“I hate my teacher!”
Before I go on any further, let me explain something about Ashleigh. She can be a bit of a drama queen.
“Uh huh,” I acknowledged all the while still keeping my eyes on the road.
“She is just stupid. You know what she did today? She basically told us that we have to teach Geometry to ourselves!”
“Wow,” I said incredulously.
“I wasn’t even talking. In fact, almost NO ONE was talking, and she just threw a fit! She said she was done teaching us if we couldn’t be quiet, and then she was done. Like, that was it. Like, she didn’t show us how to do it! She just wrote our homework assignment on the board and didn’t explain any of it!”
“That seems a bit harsh. Maybe you didn’t realize how distracted she was by the amount of kids talking around you. I believe you when you say you weren’t talking. I find it hard to believe that a whole class full of fourth graders were being totally quiet, though. Maybe in general, the class was not behaving, and she didn’t want to compete with all the noise. She’s still a new teacher, and she’s going to have to adapt to her class just like you all have to adapt to a new teacher each year. I’ll help you with your Geometry when you do your homework later. Sometimes math can be hard, and if you don’t give your teacher your undivided attention, you won’t understand anyway. It’s not a big deal.”
I would once again like to point out something here. My friend Jason had a hard time with Geometry, if I’m remembering correctly. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was sent to the Principal’s Office in 9th grade for looking at something up on the chalkboard and saying something like “What the hell’s that?” Granted, we had probably been talking about something else as we sat next to each other, and then he happened to glance up there and see something unrecognizable to him. It was probably unrecognizable to both of us because we were talking. As he talked with his parents that day, I’m sure it was probably unrecognizable because we had a horrible teacher who didn’t explain anything to us, and they were awful. Oh, and they probably used a student teacher half the time who didn’t know anything.
Anyways, Ashleigh rambled on most of the drive home about how she hated her teacher. Ash’s teacher is a first year teacher straight out of college. I would like to assume that her teacher has all the willpower and gusto imaginable to teach our children, seeing how it is her first teaching position. I have a hard time believing she just gave up teaching one afternoon because the kids wouldn’t shut up.
As the kids started to do their homework, Ashleigh starts in again on how horrible her teacher was. She sat in the chair writing something down for quite a while and finally I inquired about what exactly it was that she was penning on this paper.
“A letter for my teacher,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Do you want me to read it to you? So far this is what I have:
Dear Ms. So and So,
I am writing you to tell you about how I feel most days. Most days you give out Bengal Bucks to Megan and Logan and no one else. A lot of kids in the class don’t like that because it’s not fair. Today in class I wasn’t even talking and you didn’t finish teaching us how to do our assignment. Because you didn’t finish teaching it I wanted you to know I won’t be doing it until you do. I think you don’t understand what it’s like to be a kid and going to school. Sometimes I wish I had Ms. (another So and So) teaching me every day instead of you. You are a nice person, but I don’t think you are a good teacher. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to be rude.
“Ummmm, No. You absolutely CANNOT take that to your teacher tomorrow! What is wrong with you? You had one bad day with your teacher and now you can’t stand her? What about the Parent-Teacher Conferences your mom and I just had with her? You guys joked and laughed the whole time. She said you were a “model” student. Now, you hate her? You cannot write something like that, and then say you’re not trying to be rude. That’s exactly what that was. Rude.”
Here is where I am interrupted by said 10-year-old girl.
“ME? I’m the one being rude? How about the teacher who is supposed to be teaching me Geometry? How about my DAD who is the one who is supposed to be caring about me?”
“What? Don’t try to point the finger on me and say I’m not caring about you because I don’t want you to write a disrespectful letter to your teacher. It was a mean-spirited letter, and you are not allowed to give that to her. Period. You can feel however you want to, but sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe your teacher had a bad day. Maybe she forgot something at home, maybe she was feeling sick, maybe she just had a lot of stuff on her mind. Who knows? I do know one thing. She’s human, and she is going to make a mistake or two occasionally. Just like you. Just like me. Just like everyone! I don’t care if you write your teacher a letter to let her know how you feel Ashleigh. You just better make sure it is the uplifting kind of letter you teacher needs from a student. It better not resemble anything like you just read to me. It is hard enough finding people who are willing to be teachers, and I don’t need any one of my children making them doubt their decision to be one!”
Ashleigh grabbed her papers and pen and ran up to her room crying, because now I am the bad guy. I waited a few minutes before I checked on her to see how she was doing. During this brief interlude I called her mom and asked her mom to call her in a little bit to feel her out a little bit. She was obviously having a bad day, and sometimes I don’t have all the answers. When I went upstairs to check on her she came over and gave me a hug and a little smile. She had another letter written, but she said it wasn’t her “final copy” yet, so I couldn’t read it.
I hope the words I used actually resonated within this little girl of mine, so she realizes that her teacher is trying to prepare her for the real world, where life doesn’t always come with a set of instructions telling us what to do. I did not ask her to read the new letter to me because I glanced over her shoulder and saw the words:
“Dear Ms. So and So,
I want you to know that I am grateful for you.”
Those words and the hearts drawn all over the paper were all I had to see to know that maybe I am doing something right.