Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hidden talent

Thanks for all of your support on my last post. It is true that people are certainly more apt to be harsh on email than in person or on the phone (though, as a teacher, I've had my share of those as well). I do, however, like that I can really think out my response on email, and run it by others before sending it along to it's intended recipient.

Luckily, one of my hidden and rarely needed talents is that I'm fabulous letter writer. I don't mean to toot my own horn... but I've been told so by others, and my letters and emails get the desired result the much of the time.

Over the last twelve years, I've really honed my parent-email skills. With suggestions from my mentors as well as some trial and error with my own experience, I've worked hard to create a balance of defusing the parent's anger/anxiety and making compromises while supporting my opinion and teaching philosophies.

In this situation, along with the very harsh language he used, this father cc'd his email to my principal, the school system superintendent, and three members of the school committee. My response was "reply all". In my response, I agreed that his daughter was a hard worker, I discussed my observations about this specific situation and I explained my reasoning for my decision.

Then I addressed the language he used by mirroring it in my own email:
"I am sorry that you were disturbed by my resolution. I am disturbed that you feel I have been 'corrupt', especially considering I have worked closely with your daughter this year, before and after school as well as during class, when she needed help and when she was out with her illness. I have made an effort to encourage your daughter and help her be successful and confident with the curriculum. It is unfortunate that this one incident, on which we disagree, has led you to this conclusion about my class."
The next day, I got a contrite apology. He stated that he still disagreed with me on this particular situation, but that he thought I had been a good teacher and that his daughter had had a good year.

The final email I got on this surprised me. One of the school committee members sent an email to me, cc'ing only the principal and superintendent. She told me she thought my response to the parent was "thoughtful and completely reasonable" and that in her experience in the school system as a parent and a committee member she thought my resolution was appropriate. She then said "I am very sorry you had to experience this. I hope you have a wonderful weekend (and summer!) and that you do not give this much additional thought."

This email was so validating to me. It is one thing for my colleagues to be indignant for me, as they can put themselves in the same situation and also many are my friends. It is one thing for my husband to express that he thinks this is ridiculous because... well, he's my husband and he's supposed to stand up for me! But for an unrelated member or the community, who was pulled into this but is not really involved, to basically say "this guy was out of line" made me feel good. And I was pleased that my email was one that not only received the desired response from the parent, but was appreciated by the others who had become peripherally involved.

So I guess alls well that ends well.

But I'm still relieved and thrilled that school is out and I don't have to deal with another middle school parent until September....

...if even then. But that's a post for another day.


Fran said...

Fantastic ending to this email-trail! I'm delighted you got support from others and I'm sure no one really doubted your integrity as a teacher. That's it for now though, really, don't give it any more of your energy! Love, Fran

Anonymous said...

The amount of care and thought you put into your work, even with the MANY things you have had going on over these past couple of years, is just amazing and shows your dedication to your profession and your students. I am so glad for you that this person recognized your professionalism, you certainly deserve that.

Nixy said...

Wow, for such a crappy situation, this ended up so well!

Anonymous said...

Validation is the key!! It's amazing how much somebody else recognizing your own struggle makes you feel so much better. In fact, isn't that what having an IF blog is all about??

jill said...

Yay that's a great outcome to the bad situation. Very happy for you :)

Suzy said...

Well done on your handling of the situation - I don't take criticism very well at all so kudos for keeping yourself together! There should be more teachers like you :)

Anonymous said...

Well done you! I am a letter writer too. I just freeze up when the parents want to give me a hard time over the phone instead.

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