Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dear Parent of the Average Child

A confession and apology from your daughter's busy teacher.
By Genevieve Hawtree,

Dear Parent of the Average Child,

I'm sorry. Your child is wonderful. She is always at school on time, does her homework most everyday, works well on her own and is patient with those around her.  I really wanted to tell your daughter how proud I was of the work she was doing today.  I was about to but you see I had a young girl over in the corner crying because she hadn't had breakfast. Another was tromping around the classroom in winter boots. It's May.  When I asked her to change she told me she didn't have any other shoes. I needed to send my educational assistant down to the office to see if we had food and extra shoes in lost and found.  Oh and over in the other corner there was a boy screaming at the top of his lungs because, well, no one is sure why. He is on a list to see a specialist -- they hope to have a plan in place for him soon. Of course it has been three months, but the specialist teacher is overworked and only at our school a few days a week so we have to be patient.  More children trickled in. One girl told me that her backpack is at mom's but she was at dad's last night. He forgot to send a lunch. She also wanted to tell me about her dad's new girlfriend but she told me I wasn't to tell her  mom because it's a secret. A young boy told me his cat died last night. Another lost a tooth! Exciting until he saw the blood -- then the fear set in.From 'crisis to crisis'.  A child came in a little late looking afraid and tentative. She watched carefully what was going on but was too afraid to join in. Everyone agrees the child's fears aren't normal and she needs some counselling but there are only so many hours in a day. They might be able to see her for one or two sessions next month. Your daughter, wonderful child that she is, helped her put away her things and led her to her desk.  I was about to head over and say thank you but I noticed three boys playing rough. I ran over to stop them and had a conversation about expected behaviour at school. I threw in a lesson on non-violence while I was at it.  I turned back to look for your daughter. I hadn't forgotten that I want to check in with her but I looked up and realized I should probably begin teaching the lesson of the day. I tell myself I will check in with her later. This was all before 9 a.m. Many other things happened during the day and it was very difficult for me to check in with your wonderful daughter. Students with learning disabilities, diagnosed and not. Students with special needs and with behaviour problems. Students who are needier or put up their hand more often. Students who yell louder.  I realized after a day of running from child to child and crisis to crisis: I never did get a chance to check in with her today. I don't mean to leave your daughter alone but she seems to be doing just fine without me. I hope it is true. I'm sorry. I feel terrible.Would you mind telling her how proud I am of her? Let her know I appreciate her? I will check in with her tomorrow.  

 Authors Note:

I have 23 little treasures in my room. I care about them all. I want to teach them all and see them all succeed. I've had more days like this one than I would like to admit. When I think about a classroom without class limits or I think about a school system with even less specialist teachers and less services for our students, I worry. I wonder how many average kids go unseen everyday. I honestly don't think I can do this job under those conditions. Some days I wonder how I do it now.  I know for a fact I won't be able to do it well.  

Please, please please understand how important this issue is.  I didn't become a teacher for the paycheck or the glory. I became a teacher because I wanted to help kids do amazing things with their lives.  I want that for all my students. I want to do my job well. That means that I need the tools to do that. This includes a reasonable class size and help from specialist teachers. That is why I'm willing to take a 10% pay cut and walk out in spite of the threats. For me isn't about the money. Its about the kids.

 Genevieve Hawtree is a Grade 1 French immersion teacher in Kelowna, B.C., and the mother of three boys. She maintains a blog where this article first appeared.


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