Two Truths and a Lie 7 Answers (Teachers Edition)

I've got a crown on my head, but I'm not always treated like a Queen.

I am so sorry for making you wait so long for my TTAAL Teachers Edition answers. We all know life gets in the way, and it has gotten way in the way of my blog posts. I needed to give a shout out to my Mom, travel to Southern California, and get some work-related information out to you. Now it’s back to being all about me here at Calandro Clan. Finally!

1. FALSE A parent did not send an angry letter to my Superintendent about me. However, the LOML and I send positive letters to the Superintendent about our boys’ teachers every year. We do this for Teacher Appreciation Week as a formal documentation of the thanks we have for the educators in our lives. Our boys are getting an outstanding education thanks to the teachers we are blessed to have at our elementary school and pre-school. These personalized, individual letters give us the chance to tell our Administrators in our district how much we admire our fantastic teachers. For the next Teacher Appreciation Day, we encourage you to do the same.

2. TRUE A parent came to my first grade class Valentine’s Day party dressed as a gorilla and gave helium balloons to all the kids. Thankfully, the parent asked my permission before they came and the kids loved it. Most of the kids. I herded the gorilla away from the kids I knew wouldn’t appreciate the wackiness of this visitor. At the end of the visit, the parent took off the gorilla mask and showed all the children he was a real person. The kids loved it.

3. TRUE Yes, I said true. A parent told me I was a terrible teacher in the middle of my own classroom on Back to School Night. My hands still shake when I remember this event. It. Was. Awful.

The Back to School Night incident happened my third year of teaching, but the story originated in my first year of being a teacher. During my first year, the parents of one of my students were going through a brutal divorce. My student was greatly affected by this disruption in their home life. They started off the year smiling and eager and became more depressed, quiet, and unhappy as the year progressed. I made choices of how to best deal with this situation. Looking back on these choices, and in fairness to this family, I should have done some things differently, but  I did what I thought was right. Sometimes it would be nice if we could live our lives backward, not forward. 

Jump to three years later. I had this family’s second child in my class. Unbeknownst to me, the mother had been completely dissatisfied with my job as a teacher with her first child. When the Mom walked up to me at Back to School Night, I greeted her with a smile on my face and a welcoming, “I’m so happy to have _____ in my class!” and other nice things about her child.  And I meant every word. Her children were wonderful and a pleasure to teach.

I will never forget her response: “Well, I am not happy about it at all!” She blasted me in front of everyone about how I had “destroyed” her first child’s education and how her child suffered because I was a terrible teacher. She informed me she had met with my Principal to transfer her second child out of my class and was furious it hadn’t happened. She went on for what seemed like five hours, but probably amounted to about three minutes. Still, it was about two minutes and 58 seconds too long.  All I could do was stand there, take it, and tell her I had absolutely no idea any of this had happened. And of course I apologized. Our Back to School Night was divided in two sessions. She did this to me as parents were exiting my classroom after my first information session and others were arriving for my second presentation.

Terrible timing.

I was only halfway finished with my evening. I went on to inform the second set of parents what their children would be learning with me that year. Many of the families already knew me and seemed absolutely appalled at what they had witnessed. Other families were probably afraid to have their child learn from this “terrible teacher.” I have no idea how I got through that second presentation. After the last parent left my room I shut the door, locked it, moved to a place where I couldn’t be seen through the windows, and cried.

Her child stayed in my class for the entire year and I know that Mom detested every minute, every assignment, every activity, everything. I met with my Principal and discussed what had happened. I asked for the student to be transferred. It did not happen. I was told there wasn’t room in the other classes. In this situation, MAKE ROOM. In my opinion, this Principal was absolutely, completely wrong and I will never understand the thinking behind this decision. Because of how my Principal handled this angry parent, or didn’t handle them, I was humiliated publicly, my reputation as an educator was tarnished, and I lost respect for my Principal.  All of this could have been avoided if communication had been more open from the beginning.

I have no idea what happened to this family. I think they still live in the area where I taught. I know I kept that student’s best interest at heart. I know how depressed the student seemed that year and I made the decision to focus more on how they were feeling rather than how they were learning. I did my best. Teachers serve many clients every school year and not everyone is going to be pleased with the service they receive. I know the divorce and this Mom’s behavior had a lot more to do with that student’s decline than anything I did. I know if she met with me privately and voiced her concerns it would have been more positive than how she conducted herself.

I am no longer a teacher, but this event shaped how I percieve teachers, parents, administrators and myself in my role as an active parent in my childrens’ education. Want to get the most out of the parent/teacher relationship? Here’s some advice:

If you have a problem with a teacher, speak with that teacher first before you do anything else.  Never go to administration first. Always give the teacher a chance to hear you and be heard. If you don’t get results, go to the next level in administration to voice your concerns.

Do not gossip with other parents about a problem. Schools are small communities and word travels fast. Go to the source.

Remember teachers are humans first, then professionals. Expect them to have students’ best interest at heart, but  know they also have a life out of school. Getting more information about someone may give you insight into decisions and behavior. I should have arranged a private meeting with this parent to explain myself and my decisions with her child. I didn’t do this and I regret it.

Respect everyone. Yes, teachers are paid by our tax dollars, but that never means we own them. The role of a teacher is multi-faceted and more complex than you realize. Always begin a dialogue with respect; it goes a long way.

I am so thankful that event is behind me. It was atrocious, but I learned a lot and, once again, makes a heck of a story! Thank you to everyone who continues to tune in for my ramblings story time here at Calandro Clan. I really appreciate your guesses. Coming soon: TTAAL Celebrity Edition!

Comments (3)

  1. Melissa Bresnahan

    Eileen! Tis is the first time I have read your blog. I love it. Your advice to parents is so right on. I think we have all had that difficult situation with a parent. For some strange reason that one horrific, negative memory will loom larger in our minds than all the positive ones. I would tell you to “get over it” but my own personal history tells me that this is not always possible. I love, love, love your idea of sending a nice letter to the superintendent during Teacher Appreciation Week. Great idea. It seems that people always find the time to write a letter of complaint but never have the time to write a thank-you or a positive letter. Good for you, I think I will write one positive letter a week and it can not be online!! See, you have inspired me! Have a good week. I look forward to reading more. You are a great writer. Really!!!

    Reply
    1. CalandroClan (Post author)

      Thank you so much, Melissa! I’m glad this post has inspired you to write some positive letters to people -I know anyone would appreciate a letter from you. You are right that I need to “get over it” and I have, this story just makes a strong case for the importance of the parent/teacher relationship. I am fortunate that I had countless wonderful experiences with parents and fondly remember teaching as meaningful, fun, and exciting. I’m so happy you are enjoying my blog. I look forward to sharing our adventures with you!

      Reply
  2. Vince Halter

    Eileen, I know you know this, but I think this is a classic case of transference. This parent sounds as if her life was spinning out of control and you became the release of all that pented up anger and frustration. Coming from someone who thinks knows you pretty well and for many many years, I can say that I know you would only act and teach from such a loving place in your heart. Also because of the combination of your creativity and excellent judgement, I know you were a teacher who motivated and brought joy to the classroom. I encourage anyone who has never taught to substitute and try it for a single day. I always enjoy parents who return from a field trip with a look of complete exhaustion on there faces who say, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how you do it.” I think to my self…”well you had 5 or 6 kids, try having 35-40 all day long.”

    I am so impressed that during teacher appreciation week, you send positive and motivating letters to the superintendent. That is what teachers live for. Just a little positive recognition to let them know that their hard work and poured out love are appreciated by someone. The kids are the joy that gets teachers through the day, but the positive affirmation is the fuel that keeps them going! Love you!

    Reply

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