Earlier this week, The Middle Child got a perfect score on his algebra quiz. On the way to school, I mentioned the quiz. I told my son I was proud of him and that I was happy he was doing well in that class.
He told me that he struggled in the beginning. “I had a hard time with it at first, but my teacher pulled me and a few others who were struggling aside and helped me understand. Since he did that, it clicked and I’m doing better!”
I told him how lucky he was to have a teacher that did that for him. I then went on to share the story of The Year I Failed Algebra.
I did fine in the beginning of the class, but as things got more complicated, I started to lose my way. I began to feel stressed and panic, thinking I would never understand. My mom tried to help, but she didn’t understand it. She advised me to ask my teacher for help.
I remember walking into her class one afternoon. After she had went over our work for the day, I approached her desk. I told her that I was lost and needed help.
“Read your book.” She said, without even looking up at me.
“I did read the book.” I replied. “And I still don’t get it.”
“Read it again.” She snapped.
“I’ve read it over and over again and I can’t seem to understand.”
At this point, she became irritated with me.
“All I can tell you is the read the book.”
I remember feeling stupid and angry and, like, WHY WON’T SHE HELP ME?
At this point, my Inner Activist came out (I got that from my mom, who once organized a protest in elementary school when she wasn’t happy with things in school.)
“Look!” I said, LOUDLY. “You’re the teacher! You’re here to help me! I’m asking you for help and you won’t help me!”
“Read the book.” She said. Again.
“Fine!” I said. “If you’re not going to do your job as a teacher, I’m not going to do MY job as the student!”
I stormed away from her desk, sat down at mine and put my head down in the I’m Taking A Nap In Class Position.
From that day forward, I did not do another homework assignment. I failed every test. And she never said a word about it.
When my son told me about his teacher– about how he had went out of his way to help him– I knew I had to acknowledge his actions. I came home, looked up his email on the school website and sent the following email to him.
Hi Awesome Teacher Man,
My son, Ethan, is a student of yours. This morning we were talking about algebra– I asked him how he was doing. He told me that in the beginning he struggled, but that you took time to help him and that now he understands and is doing well. He said you’re a great teacher.
I wanted to write you to say thank you for helping my son. I had a horrible experience with algebra in high school, because I had a teacher who refused to help me. (I failed.) Knowing that you took a little extra time to help my son to ensure he “gets it” means a great deal to me. I wanted you to know that.
I wanted to Cc the principal on this email, but I couldn’t find her email address. Feel free to forward it to her and tell her I said the world needs more teachers like you.
Just a minute ago, I received the following email from the principal:
Thank you so much for the kind words you sent to Mr. Awesome Teacher Man. I have been very impressed with Mr.Awesome Teacher Man’s ability to calmly approach a difficult subject and make it accessible to kids. Having you acknowledge his contribution to your son’s success means everything to a teacher. Thank you for your time and encouragement. Awesome, yes?
I’ve emailed teachers in the past, to thank them for a job well done, or for taking extra time to help my child, but I don’t think that I do it often enough. You bet yer’ass that when a teacher does wrong by my child, I make sure they know about it right away. But I’m not always so quick to acknowledge when they’re doing a good job.
That’s going to change. I am going to make more of an effort to let the teachers who are doing it right know that I appreciate them, that what they do matters, to me and to my child.