Dear overworked and underappreciated educator,
I am writing you this letter out of love for my son as well as a sincere concern for his well being and YOUR sanity.
Not very many months ago I couldn't have been more pleased with Z-Mo's attitude toward school. He couldn't wait to go every
day, and each afternoon he literally was brimming over with joy at the new things he had learned each day.
Perhaps you have heard other parents beaming with pride as they related the details of their child's first "reading" episode (green horse remember?).
Well I'm no different and my admiration for what you have given him has genuinely increased with each passing day. If I have neglected to voice my appreciation, consider it voiced. I know you aren't in this line of work for the money, and lord knows
the praise is probably slow in coming and much less than you deserve, but doing something that you love must be its own reward.
As a software developer I know this better than many.
Keep those words in mind as I explain why it is that I have suddenly become gravely concerned for my son and his education.
Lately Z-Mo has lost that enthusiasm, in fact he has become deathly afraid of going to school, and until recently
I had no idea why. You see he didn't want to say anything that might make ME upset with YOU, because he likes you and
HONESTLY doesn't understand why (in his mind) you are intentionally hurting him.
The RED square (it used to be his favorite color, lately he expressed a hatred for it; FOR a COLOR!!!) is something I was unaware of, and had I known earlier that it was standard practice to use peer pressure and humiliation as tools for teaching discipline
and self control in KINDERGARTEN I would have said something earlier. Don't misunderstand, I appreciate the number of children you are responsible for, and can empathize with your frustration. I appreciate your need to maintain order (especially in a
room full of 6 year olds who would love nothing more than to jump and scream and play all day!), but it seems to me, and my father
(a registered clinical child psychologist with a PHD and over 30 years experience dealing with hyperactive and troubled kids) agrees, that not all children respond to the same methods.
In fact it is this "one size fits all" approach to discipline which although effective for most children, can have DEVASTATING consequences for others. Self esteem in particular can be severely affected, leading in many cases to lack of motivation and an alarmingly high increase in the likelihood of "dropout" in later years.
We had trouble with Z-Mo for awhile as well, he did not seem to listen well and in many cases still doesn't seem to be. Two things changed however that have made living with and RELATING to our son much easier.
The first was a change in our approach. Firm discipline worked well with his sisters, and so having hit upon a successful approach,
we continued this method. The results: Parents who were MORE frustrated, and a boy who grew more and more self-conscious
and withdrawn. It took us some time to realize it, but Z-Mo would walk through molten lava and back for the person that
praises him with kind words and just generally avoids hurting his feelings. I mentioned this to you at our first and only
Parent Teacher Conference, not in an attempt to persuade you to CODDLE him, but in an attempt to save you the frustration
of an experience that we had already been through. More importantly, I told you this in an attempt to spare the feelings of
one of the most charming and wonderful little people that I have had the pleasure of getting to know, my son Z-Mo.
The second change was in our perceptions. At first it seemed like Z-Mo seemed genuinely to be testing us, ignoring us immediately
after having been reminded of where he was supposed to be, or what he was supposed to do. Frustration hardly does justice to the
ANGER that I would feel each time he seemed to be ignoring me and disregarding my instructions. It took a VERY long time for
us to realize that in MOST cases Z-Mo WAS listening (as well as any 6 year old listens) and had heard everything we had said
to him, despite his apparent inattention. With that knowledge in hand it was simply a matter of making sure that Z-Mo realized
that having him "appear to pay attention" was just as important to us as his listening.
Z-Mo wants people to like him. He thinks you are sad and wants you not to be unhappy. The apples? The flowers? In his own words
"Cuz I want her not to be so sad." I don't know if you are sad, I suspect you are just exhausted after a long day, but when I think of
the PURITY of his motives, feelings and intentions, and the cruelty(intended or not) of subjecting him to the laughter and ridicule
of his classmates(again in his words, "Cuz I'm always the one on the RED square"); empathize or not, as a father I am angry and
sickened. Fortunately, I don't tend to let my emotions dictate my actions. Once again I have offered you some insight, as a teacher
you will probably understand this phrase better than most. "I made the mistakes, so you don't have to."
The school year is almost over, and I hope the summer brings you a well deserved break. I have no doubt that you would
not intentionally do harm to a child, having selflessly devoted your life and career to helping shape them into students, adults
and parents. Do not hurt this boy. He is the most gentle and caring soul that you could care to meet. If he is noisy, rowdy
disruptive, it is only because he yearns for approval, and to make people happy. He longs for friends and is crushed when
the happy laughter that he loves so much to hear from them is directed derisively at him.
I trust we understand each other.
what's it to you?