Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Wrote an Angry Letter

When we moved here, we rented this house almost entirely because of the schools it was zoned for.  Most of the schools here are crap, and I mean crap.  We picked a house outside of the city limits just because it happened to have a very highly rated school.  The PTA seemed to be super active.  Their academic scores were great.
I have to say though, that I have realized so much of your experience really depends on the teacher you get, and there are great teachers, and not so great teachers, at every school.
If I were able to separate the experiences I have had with Middie and her teacher, and The Biggest One and her teacher, I would swear we are talking about two different schools.  Middie has had a great year.  Her teacher is fabulous.  Really.  I am in there helping as often as I can.  I would do anything for this woman.  She has the worst class out of all the Kindergarten classes because of the way classes were selected last year, and honestly, she does a fabulous job with what she got.  Middie loves her and loves school.
The Biggest One, not so much.
I have actually spoken face to face with her teacher four times, but in those times, I can tell you that I have been labeled a pain in the butt, and I am totally disliked by this woman.  I also think she doesn't likes The Biggest One, though I would never let her know that.  It just shows in her actions.
Our first time talking was the first open house about the first or second week of school.  I offered to help her with anything I could.  She already had a home room parent.  So, I let her know that I scrap booked, and I would be glad to make things for the class, come in and help with paperwork, really anything I could do, just please let me know.  That was pretty much it.  She never said she wanted help.  Never communicated with the me.  I have since learned that her home room parents take care of everything, even the food for parties which I have to beg to be allowed to help with.
Even though we haven't spoken, I was learning a lot about her.  I realized that her demeanor in class wasn't exactly what I would have wish for in a teacher for The Biggest One, but that's just how it works.  We are all different people, and I just let all the fart jokes she makes, and that type of thing go, thinking it was tacky, but sometimes we meet tacky people, until she made a big boob joke.  The class was working on improper fractions, where the number on the top is bigger than the number on the bottom, and she called them Dolly Parton fractions.  When I was helping The Biggest One with her homework, and she called the fraction that, I nearly flipped my lid.  I ask where she heard that, and she said her teacher.  I couldn't believe that a teacher would make a boob joke like that to her class, not at this age.  I was totally offended.
My intent was to talk to her about it at a parent teacher conference, which was coming up.  However, when we got there that night, my plan flew out the window.  The second time I spoke to her was this night.  She had requested the conference.  She said that she wanted to talk to us about The Biggest One's personality.  She explained that in the beginning of the year, The Biggest One was being picked on some.  She told her to stand up for herself, and she felt like that advice had been taken too far.  Now, The Biggest One was sort of like a brick wall.  She always took definitive charge of any group they were working in, and wouldn't always take her classmates ideas into consideration.  She was bull headed.  I ask if my child was being rude or inappropriate to her, because that wasn't ok.  I happened to know, though, that the kids she wasn't listening to were the kids who were picking on her the worst.  She was taking charge and refusing to listen to them as a defense mechanism.  She wasn't about to give them the chance to be mean to her when she had to work with them, which was all the time.  The teacher said that in her classroom, she expected everyone to get along and like each other.


This is the real world.  Those kids aren't all going to like each other.  They can all be civil to each other, but that doesn't in any way mean that they will get along all the time or actually like working together.  You can forget that.
Anyway, the seriousness that she approached the issue totally took me off guard.  I know the The Biggest One is bossy.  I live with her every day.  In part, that is absolutely my fault, and I even told her teacher that.  I explained that as a military child, whose father has been gone most of her life, she had to often take charge of a lot of things that other kids haven't.  That was her life.  That is how she has been raised.  I don't think that is bad, either, but I do think it makes her different than a lot of kids these days, especially those not raised in that environment.  Last year, if she was being bossy, her teacher would make some kind of humorous comment to me as I picked her up, to let me know we had an extra bossy day, and The Biggest One and I would talk about it.  We would work on it.  That's all that was needed.  One sentence. One statement.  We understood and tried to work on it.  Instead, I get a fed up teacher who eventually tells me that maybe I should take my daughter to see the guidance councilor, then, if she has had such a hard time.

I think it was about that point in the conference that my husband got up and walked away.  He didn't want to be present for any more of our discussion.  At that point, it was two brick walls just banging against each other, both of them saying the same thing over and over again, with nothing really being heard.

And I totally forgot the big boob thing.

Anyway, after that, our only two other face to face interactions have been very positive.  I ask to come in and make ceramic Christmas ornaments with her class, something I do every year with my girls' classes if I can, and which she let me do.  I also saw her on math night, and we chatted a little.  It was pleasant enough.

So, this week, when she went off script again, I just about lost it.

I had to write a letter to another teacher, The Biggest One's science teacher.

I know this post has already been long, but hang with me a bit more.

Every week, we have Girl Scouts on Tuesday right after school in Middie's kindergarten classroom.  Her teacher put both of her daughters in my troop, and she helps me out.  It is awesome.  So, all of my troop girls come straight into the room after school, and the ones on that hall are actually in there before school is totally over since they come in when all the other kids are getting in their bus rider/car rider lines.  I have to be in that room right away while the teacher takes care of her dismissal duties.  It isn't a big deal normally, and most of my girls come right in.  The Biggest One, though, is almost always my last one in.  The problem is that they won't always let her come.  Some days they make her sit in the car rider line until those kids start leaving before she can go, even if the bell has already rung.  I wrote her teacher a letter reminding her that I was in the class room we meet in and couldn't get her from the line.  I really needed The Biggest One to be dismissed to come straight to me.  After my letter, that's what she did.  Since dismissal duties rotate, though, she isn't always there.  The other teachers don't just let The Biggest One go.  She has to ask each teacher when she can go, and then they tell her that day what she can do.
This past week, it didntt work out.  The Biggest One ask a teacher, and heard "after the bell rings".  What she didn't hear was "wait until the car riders start leaving" because of all the other kids talking.  Regardless, she waited until after the bell rang, which meant school was over, and came to me in Girl Scouts.  She was early.  She was happy.  Then a boy came to the door and told her to go back to her science teacher.  In about two minutes, my child walked back in to me, hysterical.  She was sobbing and couldn't stop.  She said that this teacher had jumped all over her.  I know the teacher is very strict, and comes across as pretty mean.  The teacher told her that she hadn't listened and would be sitting out recess the nest day.  My child was horrified.  She tried to explain that the other teacher she had ask to leave that day, a fifth grade teacher, not even the teacher who called her back to yell at her, said she could go after the bell rang, but this teacher refused to listen.  She didn't want to hear anything from my child.  My child did wrong, and she was in trouble.  Period.  End of story.

I don't think so.

I was mad.  If The Biggest One really did something wrong, I would expect her to be punished at school.  However, I don't think misunderstandings, especially when you are talking about inconsistent policy, should count.  Most importantly, though, is the fact that this woman chose to punish her with out ever listening to her.  That isn't ok with me.  In fact, they yelled at her for asking to go every week in this whole debacle.  It was clear that it was irritating to them she needed "special treatment".
I had to make it through an entire Scout meeting super pissed and not let my kids know.  That was hard. It took everything I had not to just walk down the hall and speak with her science teacher right then.
Instead, I talked to my husband that night, and decided to write a letter to the science teacher, the one who chose to punish her.  I slept on it to have time to think and calm down.
I wrote very carefully.  I said that it had been a misunderstanding.  I said that the biggest problem was the inconsistent policy.  I ask that every teacher give her the same dismissal routine, even if it meant that should would be the latest in the room, just so that The Biggest One would have a clear set of instructions to follow each week ,and she could stop asking them what to do.  I did say that she was almost always the last one in the room, and I would like to see her dismissed when the bell rang, like her teacher does, but if they feel that is unsafe for any reason, that we would take what ever was best.  I also said that if there were more concerns, then I would be glad to meet with the teachers who have dismissal duty over her, and the principal if needed, so that we could come up with a safe plan of action for dismissal for the rest of the year that would work for everyone.
It wasn't mean.  It was firm, but there is a huge difference.
I had my husband read it, and let me assure you, when it comes to my being bitchy, he can spot it from a mile away and would never fail to call me out on it.  He said the letter was fine.
So, since I had missed writing it by the time they left, I took it in to school.
There is a great little side story about me seeing this teacher as I was getting there, but I will save that for later.
For now, what you need to know is that I got it to The Biggest One right before lunch and recess when she was supposed to stand with her science teacher.  She went back to class, and before recess, she ask her teacher if she could go ahead and give the letter to the other teacher.  Her teacher ask to see it and read it first.  That pisses me off right there.  It wasn't addressed to her.
She read it, and according to the Biggest One, made a big eyed face.  She called the other teacher over, and said, "Here, her mom wrote you an angry letter."

I will let that sink in for a second.

You good?

Ok.  She said, in front of my child, that I wrote her teacher an angry letter. I ask if she had been kidding.  The Biggest One showed me the face she made three separate times.  She was absolutely not kidding according to my child.

Well, if I wasn't angry before, I was the moment my child relayed this.
It wasn't an angry letter.  I promise you.   Even if it had been, that was totally inappropriate to say in front  of my child.  You can bitch about me behind my back like all the people who have sense do any time you want, but not in front of my child.  What she did was just set up an adversarial position for the two of us.  She said I did something mean to that other teacher.  The teacher parent relationship should never be adversarial, and setting it up that way goes against the grain of everything I think schools work for.

How dare she.

So, this time I decided to take a couple of days and cool down.
I'm thinking a conference with the principal is actually in order.
That really wasn't ok with me.  I don't know exactly why she dislikes me so much.
I swear that if you got Middie's teacher together with The Biggest One's, and had them each describe me as a parent, you would think they were talking about two totally different women.  I would do anything for the school and my girls' classes that I could.  If you know me, you know that.  Last year, I went in no less than once a week for a couple of hours with two kids in tow to do paper work in the parent room because I feel it is my responsibility to help out any way I can.  That's my job.
Instead of viewing me as an asset, though, for some reason, she has chosen to make me an obstacle.  It honestly makes me want to cry.  I just want to help, not to be treated with out respect.
Anyway, this post has been super long.  Sorry.  If you made it through, thanks.
I'll let you know what happens from here.  I'm hoping for some kind of better.  Any kind of better.