| Words Unspoken |

Dear Morah

I want to trust the system. But this past year made me wonder

Dear Morah,

I was brought up with the premise that when it comes to teachers and the school administration, speak up only if it’s crucial — and that should happen very rarely. The rest of the time, smile and say thank you, and then zip it.

Also, don’t bother teachers at home or on their cell phones. No one likes being nudged, right?

So, barring an emergency, I keep my curiosity to myself, wait patiently for a check-in call from you, sit up straight at PTA, and do whatever I can to help my child.

Last year, I made a point to come over to you at orientation to tell you how sweet my daughter is, and to ask you to keep an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t fall through the cracks. I also made a special request that you keep her in the front of the room because she had hearing loss in one ear.

It was after Pesach when I found out that she’d  been sitting in the back of the class all year long. Why did I only find out then? Well, that’s my daughter. She’s the good kid. She’s the kid who won’t give you any trouble, she’ll do her  work on time, get by academically, she’ll have friends, and she won’t complain. Even if she’s struggling to hear each word you say.

It was around the same time of year that I discovered that not only was she seated in the back of the classroom the whole year, she was also seated near the most difficult student (some would call her a bully, I’ll try not to) for chunks of the year.

Oh, and every time the girls had to do a project with a partner, she was routinely paired with one of the girls who struggles both academically and socially. While other girls were giggling their way through assignments, my daughter was plowing through, doing all the work herself, while her partner observed and criticized.

I didn’t hear about her seat till you were wrapping up the school year, because my daughter trusted you, and I trusted you. My daughter didn’t complain, and I didn’t think to ask you where her desk was, to ask her who she was doing the projects with. I only discovered the truth when she came home in tears after being assigned, for the fourth time running, the same difficult partner.

I know you had a hard class this year. I know there are lots of challenging students placed in your class, possibly because you’re the energetic and charismatic teacher. But, as you give them the time and attention they need, don’t ignore my daughter. Don’t expect her to always be the good one.

She’s my not-a-bad-bone-in-her-body child, and she desperately needs to be noticed. When I confronted you, you apologized to me with a little laugh saying, “What should we do? Your daughter is just too good!” I know that was meant as a compliment, but it made me want to scream. And cry.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to juggle a class of some good kids and lots of really hard kids, but why does the squeaky wheel get all the grease? Are we creating a school system where mothers of normal, healthy kids are required to make lots of noise, and nudge the teachers incessantly in order to make sure their child is noticed?

I want to trust the system. I want to believe that my child’s teacher will bring out the best in her, with or without my notes and gifts, and certainly without my kvetches. But this past year made me wonder.

You’re having my next daughter for a few subjects this year. She’s also a sweetheart. Please don’t punish her for that.


The Good Girl’s Mother


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 757)

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