Advocacy for Your Child
Last Week I removed my 7 year old from his second grade classroom. There have been numerous examples of inappropriate comments and interactions made by his teacher that I documented and reported to the Principal and to the Superintendent. I will not list names at this point, but I'm sure it would be easy for news media to acquire them should the need arise. What I cannot tell you is what type of disciplinary action, if any, was taken after I submitted my concerns. Why? Because the system is designed to protect the teachers even when emotional abuse is indicated. I was told, "HR has advised us not to discuss disciplinary action."
The following is my first letter of concern that I gave to the teacher and to the principal of my son's school. Names have been changed due to the fact that the school system appears to be on the teacher's side - most likely out of fear that taking a stand might lead to further litigation. That would be costly, wouldn't it? In all fairness to the Principal, he/she stated that his/her hands are tied due to volumes of Human Resources and Teacher's Union protocols. Where does that leave the rights of children and their parents to protect their interests?
Communication #1 between myself, the teacher,
and the principal.
and the principal.
To: 2nd Grade Teacher
From: Mary Varville-Rodriguez
Parent of Child in Room
Date: August 25, 2014 (Monday)
Subj: Confirmation of Conversation
Agreement/Resolution of Concerns
I wish to summarize our conversation regarding concerns that were addressed when we met today at 3:00 p.m. in your classroom with my child (age 6 grade 2) and my other child (age 9 grade 4) present. Thank you for meeting with us to resolve our concerns as follows:
- I explained that we wished to discuss my child’s feelings regarding an interaction you had with him today.
- I expressed that I believe it is important for children to learn how to become self-advocates at a young age.
- I further stated that I was present with my child for two purposes:
* My child sees that I support his communication.
* You will see that I support my child in respectfully
conveying his feelings to you.
conveying his feelings to you.
4. My child explained that he was upset when you told him today that he was “clueless.”
- You did not initially recall this occurrence until my child pointed out it happened during reading time. You asked another child a question and felt that my child was not paying attention. At this point you asked him if he agreed with the other student’s answer. When he did not know you told him he was clueless. Your comment was upsetting to my child. (Additional note I thought of afterward: My child is sensitive to the feelings of his classmates and would certainly not want to disagree with another child’s comments for fear of embarrassing him or her. Perhaps another question could have been, “What did you think about the story? Or…”Who can tell me another thing you remember about that story?”) If a child can’t recall a specific element to the story, a fun reminder of that element could be a way to re-engage those whose mind may have wandered.
- I expressed to you that it is very important for children to feel respected and your comment was not appropriate. I stated there are other ways to encourage increased attention span with this age group.
- We also discussed that some children have different attention spans and that even adults are prone to become distracted.
- You asked my child what would help him pay attention better. He didn’t know. I commented that many adults are unable to respond to that question. A 6 year old may also be unable to specifically articulate a solution to that dilemma.
- I indicated that there are often many distractions in a classroom, including how materials are displayed and presented.
- I further empathized with the dilemma faced by teachers who feel a need to display everything at the beginning of the year. (Perhaps due to limited storage or other factors.)
- We discussed how environment can create a sensory overload that leads to distractibility.
- I also expressed that movement opportunities incorporated into lesson plans are admittedly a challenge, but movement also factors into attention span with this age group.
- I shared with you that my child takes medication every morning for his Asthma and that this may affect his early morning attention. The medication can potentially create drowsiness, especially if he has to sit still for a long time.
- My child also expressed concern that he has not been allowed to refill his water bottle and gets thirsty. I shared that his asthma medication could also cause thirst and require him to refill water bottle.
- I asked my child if there were any factors he could think of that created distractions for him. My child reported that sitting next to Child B is a distraction. You asked him where he could sit that would help him solve the problem. My child agreed that a change to the table immediately on the left would help.
- You apologized to me and to my child regarding the “clueless” comment made today.
- We agreed to the following terms to resolve the concerns presented:
- You reassured us that you would be more conscientious regarding use of words and method of presentation when addressing the children.
- We agreed that there are more positive methods to encourage increased attention span with this age group.
- You moved my child’s work space to another table in the hopes that it would prevent distractions from another student. (I agreed to this after saying, “Only if this doesn’t place the other student affected in a situation that is uncomfortable.”)
- You spoke with my child regarding the water bottle situation and reassured him that he could come to school with a water bottle set to go. You said he could refill the bottle after specials. (I want to add another note here that we did not discuss today: The first day of school you were heard telling your class that they didn’t need “ba-bas” referring to their water bottles. As a teacher I have seen behaviors deteriorate when children are not well hydrated. As a parent I want to make sure my children are not mocked for use of their water bottles during the school day. If adults can have drinks in the classroom the children should also have this opportunity. It’s a long day for everyone.)
- We agreed that my child needs to feel comfortable coming to school each day. He admitted that he had not looked forward to going today because of his concerns. I reported that I want his school experience to be a positive and encouraging experience. He should enjoy attending school and come home excited about what he learned.
- We discussed a way for my child to alert you if he needed to talk to you about a concern so he feels confident expressing himself. You recommended a signal for him to use when a concern comes up and asked him what he would like to use. My child had a hard time deciding what signal to use so I suggested tapping his head with his hand to indicate he had something on his mind. You suggested using two hands opening and closing as if two people were talking. After careful consideration, I would prefer that you not use that sign. I have often seen that sign used when adults or children are mimicking or mocking others when they do not agree with something that is being said or when they are feeling bothered. Consequently, I do not wish to encourage this sign. I have found an alternative if this is acceptable to you. Alternative indication that my child wishes to have a conversation with you: A green timer that he can place on his desk. I found this at Dollar Tree. When you see the timer and are able to meet with him, turn the timer over and let him know he can talk to you in two minutes (the length of time it takes for the sand to run through) when you have reached a point of closure with a lesson. I know you have many classroom obligations to meet and tried to think of a positive way to help manage this.
- I asked my child if he felt comfortable with this plan to create a positive relationship with you as his teacher. He agreed to give this a try for the remainder of this week.
- I am committed to creating a positive learning experience not only for my child, but for the entire classroom. My children are very intuitive regarding what is fair and right not only for themselves, but for their classmates. They feel bad when other children are judged, disrespected, or bullied. We have had many conversations regarding how to be a good advocate for their own interests as well as for those around them.
- I also explained that I will evaluate how my child responds to our agreement. It is my hope that no further occurrences create a need for me to remove my child from your classroom.
Finally, I wish to express that you have the opportunity as a teacher to create a lasting impression regarding how my child and his classmates view their education, their love for learning, and their ability to see that they matter in the big picture. Never forget that you are helping build a foundation for someone’s future. You may be the one source of positive energy in a child’s day. So many stressors are placed on families that children may look to their school environment as a relief, a source of wisdom, and a way to hope for something better. I believe teachers and parents are part of a team. I plan to follow up with you within the next week. It is my hope we can make this a great school year.
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