If there is one lesson I have learned as both a teacher and mother, it is this: During the first month of the new Parent/Teacher/caregiver relationship, it is REALLY important that all parties set a good tone. The Teacher/caregiver is the lead in this new relationship, as the parent is pretty vulnerable and in a defensive position by default. I mean - this is their KID and regardless if you have 29 others in the room and have been doing this for umpteen billion years this is still THEIR CHILD.
They have resisted the urges to drown this child during screaming fits about parsley on her plate at a restaurant. They have not yet left this child by the side of the road after enduring 4 hours of "Blues Big Musical Adventure" or more frequently these days, the waxing poetic of the skillz of the Jonas Brothers or vocal stylings of Miley Cyrus. They have not yet stabbed the other parent during a fight about the others parenting style/skills/ability. With this child entering puberty, the temptation to flee her becomes and turn to drinking becomes stronger. In short, they have made it to this point on the strength of their fear of prison alone.
Your job - as teacher - is to make sure the parent understands that you know their child is special. That you are listening to them. That you know they are listening to you. You need to project humor. Confidence. The general aura of "everything is going to be all right - we'll get through this together."
I can speak to this job, because I have done it. I have calmed hysterical parents of both genders when they flip their shit about very small things. I have conveyed that they are not being silly and that I completely understand their concern, because this beginning time in the parent/teacher/caregiver relationship is as important as this time in the Teacher/Child relationship. A misstep on the teachers part during this phase can take forever to repair ...if Ever.
Which brings me to the lecture I, and others, received last Wednesday night. During the curriculum night at my daughters school. When we were supposed to be hearing about CURRICULUM and the PLAN for the school year.
I don't have to tell any of you that I am a keen observer of other teachers. I've made a living of it so far. I know the messages being broadcast between words...because I have crafted and delivered those messages. I still do.
Of the four teachers that my daughter could have gotten for the next two year cycle, we seem to have drawn the Eeyore of the lot. It isn't simply her age, of which it is indeterminate, it is her manner...her persona. Her terrible, terrible teeth.
We kind of guessed on the first day when Terrance and I corralled her after school to seek clarification on WHICH oxford concise dictionary she wanted for the class list. I mean - there are LOTS of versions of this dictionary. A school Edition, a hardcover - one edited in 2004, or in 2005. Being two oldest children, Terrance and I wanted to make sure that we provided the PRECISE one on the list.
There we stood. Dawn and Terrance - both speaking to the teacher. Asking questions about this dictionary. Because Terrance and Dawn make sure that the teacher and child have the exact thing they requested on the first day of school. Lists are made to be respected!!
She looked at us as if we had both lost our minds. Which could well be true...BUT. The correct response SHOULD have been. "Wow! I was unaware that there were so many versions - The school edition is fine..."
Her answer, "What? Didn't I put it on the list? Cause that is the one I want."
Silence as Terrance and Dawn stare back at her...having been pretty sure they collectively just explained that what she had on the LIST had many versions - did she have one in mind?
Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick...............
"well - it doesn't matter - its for her home study space anyway...."
and with that she turned away from us. To be fair, she was getting kids lined up for the bus which I know is a hectic operation, BUT.....
"I don't think I like her", I muttered to Terrance. He rolled his eyes, "You don't like anybody."
Ok. Fair enough. I OWN that judgment.
Now comes the careful questioning of Emily. What did SHE think of the teacher? How did SHE feel in the classroom?
As any 5th grader, Emily is most concerned about 1. What friends are in the class and 2. How much homework she will be expected to produce.
As far as she is concerned, she likes the majority of girls in her class and so far, the homework is manageable. Life is pretty good.
"But", she said," Mrs XX reminded us that the school shirt uniforms are mandatory and she is going to be checking to make sure we are wearing our shirts. And we can't have pants with any stripes or anything on them."
Shirts, as you will later learn, are quite a sore spot with me. That is story to be told in this larger story arc, but not yet. Suffice it to say that I boycotted the required shirts LAST year, sending her in with plain white shirts rather than those with the crest silk screened on them.
Emily pushes me. "I brought you the order form home so you can fill it out and I will take it back tomorrow cause I need to have these shirts or I am going to get in trouble. Mrs XX says she will give us a couple of weeks to get our shirts but after that, we'll be in trouble..."
Grrrrr. Fine. I fill out the order form and cheque for 200 bucks and send it back into the school. In fact, ALL forms get filled out and returned, with all cheques for the school year fees. 225 for this, 60 for that, 150 for the other....another 200 for the shirts...100 bucks for girl guides renewal. Sigh.
Emily delivers the shirt order to her teacher to be passed down the the office.
"Did she see that you were ordering shirts? That she can hold off on giving you the shirt lecture cause they are coming?"
On Friday, Emily brings me back the order and cheque. "Mrs XXX said the office said you need to order online - can you order as soon as we get home cause I am going to get in trouble if I don't have these shirts..."
And, that, my friends, is all this whole fiasco began.