Here we are at the end of February, so I’d like to send out a final valentine this month to all those moms out there who take a deep breath when they deal with “that teacher” who doesn’t like their kid.
The assortment of zen-related objects above are my attempt at calming all of us down. Let’s take a deep collective breath. <<brrrrrreathe>>
I’m assuming that I’m not the only one, that I’m not the only shocked parent who realizes in the middle of an interaction that the teacher doesn’t think my child is bright, hard-working, and worthy of her time and attention. Instead, she thinks my child is rude, arrogant, and difficult to work with.
What goes through your mind?
I can tell you what went through my mind.
How many of us become mama bears when our kid is being attacked? Yeah, I would think it’s a normal reflex. After all, who’s got the power in this situation? Not the kid, that’s for sure. Mama bear goes into defense with claws out, trying to even out the power distribution.
But let me tell you what actually happened.
Instead of roaring, I apologized. I apologized and apologized, and then apologized some more. My daughter sat with her mouth hanging open as I acknowledged her flaws and expressed joking frustration about her “persistence.” At some point my daughter gave up listening and returned to her work, her disgust evident. “You made it sound like it was my fault,” she complained later.
“Yes, I did,” I replied. “But I saved that relationship. Just get through this class in one piece.”
The teacher became upset because my daughter asked her about an exam question with a significant typo in the multiple choice options; choices A and B were identical. She said, “Well, it doesn’t matter because neither of those choices were the answer.”
My daughter was perplexed, because not only was it not possible to consider choices A and B, but C, D, and E were unclear. She asked for an explanation of the correct answer, but the teacher’s explanation was muddled. It became increasingly obvious to both my daughter and myself that she herself did not understand the answer. After listening to the teacher talk in circles for a few minutes, I hopped into the conversation, hoping to save the day by asking for a clarification that might make sense to my daughter.
Instead, the teacher exploded. At that moment, I suddenly realized that a) she dislikes my daughter; b) she dislikes me; and c) she doesn’t know the subject material and is trying to distract both of us from noticing it.
I had two choices. I could defend my daughter, or I could cave to the teacher’s distress. I did the latter.
Several weeks later, I am still uncomfortable with this choice. I’ve lost sleep over it. My daughter shrugged it off, saying that she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong and that it was clear that the teacher didn’t know what she was talking about (teenagers are so honest!). My husband took my side, and assured me that I had done the right thing. “Just get through it,” he said, which was what I had said to my daughter.
In the end, I think the relationship is more damaged than if I had persisted, because I now carry with me the long-term harm of a poor opinion of the teacher, plus resentment that I felt cornered into apologizing when my daughter had in fact done nothing wrong. I regret not stepping up and saying, “Look, Teacher, you obviously don’t know the answer to this question. Maybe you could research it and get back to us.”
I can pretend that I was actually being “mindful” of the teacher’s suffering, I suppose. I saved her dignity, and she continues to teach my daughter.
But I now don’t think well of her, and I’m sorry that she didn’t have the opportunity to regain our respect. I know that my reaction was probably the “safe” course of action, but this was one of those occasions where I wish I had spoken my mind.