Sad story


Dear angry mom,

I am so incredibly sorry that your daughter had a terrible sixth grade after her fifth grade year with me.  I’m sorry that she felt lonely and abandoned because I separated her from her two closest friends.  I know that you are angry and scared and that you need a target for all of your emotion.  I get that part, I really do. But I have to ask you to take a step back and remember her year in my classroom.

Remember how it was in September? When you and I talked about your daughter’s attachment to the two other girls? Your child clung to the others with an intensity that made it impossible for other students to approach.  She used guilt and tears to prevent her friends from engaging with others in the classroom.  I told you that I would encourage and support all three girls as they learned to make new friendships.

I think you recall the times when I mediated conflicts between the three girls, because I always told you about them. I described your daughter’s negative reaction when any of her friends had a conversation with a classmate outside of their small circle.  I know that I also told you that I needed to be firm about playground rules, because your daughter consistently moved the group away from the open areas and into sheltered spots where they could not be monitored; behind a group of trees, inside of a recessed doorway, or just inside the edge of the woods around the field.  Remember when I talked to you about how furtive that seemed, and how worried I was about it?

I’m sure you remember the email that I sent you explaining how your daughter had been asking me for help with making friends. She emailed me one night, telling me that she didn’t know how to talk to any of the other girls in the classroom, and how she thought of herself as “different” and “strange”. She included a very beautiful but very dark and anguished original poem. I know that you and I talked about this, because this was one of the times when I suggested that you get your girl some professional help for these very worrisome feelings.  I told you that I had met with your child in private, and had given her the names of two girls in our class who had listed her as “someone I want to get to know better”.  She and I role played how to talk to those girls, I promised to sit her near them in the classroom, and to group her with them whenever I could.  I did all of that, remember?

What you didn’t know, because I wouldn’t have ever said it to you, is that the parents of the other two girls asked me directly to be sure that I did NOT place their children with yours for grade 6.  The other parents were aware of the social struggles that all three children were having, and they worried about the exclusivity of the relationships. I agreed with them, and I respected their wishes, so when it came time to make groups for the sixth grade, I put the three girls in separate classes.  But I was careful to place each one with peers who had made efforts to befriend them.

And then I let go.  Once the kids enter grade 6, my role in their lives is over.  I knew that your daughter was unhappy in the fall, but I trusted that with support from her teacher and from you, and hopefully from the mental health professional who I had again recommended in the spring, she would relax enough to make some new relationships.  After all, she has been in our school for four years, and knows every single child in her class.

So your angry, spiteful email to me, on the night of the sixth grade graduation, came as a shock.  You accuse me of deliberately “punishing” your child for some unnamed issue in fifth grade. You accuse me of cruelty to a child, and even though I know that you are acting out of your own pain, I can’t move on and let this go.

I have known your family for five years. I have taught both of your children.  I made accommodations for your work schedule, your ex-husband’s business trips, and your own overwhelming anxiety about our overnight trip.  I gave you and yours every bit of attention and care that I could give.

Please remember that I’m just a middle aged lady with good intentions.  I can’t tell the future, and I am not psychic.  I made the best decisions that I knew how to make for your child and for the others.  I did my job. I’m not responsible for your pain, or for hers.  If writing that email made you feel better for a moment, then I am glad. If it allowed you to continue ignoring your own responsibilities to your child, then it was a very bad mistake.

 

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