true.

Actually, I am quite sure you are a passionate individual, so committed to your calling that you were driven to respond to my pithy little post; so utterly consummed by the noble drive to educate our youngsters that you failed to look beyond the surface…

At least, I hope that’s the case. Because to believe otherwise would gravely impact my incredibly high opinion of teachers in general.