Each year, The Dormouse's school holds a "Back to School Night" as I'm sure do most schools.  The idea is for the kids to come with parents and find their classrooms, meet their teachers, etc. so they will feel comfortable on the first day.  Our district holds this Back to School Night solidly at the end of the second week every year because OF COURSE THEY DO.  Ignoring the logic of that, let me describe what happened last year at Back to School Night:

Teacher sees me from across the room and comes up to me.

Me, trying to say, something to the effect of 'Hi, I'm Alice, I'm The Dormouse's mother and this is my husband, The KingofHearts, her father,' but only really getting out: "Hah...." before she interrupts me.

Her:  *smiling big*  "I have to tell you, your daughter is SO LOUD.  And she talks ALL. THE. TIME."  *emphatic hand gestures*

Good to meet you to, ma'am.  Thanks for the great first impression.

We talked for a little while and the entire time she never said one positive thing about my child.

But I'm kind of in love with teachers so as the year progressed I tried to shrug that off and chalk that up to the ridiculousness of putting thirty-some-odd sets of parents in a room at the same time and expecting a single teacher to talk to them all individually.  The problem was as the year progressed, things didn't actually improve all that much.  Look, we know our kid has a loud voice and talks too much.  We know she has focus issues.  For hell's sake, SHE knows that.  But we also know that there are at least fifteen kids in the class who fall into the same category - all of whom have been in the same class together since Kindergarten.  We know that behavior is something we have to work on with her.  We are working on that with her.  But I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that that's not the only thing about our kid that defines her.  And as second grade progressed, it seemed like for that teacher at least, it kinda sorta was.  

I dealt with that teacher as professionally and as courteously as I could.  I asked her to help us work with our daughter.  I asked for behavior plans and strategies.  I admitted The Dormouse was responsible for her own behavior.  I also asked her to realize that when fifteen other kids are talking it's hard not to join in and when you reprimand only the one with the loudest voice, that doesn't really send the right message.  Basically, the only response I ever got was "she just needs to shut up."  Yeah, got that, lady.

I'm not saying that last year was horrible, but it could easily have been better.  It would have probably helped immensely had the teacher taken any one of the three recommended training courses provided to teachers who are working with kids like The Dormouse, but she didn't.  She just told me that she gives them "extra" when they get bored.  Extra work? Extra beatings?  Extra what, I asked.  She never could satisfactorily answer that question.  Needless to say, I wasn't sorry to see second grade go and spent my time this summer looking forward to third.

So when we got ready to head out to Back to School Night yesterday, I actually had high hopes.  New year.  New outlook. Same group of talking seven year olds, but hey, new teacher.  I should have known what I was in for when The KingofHearts got stuck in traffic and could neither attend nor help me wrangle The Caterpillar so she began running circles around the classroom with all the grace of a hamster on a wheel.

I should have known when the video from the principal ended and the teacher forgot to turn off the television, so it reverted to regular TV and a scene from How I Met Your Mother of two naked people in bed.

I should have known when The Dormouse walked up to me in the back of the room during the teachers' speech, hiked up her skirt, reached into her underwear, pulled out her hand and handed me a domino.

I actually was fairly impressed with this teacher.  She seems to have done a lot of preparation for this year, has strategies in place, has done some continuing education and plans to do more.  So I was pretty hopeful when she approached me and introduced herself.  Then she followed it with:

"I have to tell you, there has already been an issue with talking too much and we need to get her to quiet down and focus on her work."


We talked about that for a bit, me saying I know and we're working on that and blah blah blahs, we support her in her behavior plan some other such tripe but what can you really get into when you have seconds only while other parents are forming a cue behind you? Then she moved onto another parent.

I only realized when she began talking to the other parent (of another talkative kid I personally know) and she started off by saying, "Let me tell you, little Jill is sweet and really excited to learn and she's going to be great to have in class...." that that teacher hadn't said one positive thing about my daughter in our interaction.   

Look, I know everyone thinks their preshus, speshul, miracle is God's gift to elementary school education and perfect in every way.  I'm no different.  So I don't expect teachers to bow down and thank me for my kid's presence in their classroom (though that would be nice occasionally).  I'm a therapist, not a teacher, and I get that real world managing a classroom of thirty or so rugrats is totally different from doing a one on one or a small group.  But my understanding from educational research I've read makes me expect that my kid should get at least as much positive reinforcement as negative.  More would be better.  I don't think it's unreasonable to be able to focus on some of the positives my kid has too.  Especially when the kids have been home for five of the first ten days of school due to hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages and building closures.  Frankly, there's been a lot to talk about.

I'm still pretty cranky about the whole thing and trying to separate my own issues from The Dormouse's, but as I was talking to her about her behavior in school, she said something that made my heart weep:

"I'm just not a good student."

This, from a child who has never gotten a grade lower than an A.

But one who spent almost the entirety of last year getting reprimanded for her behavior.  Behavior, I would argue, that was being exhibited by a good half of the class but that she was in many cases singled out for because she happens to have a louder voice than the others.  She's already starting to think this is just who she is, the 'bad student' for whom math is hard.  Children rise to meet your expectations and I don't want her meeting this particular ideal.

Enough about this bothered me that I decided to sit down and draft an email to the teacher.  I began it with thanking her for all the preparation she's done and acknowledging The Dormouse's issues, but pointing out that we rarely heard positives from teachers in the past (I hate to point fingers, but it's going to be obvious who that teacher is) so I'd like to tell her a few of my daughter's good qualities and strategies that work for her too. 

I still am undecided about whether to send this letter, but I don't want to do nothing until parent teacher conferences, which aren't for another three months.  I want to address this now in positive ways, but I don't know whether this is just going to make the teacher defensive and the situation worse.  On the other hand, I know a lot of parents who provide each new teacher with a prepared sheet of paper that describes their child, his strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn't for him.  This is no different, right?  On the other hand, it's also entirely possible that I'm overreacting.  On the other hand, maybe I should just let the Interweb tell me what to do.  Your thoughts?  But on the other hand...  there is no other hand!

Parenting is hard.