Anyone who knows me knows that sometimes, I am a very passionate person. When I feel wronged, I feel that whatever or whomever has offended me needs to understand how and why. Usually, this happens through the form of written communication. Yes, that’s right; I like to write a letter.
I have written a handful of letters over the years. I wrote to our local hospital when my husband received substandard emergency health care. I wrote to my local newspaper when the editorialist described teachers inaccurately. I wrote to my sister-in-law when we had an argument over family. I wrote to the Coke delivery man to complain about the selections in the machine at work.
With each letter, I have allowed myself time to stew, to think, to collect my thoughts. When I actually sit down to compose the letter, I try to do it without emotion. I want the recipient to understand that I am trying to explain my side, to open his eyes to another person’s point of view, and to explain why I felt provoked.
However, sometimes, I cannot separate my emotions from the situation. Sometimes, I shoot from the hip.
Recently, we made the decision that next year we are going to pull our daughters from the parochial school and enroll them in public school. Having made this decision, we realized that we had to actually register Carson for classes. As an eighth grader, she will have choices. One choice that she was very excited about was math. The school offers a general eighth grade math and algebra for the advanced learners. Of course, as a life long straight A student, she immediately said she wanted to take algebra. Not only did she want a challenge, but she liked that she would earn high school credit in eighth grade. I liked that it would place her on the math track and that she would be able to take calculus while still in high school. As someone who has expressed interest in engineering, I think it is vitally important for her to be afforded this opportunity.
I emailed her math teacher and asked her to write a letter of recommendation for Carson to take algebra. After a few days, she responded. She said she could not write the letter. Even though she is teaching pre-algebra this year, she did not recommend her for this Honors level course. I was furious. Carson is a straight A student. She has an amazing work ethic, and she accomplishes absolutely every challenge she puts her mind to achieving. She excels in all that she does, and for this woman to say that she would not recommend Carson for algebra, I felt she belittled my child’s intelligence.
However, I paused. I reflected. I worried. What if she couldn’t handle it? To test the waters, I borrowed an Algebra I book from the math department at my high school. I brought it home and made Carson work through the first three chapters. She said it was mostly review of things she knew and understood, and the concepts that were unfamiliar to her, she could understand. Why of course she could do it! She is intelligent.
I contemplated making a meeting with the principal and the teacher and demanding a letter. However, Tom said we should wait. We had already made an appointment with a guidance counselor to discuss her eighth grade schedule. He said once the counselor saw her report card and listened to Carson speak, he would know what to do. I agreed; my anger subsided, but the blatant disregard of Carson’s strengths and abilities could not be ignored. I wrote a letter.
I am sure you noticed that I did everything in my power not to engage you in conversation on Friday. I was very upset by this message, and I did not want to get into an argument.
However, after much thought, I am not angry; I am disappointed. As you know, I am a teacher myself, and I do everything in my power to encourage the children who excel to do more, to encourage the children who want a challenge to accept it, and to encourage all of my students to be better than they even think they can be. You do not seem to share this sentiment. You seem to want to block students from a challenge. Carson has consistently scored in the 99% in the Iowa Basics, she excels in every subject without trying, and yet, you will not offer her the chance to challenge herself in her academic career. Is it because you do not condone public education? You made it very clear on our very first conference in sixth grade that you did not agree with public school education.
I will do everything in my power to help my daughter advance. It saddens me that you do not see the doors you are shutting. It saddens me that when many of these children look back at these formative years, they will not view you as the teacher who saw their potential and encouraged them to take chances and succeed; you will be the teacher who intimated they could not succeed.
Good luck in all your future endeavors.
I did not receive a response. I did not expect one. I am assuming I will not have any further interaction with this teacher. I’m all right with that. I am happy to report that we did go to the public school and register Carson today. Her exemplary records stood on their own accord. She will be taking algebra next year!