Thursday, April 12, 2012

Your Teacher Said WHAT?

Finn has had a hard year in school this year. For the first time ever, he's been insecure and uncomfortable at school on a somewhat regular basis.  Chuck and I have had several meetings with his teacher and we manage to maintain a good rapport while keeping in close contact about his progress.  He HAS made steady progress all year.  His teacher has told us how well behaved he is (most of the time) and how he flourishes in his favorite subjects (art and science).

Yet somehow, despite all of the positives we hear from his teacher, Finn has continually told us about how is teacher is mean and says mean things to kids and how he "threatens" the whole class all of the time.  When I ask for examples, he's give me scenarios like this:
"Well the boys wouldn't listen and kept laughing at him and so he says things like, 'you guys will be lucky if you ever get out of 4th grade. or 'that's fine boys. have fun.  but i'll have the last laugh when you never make it out of the 4th grade because you can't follow directions'"  
When I hear these I think to myself....This class is pretty wild but dang he sounds burned out.  Maybe he needs a vacay.  Wonder if he reallly likes teaching??  Having been a teacher for a lot of years myself, I try really hard to give teachers a chance. Benefit of the doubt.  Yada yada yada. 

Until a teacher crosses the line.

Finn came home yesterday and asked me (as I FLEW out the door, kissed him on the head, and ran with Stell in tow to the car to go and get Hailey "Mom I really don't like Mr. G anymore.  I need to seriously ask you...can I take a couple of days off?"  Since I was in a hurry, I quickly asked him if he'd gotten in trouble (let's face it...always possible).  He said no and I said, "Ok please tell me alllll about it when I get home."
When I finally got home, he ran outside to see a friend for a bit and I started dinner.  It wasn't long before Maddy came home from her game, had a meltdown as we finished up dinner, and proceeded to talk and cry with me for over and hour.  She needed me.  She was really frustrated after a terrible soccer game (WHOLE NUTHA POST) and was in serious need of support and a reality check.  She needed her Mommy. 
I then had to go get Hailey from gym.
I finally get home at 920 and Finn comes up to say, "Please tuck me in." complete with heavy sigh.
I rushed downstairs and he reminds me..".I need to talk to you."

And here is what he said, "Mom.  How and what do I need to do to get a teacher fired?  (serious as a heart attack)"  I explained to him that it wasn't all that easy.  Depends on a lot.  What in the world happened?
"Well, you know I lost my agenda a while back?" Nod. "Mr. G asked me if I'd finished my word work.  You know it's all due on Friday and it was ONLY Wednesday and I hadn't done any yet. (that's my boy!) So I told him I hadn't done any and he shrugged his shoulders and told me to bring him my agenda.  I had to tell  him AGAIN that it was lost (it's been lost for a month) and he told me I had to find it. I told him I'd looked everywhere at school and at home and just couldn't find it.  (we knew it disappeared at school because he lost it on a day I picked him up early)  So he said to me,
'I'm really sick of all the stupidity Finn.'

I literally sucked in my breath, counted to five slowly and then said, "Your teacher said what?"  Finn repeated the story slowly and carefully.  Twice.  And then he finally added, "I don't think he really meant to call me stupid Mom.  But I know that he doesn't think I'm very smart.  Now Mom, I need to ask you something?  What are you going to do?  You don't look so good."  I hugged him tight, kissed him goodnight, told him he was the smartest 10 year old boy I'd ever known and that  I was going to call his Daddy.  He said, "Are you going to talk to my teacher Mom?"   Me-"No"  Him-"OK.  Why not?" 
Me-Deep breath, calm voice (which may be the scariest part for the poor little guy)
"Because if I were to talk with him now, or even in the morning, I would punch him in his face."

He chuckled a little and said, "Great.  That's what I was afraid of."  I reminded him that his Daddy would be my voice of reason until I could focus and process.

After a phone call to Chuck, an email to the principal, and an email to the teacher, I received a phone call from Mr. G.  He did not confirm or deny the words he said to my only son.  He did however listen to what I had to say.

I don't know the exact words you used with Finn yesterday because I wasn't there. Finn told me exactly what he remembers and the phrase he presented was this, "I'm really sick of the stupidity, Finn." over a missing agenda that has been missing for about a month.  His dad and I didn't want to get into an email war because we didn't want a He said/He said conversation.  So what I ask of you now is  to listen to what  I need to say.  
He politely agreed.
I chose to move my family to a neighborhood I can barely afford for one reason.  Sharon Elementary School.  I have always loved Sharon for two reason.  Positive Discipline (PD) and Multiple Intelligences (MI).
 PD is extremely important to me as an educator and as a parent.  I have built my entire child centered life around PD because I feel it encourages children to make choices, communicate effectively and learn how to deal with consequences in a safe setting...all of which help to develop a positive self image.
I love MI because it reminds us that we are all smart in some area.  We can't all read 1000 words per minute OR make perfect scores on standarized tests, but we can all do something of value.
Sharon School, and the teachers who work there, have a responsibilty to learn, understand, and implement these philosophies.  Most of our experiences here have met our philosophical expectations.
If the words you chose to say to my boy today were kind, firm, and used to teach him a lesson about organization- then I can stand behind you 100% and we can continue to work together to help Finn achieve his goals. 
If the words you chose to say to my boy were unkind and or unhelpful, then I need to ask you NOT to make that mistake again.  He is a sensitive guy and will probably remember what you said to him for a long time.   Please think about what you say to these children.  Finn has two academically gifted sisters.  He's in the lowest reading group in his class.  He has to go to tutoring while his friends get to play.  It's NOT ok for you to use the word stupid, in any context, while referring to my son or any other student.  You know that. It's PD 101.

His comment?  "Yes Ma'am. I am so so sorry that Finn thinks I don't think he's smart.  I would like to talk to him tomorrow about all of the great things he's accomplished this year.  I want him to know that I truly believe he has artistic talent and that I think he's an awesome kid.  If you'd still like to meet with me and the principal, I can show you all the great things he's done."

Dude...he's my kid.  I  know how great he is.   DO YOU?

I will be having that meeting with him, the principal and his Daddy.  Hopefully it will be short and sweet.  I think I have said all I need to say.  But in all fairness...Daddy needs his turn. 


Daricia, A Charlotte Garden said...

stupid is not a word that applies to finn. at all. that makes me so sad and angry!

kendalee said...

Wow, Suzy, I am so blown away by how beautifully you handled that! I was absolutely fuming as I was reading the story and am pretty sure I'd have stormed down there and blown a complete (and not very constructive) verbal fuse (if I was able to resist the punch)!!!

Just the way Finn has chosen to deal with the whole situation (by talking it through with you in such a thoughtful way) is a testament to what a special child he obviously is and to your great parenting!

I really hope that teacher takes what you have said to heart, head and action.