Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Suburbs, Part 1

It was a hard week out in Woodbury. I've often heard that the only thing worse than parents who are not involved in their kids' schooling is parents who are involved. I've visited, in one way or another, with four sets of parents in the last three weeks, all but one on their own initiative.

TL sent a note to F's father, telling him that he was observing F in class while I taught, and that she was having difficulty staying on task. I was unaware that the email was even sent, but the next day, there was a note in my email box forwarded from TL, it was from F's dad.

According to F's father, F and other [unnamed] students found me to be condescending and rude. TL defended me admirably, noting that he had rarely left me alone in the classroom, "I have not seen him be rude or condescending to students, or inappropriate in any other way," he wrote. He talked about issues that students often have with student teachers, about trust and and about how short of a time I had had to earn that trust. He invited Mr. F to talk with me if he wanted, but gently pushed the matter toward closure.

It felt good to be supported in that way. Teachers are so isolated in the classroom. When a student accuses a teacher of something, it is really difficult to dispute it. You can only stand on your reputation and your word. In addition, I sometimes find myself wondering if I did, in fact, make a mistake, even when it is out of character or the exact opposite of my own recollection of events. Many times, my perceptions can be flawed and I need to bounce things off of another person to get a fair read of a situation. In the classroom, unless there is an EA present, or it is a rare evaluation by a administrator, teachers do not have that luxury. I was glad that TL was observing and that he did not see me as condescending or rude.

The next day, I received another forward from TL: an email to me, from Mr. F. It was very long and full of suggestions. For someone who is not a teacher and who had never met me or seen me in the classroom, he seemed to have a lot of answers for my "problems."

There were a lot of things that I wanted to respond with. I wanted to invite him to observe my classroom. I wanted to present him with my resume and my qualifications. I wanted to debate classroom management and behavior management with him until he realized that I know a little bit about this stuff.

Those were all terrible ideas. I didn't need to bounce that perception off of anybody.

I answered him with just a few polite lines:

" Mr. F, Thanks for your input. I had a chat with
F this morning and we agreed that we would chalk this matter up to a 'bad day' and start with a clean slate. We had an engaging, exciting class today with lots of participation from the students. F was one of the most consistent participants. I'm confident that F and I can move on in a positive direction from here."

I did speak with F that day, just to make sure that things were okay between the two of us. She seemed confused and assured me that we could start over with no hard feelings. At the end of our conversation, she asked me, "one thing, what does condescending mean?"

I'm not sure what to think.