Back At Ya

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

December 8, 2009

Dear First name of Teacher,
Thank you for your response to my November 24th 2009 letter regarding the use of bathroom and water bottles. I am enclosing a copy for your reference.

While I appreciate your feeling that no one is being put through “unusual restrictions”, I respectfully disagree.  Your verbal statement during the parent teacher portfolio evening that it was distracting for some children to have water bottles in class, therefore you banned all water bottles seemed a bit heavy handed. I inquired if Emily was one of those children with whom you had experienced a specific disruption or behavioral issue around the use of water bottles. You answered No. I further inquired if you felt free to have a beverage with you during your time in the classroom. You indicated your coffee maker in the back of the room. I questioned whether the students might not perceive, as I did, a double standard around your concerns about drinking in the classroom.  Surely, if you are able to maintain your concentration around a beverage, there have got to be children who can also do so. I further suggested that perhaps you can wait until recess or class breaks to drink your coffee to maintain an aura of equal rules for all people in the classroom.

You further indicated that the children are free to use the “fountain.” As pointed out in my previous letter, I would prefer that Emily Not use the common water fountain. Surely, in this era where children are being asked to use hand sanitizer upon their entry into the school building, the use of a common fountain where any person can put their mouth on the faucet and transfer any number of viruses or bacteria cannot be considered to be “best” preventative health practices.

Respect is an active two way street. In my experience, students do not respect a teacher who does not respect them. I would suggest that by not allowing water bottles, or requiring that a child in puberty be required to plead his or her case to you as to why they need to use the bathroom in front of their peers is fundamentally disrespectful. Furthermore, I would suggest that applying a “rule” that applies to all children due to the behavior or concerns of behavior amongst a few is disrespectful.  As you know, students of this age have a very keen sense of fair and unfair. Experiencing the consequences of your own actions is helpful. Experiencing the consequences of others actions in the form of restrictions or punishments is punitive.

I know there are other teachers, Cycle 2 and 3, who allow water bottles to be present in their classroom. If a child abuses the privilege, then that child is dealt with on a case by case basis.

I know that there are other teachers who have a system of bathroom passes in which a child would merely take the bathroom pass on an as needed basis, use the facilities and return when they were finished.  To my knowledge, this doesn’t cause undo disruptions as the students are able to self regulate their turns in the bathroom.

Towards a different matter, my Husband and I were both very concerned by your unfamiliarity with Emily’s IEP information. To start off your discussion with my husband with the statement “Emily has multiple issues” is not one I would normally suggest when trying to build a good parent school connection. To follow that statement with a criticism of Emily’s “lack of attention” citing her need to “ask you to repeat directions” troubled us greatly. It is clear in Emily’s IEP that Emily needs clear directions, preferably in written form, so she can rely on her tool box of skills to self guide. Furthermore, when I suggested that Emily needs tactile math materials and you seemed unfamiliar with the term, I must confess a loss of faith in your ability to provide the best educational setting for my daughter.  Had you been thoroughly familiar with Emily’s IEP, you would know that as a child with non-medicated ADHD, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Speech and Language issues and a slight brain injury that Yes – she has attention issues. She needs to be placed in a spot in the classroom in which she is not easily distracted. She needs tactile math materials, as simply telling her how to solve a problem, or giving her timed minute quizzes does not activate her best learning modality.  Yes, she has spelling issues since she has difficulty in hearing the individual phonemes in any given word, which is why she has been receiving speech and language support since she was 3.  My husband and I spoke at length with XXX  XXXXX  as to the content of Emily’s IEP, and he assured us that he would work with you to make it clear the modifications that need to be made to help Emily be successful.

Finally, the issue of responding to notes in the agenda or workbooks. It was always our understanding that if the parents wrote in the agenda, and by extension, the workbooks, that we would get a written response from the teacher. As I expressed on Thursday the 3rd, we have written a couple of notes as to the accurateness of material presented in both the math and grammar workbooks.  As Terrance and I physically sit with Emily and check over her homework, we are quite attuned to the material coming home.  We had not received any indication from you that you received these concerns. You stated on the 3rd that you address these indications “with the class as needed”. I would like to emphasize that this is not enough for Terrance or I.  We have always maintained a close relationship and fluid communication with whomever Emily’s teacher(s) may be.  I feel very strongly about a strong home/school connection being an integral part of a successful education, both in my roles as Parent and Educator.  We need to know we are being heard and responded to, as well as being kept up to date and informed of life in the classroom by you. In this way, we can make sure that we are all on the same page and supporting the same goals.

I would also like to extend the offer of my educational consulting experience. I have a wide background in classroom observation and assessment and would be happy to come and observe. In fact, up until last year, I regularly came to Emily’s classrooms to observe. In fact, her K-1 Teacher, Ms Deb, became my collaborator in my Master’s Thesis – which became my Doctoral Dissertation

Terrance and I are happy to meet and discuss these concerns further. It seems that a meeting regarding Emily’s IEP would be the most logical place in which to begin. I expect that Mr. TXX  will be contacting us with the revised IEP per our discussion with him on the 3rd.

I look forward to your response.

Cc: Ms. Principal
Cycle Three Teachers – Mrs X, Ms XX , Ms XXX
IEP Coordinator
(The reason all these people are cc'ed? She decided to CC all of these people on her response to me (written on MY letter) Two can play the CC game.)

15 Baleful Regards:

Lauren said...

Wow. That is a fearsome letter. Great job, mama bear.

Violet said...

That is, truly, a magnificent response.

Diane Evans said...


Jaelithe said...

Ah, BDTD with the passive-aggressive CCing of responses to my complaint letters to certain persons at my son's school.

Pssst. Dawn. If you can bear contemplating moving to the states again, the school my kid is at now goes through 8th grade . . .

Jaelithe said...

Oh, and P.S. if you ever feel like starting your Own Damn School I will absolutely volunteer send my kid there, and to teach English. With correct grammar.

MG said...

You are awesome.

Bethany said...

Even I know what tactile math materials are. Excellent letter.

jwg said...

You know, you could have a nice little side business writng letters for other people who lack your ability to skewer with elegance. I look forward to the next installment. can't you get her moved to another class?

MarciaAnn said...

As always, Dawn, when the mama (and papa) bear are in protection mode - no holds barred

It was a masterful letter and I'm loving the ending "In fact, her K-1 Teacher, Ms Deb, became my collaborator in my Master’s Thesis – which became my Doctoral Dissertation"

It's awful she's policing the drinks and bathroom usage. I hope things work out and I too know how to play the cc game!

PS we just got 8" of snow in Standish, probably 5 in Portland

Blue House Studio World HQ said...

A most impressive letter. I believe that in this sentence, "I would like to emphasize that this is not enough for Terrance or I." it should be "Terrance or me."

Without looking it up, that is what my personal, pissy grammameter says. I could be wrong but I don't think so.

Dawn said...

I concede the point edgyiam - Perhaps in my brain I said "Terrance nor I"...Writing this letter - like much of my writing happens in one fully formed swoosh. I have lovingly called it my "Athena" writing...I rarely make drafts or think too long - I just channel it.

She and all the other teachers got this today. I got a note in the agenda letting me know she had received it.

I worry that I was almost too mean. My words can be barbed in the extreme and there are several harsh and jagged things embedded in those paragraphs. On the other hand, I know how she has dealt with many of the former families in her room - and she has not been kind.

I almost felt like I needed to do an almighty smackdown in order to bring her up short...get her attention - since all my usual bells and whistles and notes didn't seem to be making an impact.

This got her attention - as it did all the other Cycle three teachers, the Principal, the Special Ed coordinator and every one else who has now seen the letter.

And MarciaAnn - It is snowing like hell here now - ALL DAY LONG - Icy rain tonight, and more snow tomorrow. I regret complaining about the rain before!

Jen from Inside My Head said...

That is one extremely well worded letter. I used to be a paraeducator in Special Education, and I cannot imagine that what this teacher is doing (ahem.. NOT doing) is legal. Or, would be legal here, in CA.

I hope this all gets straightened out in your child's favor very soon. That has got to be so incredibly frustrating.

Nicole said...

I just happened upon your blog and am so subscribing! I love your letter, and I love the example of how to be involved with your child's education.

I'm a mother of almost 4. My oldest is in 1st grade so I'm just starting on this journey. Last year was great. This year we're at a new school which has made it clear that the parents' role is to drop kids off, pick them up and show up to conferences. This is NOT OK with me but I've been unsure of how far to take this...or even how to go about reminding my school that we're a team educating my son together.

So THANK YOU! I'm off to read more, and subscribe!

(NicoleJL on Twitter)

Amanda said...

Your letter gave me chills. I LOVE your comment of the need for an almighty smack down. I felt much the same way in a recent situation. I however got very little resolution except pacification. Annoying as hell.

Unknown said...

Don't mess with mama bear. Love it!!

I have so been here on two separate occasions. Once had an old school teacher who would not allow drinks of any kind except at lunch or one recess. It would be 110 f degrees where we lived in California with kids going to school in August (year-round school tracks) while playing at a new school which was all blacktop and no trees/shade and she wouldn't let them drink. Furthermore, she made them hold bathroom breaks the same way. My son had a diagnosed medical condition where he was disgnosed neurologically unable to fully empty his bladder. He needed frequent bathroom breaks, on medication, and he was being told to "hold it." She didn't feel it was right to make exceptions and drinking was distracting. We took her on, the principal on, and finally said fuck it, I resigned as president of that #$%^ school's PTA and moved out of the state and to the best school district we could afford. Haven't looked back once. What a difference of night and day.

Sounds like your teacher and that bitch had much in common because she also was never without her coffee mug. What a hypocrite. To me, what she was doing was beyond dangerous and left limp, dehydrated kids easy to bend to her will, but also unable to absorb anything. I hope the universe gives her what she gave some day. A hot fiery place in hell.

Anyway, thanks for the great post. I stumbled it. I am sure there are more out there who have been through this torture with their kid's teacher.

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