My Dream Letter to My Kids’ Teacher
Here’s some info that will help you work with my kids this year. First off, Amanda is not the good one. Brandon is not the bad. I know it will seem that way sometimes. She sits still and obeys. He’s a ball of movement with a mind of his own. It’s easy to label them. I’ll admit, I do it sometimes too. But if we label them, we might miss something really important.
We might miss that they are both unique, complicated, and wonderful human beings. We might miss that she is afraid of that tone we get when we’re irritated and that she didn’t eat breakfast today because she was worried about her friend. We might miss that he has passions he can talk about for hours and that writing is hard because (he thinks to himself) “Maybe I’m just stupid.”
We can hear these things if we really listen.
I know I’m often too busy to listen, and I only have two kids. You have 30. How could you find time to listen to them all? I bet a lot of kids come unmoored on a daily basis because what they really need is someone to have the time and energy to come at them fresh – to be present with their slow, stumbling, awkward growth and their abundant but tightly-wound despair.
As I’m sure you know, my kids – all kids – need to feel that you’re their ally. That you’re on their side. That you love them unconditionally. Unconditional love? Of course this probably isn’t one of the mandates LAUSD is asking you to focus on this year. But hey, a parent is allowed to dream. And dreaming is the only way realities begin.
I’m wondering as you read this if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you feel, as I do, slightly unmoored from all the busyness and have no time to listen for your own growth and to your own despair. I’m wishing you had more support with this, and I hope that you have a restorative practice like jogging or yoga and good friends and colleagues to vent to – even if it’s about my me and my kids.
But again, this is my fantasy letter. So in my fantasy world, you have plenty of time and energy. You are unmarried, no kids of your own, don’t need to work a second job, and have a room full of parent volunteers to copy and cut stuff. You are also 7+ years into your teaching career, so you’re established and looking for a new challenge. So here’s what I’m hoping you might have time to do this summer:
1. Read everything on Echo Parenting and Education’s Teacher Support page and contact Ariel Wrye to get more info.
2. Learn about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they effect kids’ learning.
3. Treat yourself to two days of concrete tools and support at their upcoming teacher training, this July 28th and 29th.
4. Get inspired by the many teachers and administrators who are learning how to connect with kids and manage their classrooms without punishment and rewards: Alfie Kohn, Marshall Rosenberg, Jim Sporleder, Susan E. Craig, Ron Hertel and Mona Johnson, Robert Hull
5. Attend Echo Parenting & Education’s Changing the Paradigm conference March 16 & 17, 2016. “Children, Families and Schools: Building Trauma-Informed Communities.” (Presenters include the last four authors mentioned above.)
In between all this reading, I hope you have a very restful summer. Despite all my requests, I want you to know that I realize how hard you work and how much you put into your job. So I’ll keep my last request simple… When you meet my children this fall, try to remember how you yearned to be treated back when you were a child. If my daughter does the assignment perfectly, please don’t stamp her an “A” – instead ask her to tell you what she enjoyed about the project and what parts were hard. And if my son mutters that you’re a terrible teacher, please don’t put him “on red,” put him in time out, or put him in line to see the principal – instead, put your hand on his shoulder and ask him what’s up.
I’m sure they’ll tell us if we really listen. And I’m sure that listening to them will help us listen to ourselves. And I’m sure that this deep listening and connected caring is what supports real education.
With warmest regards and deepest respect,
Amanda and Brandon’s mom
P.S. If you need anyone to cut and copy stuff – I’m your gal!