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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mommy Moment

So, the kids started school today and I've had one of those moments you just don't want to have as a mother ...

Last week at the park I ran into a mom of one of Tyler's soccer teammates. When we told each other who our children had for teachers, she informed me that she'd heard that Tyler's teacher was, well, "blunt." I think that's how she phrased it. I'm not TOO concerned about blunt, so I mentioned it to a neighbor who also has the teacher, and she said she'd also heard that the teacher was stern. I can handle stern.

So, we went to the school and met his teacher. She seemed nice enough, although I was still cautious. I figured I'd give her a chance and see how it went. Then I ran into a lady from my ward whose opinion I greatly respect. I feel like she has her head on straight and isn't going to be unfair about her opinion of someone. So, I asked her about this teacher. She said, "I would switch him out of the class." She said that this teacher was a yeller. She said that although her older child was fine in the class, she knew her next child wouldn't be, because he got more answers wrong. That made me sick to think a child would get into trouble or feel intimidated because he got the wrong answer.

Still, I didn't want to go on someone's opinion since Tyler is a laid-back little boy. Every time I asked a new mom, they gasped when I said who he had. I heard she was impatient with kids. That didn't help. However, Tyler's buddy was in the class with him, so I was determined to try to make it work out.

When I came home I called Paul and explained the situation, and he agreed that maybe we should give her a chance. So, I tried to concentrate on other things I was doing, but I couldn't. I went and prayed and said I was going to leave Tyler in the class and to help me feel calm about it. I didn't. I felt sick. I didn't know if it was paranoia or inspiration, but I figured it didn't matter -- I had to do something. Besides, even if HE would have been fine in her classroom, I don't know that I would have been fine sending him there everyday. I knew that if there was a problem (even if the problem was with another student and Tyler got intimidated about that), then I wouldn't know about it until I saw personality changes and it was way beyond where it should get. Tyler's not a big communicator about what happens at school, so that worried me.

So, I called the principal to express my concerns and see what she had to say. I thought maybe I'd feel better after discussing it with her. She wasn't at the school, but they said she'd be back in 30 minutes and would call me. I waited an hour and tried again. No answer. I waited 15 minutes and tried again. No answer. I then hopped in the car and drove to the school. The doors were locked and the office was dark.

At this point I decided that I had to change his teacher; however, I also knew that I wouldn't be able to reach the principal until morning (the day school started), and that worried me. I called Paul to tell him that he needed to let them know he'd be late at work the next morning, because I needed him to stay with the kids while I spoke w/her. Then late last night I realized that they may take the concern more seriously if both parents came in. So, this morning we called my mom to have her come watch the kids for us. (Thanks, mom!)

I'll be honest: I was nervous. I didn't have any firm reason why he should be switched, just an impression based on what I had heard. I didn't know how this was going to go. The principal said that in the past this teacher had had a problem, but that she had made great strides in her classroom and that last year there was no yelling. I said she couldn't know that for sure, because she wasn't in the classroom full-time. She said the other teachers could hear, though, and that it had improved dramatically. I said that was great, but that I still didn't want my son in the class.

I explained to her that I wanted to give the lady a chance, but that I felt wrong about it. I even mentioned to her that I prayed that all would be well and then felt sick and that I couldn't ignore that. I said I would even feel comfortable telling the teacher that my gut told me they weren't a good fit for each other, and that I would imagine she would understand that. The principal said that the teacher was going to be devastated, and that she would think it was the principal doing it to her. I told her to make it very clear that it was our decision. She said it didn't matter, that the teacher would hold her accountable. I said that maybe the teacher should seek professional counseling if she had those types of issues. (These aren't my problems to deal with. Although I do feel bad for offending the teacher, I can't let that ruin a year of school for my son!)

The principal also said that the district was going to be on her case because the class sizes are so skewed (since so many parents request not to have this particular teacher). I said that I guess that was a problem she needed to figure out, because that sounds like a problem with the teacher.

Paul's main point was that it's not about the teacher -- it's about the student, and this wasn't right for our student. She finally consented, although I could tell she was very annoyed at having to do so. I mean she almost didn't want to talk to us anymore. She said this teacher is all about what's right for the students. She said she wished parents would stop gossiping, because this teacher really had changed. I told her that was wonderful, but that it still wasn't right for my son this year. I reminded her again that I had wanted to give the teacher a chance, but I totally felt wrong about it, and you can't ignore a mother's intuition or inspiration, and nothing the principal told me would change how I felt after praying.

Anyway, she made the change, and I asked if she wanted me to talk to the teacher. She said no, that this was probably going to upset her and possibly put her in tears. I said I was sorry about that, but that I had to do what was best for my son.

I did feel bad that we left Tyler's buddy in there since they had looked forward to being in class together. I really did feel bad for the teacher, too. I imagine I'd be a teacher much like her, which is why I'm not a teacher! :) Anyway, I quickly found out that a neighbor boy happens to be in the class Tyler was transferred to. Turns out there are a few girls from our ward in there as well. The neighbor boy's mom said she didn't know whether or not to say anything to me when she found out Tyler was in the other class, because she didn't want to worry me. I'm glad, though, that I found out before he started school!!! My brother had a horrible second-grade teacher, and it affected his whole schooling after that. My mom said she still regrets not changing him, and I don't ever want to feel that way. The longer I left him there, the harder it would feel to change him.

Needless to say, we went back to school for Tyler to meet his new teacher (who hadn't been informed about the change -- oops!), and I felt great about her. It's her first year teaching, which I LOVE! New teachers are so enthusiastic and genuine that I'm very excited for him to have this experience. I'm grateful that I will have peace of mind about sending him to school now, too.

These are the kinds of experiences that just are frustrating, because you don't want to look like a worrier or over-protective or pushy. However, we as moms have to be our kids' biggest advocates and do what we feel is best for them, even if we can't explain why we have that feeling. I had an impression last month that I didn't even realize was an impression until later, and following through on that thought protected my son from a predator. I am eternally grateful for the gift of inspiration through the Holy Ghost that can be ours when we live worthily. I don't know how anyone is a mom without seeking that gift!


Lizzylou said...

I agree with you, you have to follow you gut feeling. I am grateful for inspiration! Tyler is such a sweet boy, it is sad to think what he may have gone through if you didn't switch him. I hope he loves his new teacher!

Dashley said...

Way to stick to what you know is right, Denise. My third grade teacher skewed my view about myself and education almost completely and it took me until college to figure out it wasn't true. My Mom still wishes I hadn't been in that class. I do too. Tyler will be just fine. Yes, indeed hurray for inspiration!

Melissa said...

I had no idea it was so hard to get someone switched out of a class. A 1:1 interview with the principal and both parents being there? Why is it not like BYU where you can just drop a class or switch a teacher on a whim? Oh, elementary school is seeming scary to me and Blake still has a year to go. I am so glad you did it before school started and that you were so straightforward and went about it the right way. Way to be assertive and make the correct choice for your son. I would have done the same thing. I hope I am always in tune with the Spirit when it comes to protecting and helping my children. I agree that elementary school teachers have a gigantic influence on a person's career and self-image. So many people I know can trace their hobby or career choices or feelings about how capable they are to an elementary school teacher's comments. Way to listen and act, Denise.

Chrisina said...

Having been an elementary school teacher I say that parents should switch their child if they feel it is not a good fit and not feel bad about it at all. That principal really needs to consider the children, and if it is that obvious that parents do not like that teacher something needs to be done. I know there are teachers with all different types of personalities. I am thankful that my parents switched me in 3rd grade, even though it was in the middle of the school year. I had a teacher that used my family as an example of overpopulation and how we should all only have 2 children. She was a mean teacher that would tease the children that were slower. I say listening to your mommy instincts is the best way to go.