Monday, May 2, 2016

Dear teacher of my fourth grader! It's a Teacher Appreciation Week here in the United States, and I want to use this opportunity to tell you many things that I tried to express to you during the year and some that I didn't.


I understand that you have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Regardless of what is going on in your personal life, you get up every day, arrive to school at 8 am sharp and face the room of 28 kids. You were there when you injured your foot and had it in the special boot cast. You were there when your throat was so hoarse that you could barely whisper. You were there a couple of days after a death in your family. For your tenacity and your commitment to your job, I am grateful.
I understand that 28 kids in your room are incredibly diverse. You are a Silicon Valley teacher, so many of your students speak more than one language. Some read on college level, some are still struggling with both decoding and comprehension. You are expected to do magic and ensure that they are "proficient" with fourth grade curriculum while supporting what our school labels as critical skills of 21st century - collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. This would be a tall order even if you did not have kids in your class who force you to spend your time and energy on classroom management. But you try your best, and for that I am grateful.
I wish, however, that I got to know you more this year. Oh, yes, I know some things about you. I know that you like chocolate covered pretzels. I know that you have two adult daughters. I know that teaching was not what you originally set out to do. I even know that you are deeply religious. But I keep wishing that you and I spent more time together. I wish you would at least once wrote me an email telling me how my daughter is getting on in your classroom and how you are accommodating her own unique needs of being two grades ahead of her physical age. I wish you would look at me as your partner in my child's education.
That did not happen. After all, my daughter is a high achiever and she is easily able to meet standards of your classroom. She is not a problem child, so her behavior never warranted parent contact. She does not object doing repetitive work that she has mastered years ago... at least on most days. She is just fine, isn't she? And, if you define "fine" as being able to meet 4th grade standards, then she is certainly fine. If we define "fine" as seeing school as a place of learning, not a place to go hang out with friends, then we could have done better this year. 
Nevertheless, my daughter likes you. She spent an hour in the store trying to select a perfect gift for you. She tries to please you and make you proud. And, just as every teacher before you, you will be part of her personal history. And for that, I am grateful.

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3 comments:

Ticia said...

What a great letter.

shelah moss said...

This is such a wonderful letter. Teachers deserve our appreciation and gratitude. They do so much for our children.

JL said...

K would have had a difficult time with repetition. She resisted even with me. Some kids are able to sit still through it all. K would not have been. She's rather squirmmy. Last year, I got her to participate in the book club lasts an hour and a half. She was able to sit through it by keeping her hands busy. She us at an age where she can handle it better.

I agree with you that teachers have much too much on their hands. I feel that at the elementary level especially, it's the relationship that matters most. It's good that Smarty likes her teacher. It would have been far worse if the personality of the teacher did not mesh with the student.