To Whom It May Concern, Dear Mr. or Mrs. _____________, What’s up, friend? Partner? Comrade?
It’s hard to get the words just right, isn’t it? How do I write you a letter without you being worried that I’m going to be the parent that makes you cringe? How do I start out on the right foot? How do I make you understand that my child is my number one priority while still letting you know that I understand he is one of twenty-four of your biggest priorities this year? How do I let you know that I GET IT, while still being his advocate?
As a teacher, I confront both sides of this issue every single day. I know what it is like to be criticized for being imperfect at a small piece of your job, while you are trying to be perfect at all of them. I know what it is like to lose sight of what makes you happy because you are trying to make everyone happy. I know what it is like to be treated like you are unimportant when your life’s work is so desperately important. I know what it is like to want to do more than you physically or emotionally can.
I know what it is like to be taken for granted.
I want you to know you have my utmost respect. I want you to know what you can expect from me. I want you to know that I am human, and I know that you are too.
I can not promise you that we will always agree.
I may complain about something that you’ve said or done to my husband. I may ask my best friend for advice over a glass of wine. I may ask my mother if she’s gone through something similar. But, I will never speak badly of you in front of my child.
I can not promise you that I will not bother you.
I may have a stupid question that was already answered in an email you sent that I sleepily scanned while throwing waffles at my children. I may be concerned about a test score, or my child having an issue in the cafeteria, or whether or not he is making friends.
I can not promise you that I will volunteer in the classroom.
Trust me, I want to. I will send in glue sticks if you need them. I will do my best to remember permission forms on time. I’ll throw a gift card in my kid’s backpack before winter break. I’m just being realistic here. You may have to track me down occasionally.
I can not promise you that my child will be your favorite student.
Heck, he may be the reason you drink. I can’t blame you.
While no parent or teacher is perfect, here is what I CAN promise.
I promise I will listen to you.
Nobody gets multiple degrees to make way less than they deserve FOR FUN. You obviously want to be in the classroom. You obviously earned your way there. If you think I need to be aware of something that my child is/isn’t doing, then I will do you the respect of listening fully and reflecting on your opinion, regardless of whether I am ready to hear what it is you have to say.
I promise I will respect your time.
I understand that your weekends are usually spent grading, or planning, or making new seating arrangements. I know that your planning periods are usually spent in meetings, or on the phone, or brainstorming with your colleagues about how to best assess the projects you have been required by the school system to implement. I will not expect you to be available at all hours of the day and night. If I email you on the weekend, it will be to tell you what a great job it is I think you are doing.
I promise I will do my best to be your partner.
If you approach me with a problem, I will work with you to solve it. If you need me to study with my son at home, or fill out a reading log, or get him extra help in math, I will do it. If my son is out of line, I will correct him. I will not intimidate you into giving him a grade he didn’t earn. I will not assume the worst of you if he does not show his best.
And lastly, I promise I will show you grace.
We now live in a world where “above and beyond” is the expectation. I know you are human. I know that when you aren’t grading, or parenting, or trying to exercise, you are worrying about my little boy. Or the little girl who never brings a lunch. Or the child who reverses his letters. I know that your job is never done. I know that even if you and my boy don’t connect like two peas in a pod, you are no less of a teacher. I know that you mess up. I do too. Constantly.
So, preemptively, thank you.
As his mother, I see him at his best and his worst. As his teacher, you do too. The business of raising little humans takes the very best of humans to tackle it.
At the end of the day, we have the same goals. We want the same thing. We fight the same fight. YOU are a rock star.
And if you ever need to call on someone who is probably in the same boat, who will give you a smile, a nod, a knowing look… I’m here. I get it. Keep going through the bullshit.
It’s worth it. They’re worth it. He’s worth it.