Is this wrong? Yes.

So today on my ride into work, there was a discussion on the radio about this letter a teacher in NY sent home with her pre-K students.  The question offered to listeners/callers was this: “Is this wrong?”  The answer is yes.

The letter in question attempted to address the personal hygiene (or lack thereof) of children in the class. Here is a photo of the letter:smelly letter

If I were a parent who received this letter, I would write a letter back, and it would look something like this:

Dear Teacher,

I am writing this letter to inform you that you have failed–both as a teacher and a human being.  Allow me to explain why using a traditional scale: U = Unacceptable; NI = Needs Improvement; A = Acceptable; E = Exceeds. I have organized this from least important to most important for your benefit.

Professionalism: U

Did you hand write this with a marker and mimeograph it down the hall? How am I supposed to take you seriously? My (hypothetical) 4-year-old can use an iPad. You can’t use a computer? It’s 2013; if you’d like me to read something, type it up, print it out, and then send it me. I refuse to read scribble from anyone other than my child who just learned to spell his name.

Grammar: U

Unkept? You’re talking about my child, not my lawn. The word you’re looking for is unkempt. Also, you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it’s used to combine two independent clauses. You missed two of those. And one more–please proofread and edit before you send me or my child anything else. I really don’t want him picking up bad writing habits. (FYI: If you’d typed your document in Microsoft Word, spell and grammar checker would have helped you with your struggles to appropriately use Standard American English.) Also, periods. Enough said.

Communication: U

Did you really need to send this out to everyone (Consider reading my post on Bcc and Reply All and apply to this situation if you have the critical thinking skills to do so, which based on this evidence, I doubt.)? Don’t you think it might have been more effective to have targeted your message to a specific audience?  And is a generic handwritten letter really your best device for getting your message across? A more appropriate method of communicating to parents of children you think stink would have been a personal phone call. Furthermore, watch your language! “Enough said?” Really? Your tone is…self righteous and arrogant and…all around negative. It’s like you were hoping to start a fight, not resolve an actual problem. Also, for the record, despite the all-caps title, this is not actually an urgent notice. An urgent notice (!!!) would be something like, “There’s black mold and asbestos in our classroom, please only send your child to school tomorrow if he has a Hazmat suit!” An offense to your olfactory perception is not urgent.

Empathy: U

Empathy, since you seem to have none, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s (like a 3-year-old’s) shoes and understand how they likely feel and then behave accordingly. Did you even stop for a second to consider how these supposedly dirty and stinky kids might feel upon discovering that their teacher doesn’t even want to be near them? Or how their parents might feel upon receiving your letter? You should know this, but I’ll go ahead and make sure it’s clear: sometimes people do the best they can with limited resources. I read that 30% of the population in your area lives below the poverty line. Maybe they’re doing the best they can. You should at least consider the possibility.

Social Responsibility: U

Look, if some of the children in class are really a health and safety concern, you might consider that the appropriate action to take is reporting a case of possible neglect. Sending a letter like this home to an abusive and neglectful parent could actually make things worse for the child in question.  If you are that concerned, call DSS and let them know.  Had someone done that for my foster kids, they would have been removed from their abusive home years before they were. Speak up–you may be the only voice those children have, so instead of marginalizing (and dare I suggest bullying) them, be an advocate for them. Be a friend to them. Be a role model. It’s your responsibility as a teacher and a human being.

Enough has not been said here, but I feel like this might be a good starting point. I encourage you to reflect on your behavior, consider the ways in which you may have better addressed this issue, and make a commitment to do better in the future. Accept that this was a BIG mistake and make a plan to better yourself. In short, take this as a a teachable moment. Learn. Grow. And then maybe you’ll be able to rise from Unacceptable to Exceeds (or at least Acceptable).  Let me know if I can help.

Sincerely,

Parent of (a hypothetical) child in your class.

PS: Finally, please sign below indicating you have read this report in its entirety and understand its contents.

___________________________

(Bad Teacher)

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Filed under My Opinion, Ripped from the Headlines, Social Problems, Teaching & Learning

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