I am not very impressed with Bird’s second grade teacher this year. I’m not sure why this teacher was given two of the brightest kids in the grade because it seems that she resents them and has no idea what to do with them. I could start with a list of issues that I have with her, a list that is growing by the day, but I think I’ll focus on just one thing. Because if she did this one thing, then all the other issues I have with her would fade in the light of this one, big, huge positive thing.
I wish that she made the kids feel like she was happy they are in her class and that she was happy to be there with them. Maybe she isn’t happy to be there, but that’s not the point. Her job is to help kids learn and date shows that kids learn when they feel valued, not when they feel like they are an annoyance.
I asked Bird, “Does your teacher tell you guys good things about yourselves? Like, does she ever tell you how happy she is to be in class that day?”
“No. She usually seems snappy with us.”
“Huh. I’m sure she is happy to be there.”
“She doesn’t seem happy.”
“Hmm, well, does she ever tell any of you, ‘Gosh, I’m so glad you’re in my class?’ Like does she say that to anyone in the class at all, or to you?”
“No. She just tells me I need to stop being so sensitive and to stop ‘Mrs. Elder’ing’ her.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means to stop asking her questions. I ask a lot of questions. I don’t think she likes that.”
“I see. Well, does she ever say, ‘You ask great questions!'”
“No, Mom, I just told you she doesn’t like me to ask questions.”
(DANGER WILL ROBINSON!)
“Oh, hmm. Does she ever tell the class, ‘We’re going to have a great day!”
“No. She says, ‘Sit down, stop talking, get out your papers.'”
“Does she ever say, ‘Wow, this was a great job you did.'”
“To her favorites, yeah.”
“Who are her favorites?”
She named a few people.
“Are you a favorite?”
“How do you know?”
“You can tell who her favorites are. She calls on them a lot more and tells them they did a good job.”
“So she never tells you that?”
“No. She tells me, ‘Not now, Bird. Ask later, Bird. Don’t Mrs. Elder me, Bird.'”
“Oh. Hm. Well, does she ever call on you?”
“Sometimes. If no one else has their hand up, she’ll call on me.”
“Does she ever call on Nicholas?” I ask, because he is, aside from Bird, the other super-smart kid in the class, and I thought perhaps she doesn’t call on them because she wants to challenge other children.
“No, because he wants her to call on him really badly, so she won’t call on him.”
“What do you mean?”
“He puts his hand up and waves it and moans and groans because he knows she won’t call on him, and she said, ‘If you keep doing that, I won’t call on you.’ I guess she doesn’t want him to want to answer so much.”
“But that’s bull…uh, I mean, interesting. So, does she tell Nicholas that he did a good job?”
“So she doesn’t on a regular basis tell any of you, individually or as a group, that she likes you, is happy to see you, and that you’re doing a good job at anything?”
“No. She isn’t that kind of person. She is the kind of person who says, ‘Turn a card! No excuses! Now isn’t the time! Don’t Mrs. Elder me!'”
And while I’m coming to the conclusion that this teacher is rather awful, I’m also aware that all of her negative stuff, all of the times when she tells Bird to not be so sensitive and has her turn a card and says ‘no excuses’ and says now isn’t the time for a question would be offset if only she regularly and often made deposits into the children’s emotional bank accounts, individually and as a group. Just things like, “I’m happy you’re in my class!” or “You make my day brighter with your smiles!” can go a long way to offset the blows of “Not now! Turn a card! Don’t daydream! Don’t be so sensitive!”
If she has to be so strict and have such unrealistic expectations, it would be nice for her to make sure she’s giving kids the emotional food they need. But who am I kidding? She just isn’t a very good teacher.
Remind me on another day to talk about how I’m skeptical of her grading and how on more than one occasion she’s sent home a paper with something marked wrong that was, in fact, right. But not today. Nope, not today.