Feedback Requested

I received an email from my son’s Mulitmedia teacher. I find it disturbing for several reasons, and wonder if some of you would tell me what you think. First, here’s the email:

Hello Ms. [Rambleson],
I had a situation/ conversation with [John] today because he called two students names. [John] informed me that the first student– he was not talking to but the second student claimed that [John] called him stupid. I told [John] to go stand outside, this is where we talk to students about things we do not wish to share with the class in the portables because the AC is very loud– the good and the bad. He asked me why several times before doing so. This is a great question and I was more than happy to answer that for him but not in front of the class– which I told him once we were outside. I didn’t think our conversation was appropriate for the whole class because when I speak with [John] and another student, [John] tends to argue instead of talking about it so it turns into a mess instead of a productive situation.

For the remainder of class, I asked [John] if he would sit at a different table (without any students at it) so he could finish his work.

I spoke to the entire class on Friday about STEM core values (Respecting each other and “name calling”) and our expectations for our students in this program.

[John] told me that he is going to request to take Art instead. To do this he needs to go to the counselor, however, we expect STEM core values to be upheld in all of our classes.

I wanted to speak with you about this and hopefully together we can come up with a solution that will be easy to implement within a 45 minute period. I would like [John] to be part of the solution, as well, but I do not think we were ready for that today (due to time constraints).

Thank you for your time,
[Name withheld]

To begin with, I find this barely coherent. I’ve read it several times, and I’m still not sure what she’s asking me to do. It’s unsettling to see this quality of writing and communication from one of my son’s teachers, especially one whose whole job is based around communications.

The most I can gather is that John called another kid stupid and she dealt with it. So why is she writing to me about it? If a middle school teacher is so fragile that she needs to call in the troops over a little bickering between preteen students, I contend that she needs to seek employment elsewhere.

As to John being argumentative, I concede that he can be that way. I also know that it is quite normal for boys his age. That’s not to say that it’s OK, or that there shouldn’t be consequences, and I do not condone his arguing with teachers. I only say this to point out, once again, that this particular teacher seems ill-equipped to work with children my son’s age. Furthermore, while I admit to his being argumentative at times, I hardly call it making “a mess” of things.

John asked me last night if I think he’s a “screw up”. It broke my heart. I certainly hope he’s not getting that kind of message from his teachers.

After reading through the email several times, I can’t help wondering if the “mess” might be partly a result of this particular teacher’s inability to communicate effectively and take charge.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not the kind of parent who thinks her kid can do no wrong. I’m big on taking responsibility and making John do the same. But I know my son and I’m familiar enough with this teacher to suspect that perhaps not all the responsibility for the “mess” belongs to John.

I welcome honest feedback on this. I want help, not coddling.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On

7 responses to “Feedback Requested

  • Mike

    It sounds like the teacher is out of control; it makes no sense for her to have emailed you like that. It makes her sound like she can’t do her job properly.

  • saintpaulgrrl

    Have you had an opportunity to meet with this teacher face-to-face during John’s time as a student with her?

  • Lottie

    Yeah, I’ve met her a couple of times and she seems very intense and confrontational.

    But I feel like I may have been too hard on her, criticizing her writing and all. Teachers are terribly busy and she may have just been in a hurry. It’s not like I’ve never written anything under pressure only to look back and think to myself, “Whaaaat?”

    In all honestly, I was already feeling stressed and slightly emotional when I received her email. I’m sure that didn’t help things on my end. But that’s not her fault.

    I did write back to her and will probably hear from her again today.

  • Gary Murning

    You have to wonder who the hell trains these people. It actually sounded like a fairly ordinary classroom situation — one she probably exacerbated by reacting the way she did. How is John doing, now? Has the situation been resolved? (If there was actually anything to resolve!)

  • Lottie

    Thanks for the feedback, Gary.

    I haven’t heard back from her since I replied to her email (same day I posted this). I told her, as politely as I knew how, that I wasn’t quite sure what she was asking me to do, if anything. I said that it sounded like the situation had been handled. I went on to explain that I was a little hurt by what sounded, more than anything else, like her venting on me about my son. I said that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to cooperate with her because I only ever hear negative things from her about John. I told her that he certainly has things he needs to work on (don’t we all?) but that he is basically a good kid and that I find it difficult to support someone who consistently implies that he’s a bad problem child.

    I copied the email to the Director, and I haven’t heard back from either of them. It’s been two days. John said that the teacher has been uncharacteristically nice to him over the last couple of days (he doesn’t know about the emails) and that he even thinks she likes him now.

    Interesting turn over events.

  • B.T. Murtagh

    So, are we to take it that respecting each other and “name calling” (in scare quotes) is *not* part of the core values in the Art curriculum? 😉

    I’m not entirely clear on why they’re part of the STEM curriculum, unless it is as part of a policy to separate ideas from the people proposing them. To me STEM values would be such things as prizing evidence, rigor in eliminating error, and flexibility of thinking; respecting people is a good value in itself, but it isn’t core to STEM.

    I always tell my son not to call people stupid, even if he thinks they are; instead he should concentrate on showing why he thinks the ideas they express are stupid. If he can’t show why the idea is stupid, I tell him, then he needs to think about it longer.

    (I should add that while I generally do my best to walk the walk on this, when someone shows a consistent pattern of expressing stupid ideas and refusing to see the glaring flaws in them, I sometimes cut straight to calling that person stupid.)

  • Lottie

    Thanks for the feedback. I wondered about the scare quotes too.

    […]respecting people is a good value in itself, but it isn’t core to STEM.

    My husband and I have been discussing this very thing. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones who see it that way.

    I also agree with your points about calling people or ideas stupid, although I take the shortcut sometimes too. 😉

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