When Ana was tiny --REALLY tiny--like maybe not even a year old, I worked with her to identify her emotions by name.  One day, she was angry when I put her down for a nap and when I came back in to get her up several hours later she looked right at me and said, "ANGER." She was still mad!

I feel like maybe I should have some sort of flashing red sign right now that says that.


This morning, as I was going through Jane's backpack before school, I found this:

I've been on a slow burn ever since.

Today is the tenth day of school.

On the fourth day of school, Jane's teacher made her re-do work she'd already completed, saying there was no way she could have done it thoroughly enough. When Jane got home from school, she complained of a headache and a stomach ache.

On the fifth day of school, Jane came home early with a stomach ache and headache. I took her to the doctor who found nothing.

On the sixth day of school, Jane stayed home sick.

On the seventh day of school, my husband and I met with her teacher (I wore make-up and my pearls!) and spent an hour talking about how

A) our child responds better to positive reinforcement and will gladly walk through fire for you if she thinks you love her and she loves you back.  We talked about how our last year's teacher was wonderful at showing this and how well Jane performed for her. We showed her a stack of Jane's stories and drawings. We hoped that she would get a glimpse of the positive force that is Jane Cooper --because honestly, a positive Jane Cooper is a lot easier to have around that a negative one.

B) she does process very quickly so you can trust her when she says she's completed her work

C) to please stop yelling at her (we're from the South, there is a very different method of communication up here and we think people are yelling at us who are merely having a normal conversation so when people REALLY yell, it tends to make us me SOME OF US cry.)

D) we take education and educators very seriously and would like for this to be a very positive relationship.

And then on day Nine, the teacher wrote this:

Is it really so hard to be civil and respectful when communicating with a nine-year-old?

I understand the need for full headings in school, despite the fact that Jane is the only Jane in her class.  I understand the need for adherence to structure.

What I do not understand is how this teacher, who is pressed for time with 26 kids in her class, would choose to write a belittling and sarcastic note on a child's paper when a simple, "last name?" would have sufficed. I just don't understand how any educator could think that yelling and sarcasm will lead to a classroom full of happy, eager-to-learn children. What is really the goal here? To have them blindly follow rules without question or deviation, or to create an environment where kids can learn?

We have been blessed with many good, caring, respectful, motivated and inspired teachers over the course of our public school journey. These are people I honestly felt were working in concert with me to educate and love my kids --who saw their bright little faces and wanted them to have every possible resource to learn and succeed. Maybe if I hadn't had them for my kids, I wouldn't be so appalled and frustrated now. I've seen great, inspired teaching and I have seen the opposite. 

We're working on a different solution for Jane. I just hope she isn't bullied to the point of having her spirit broken first.

Say it with me now: "ANGER."


Oh, Barb, I feel for you. If someone did that to my sweet, eager-to-please Brian, I would be thirsting for their head. At least Jane has had enough experience in school to realize that this teacher is the aberration and not the norm.
Unknown said…
That sounds like a very unhappy woman who should not be a teacher. if it continues, perhaps you should think about homeschooling her for the year or demanding she switches classes? poor Jane
kim said…
This is what my mom (born and bred in New England) called the "Do I need to go down to that school?" type issue. I might add that they thought my mom a nut, but that is beside the point. There is one in every school. Ours was the school nurse who just didn't understand that my mom's children were rather "delicate." I'm sure it will all work out. That teacher sounds like a Jackhole.
tanita✿davis said…
And how is Jane feeling about this? Is she to that stage of anger?

I'm so sorry that this is happening, blemishing a fresh new school year. I know you're going to get a lot of suggestions about what to do, how to escalate -- but I'm glad that you're actually just right now feeling the emotions together. It's really empowering for a kid to be believed when there's a problem at school. I'm glad you're able to do that for her.
The Dister said…
This is an example of a teacher who clearly, needs to retire. She (he?) has obviously lost the joy of her work. It would take no more effort to go ahead and mark Jane's paper and when handing it back, bend down and say "Jane, next time please write your full name on your work". Simple right?

This teacher obviously doesn't have aspirations of being one of those "cherished" teachers who gets remembered at the podium. You know what I mean? When the award winning auther says "I'd like to say thank you to my wonderful family for encouraging me through the years and for my 5th (fifth?) grade teacher who taught me to always write my full name on everything I wrote so that nobody would ever plagiarize me". said…
You need to have a talk with the teacher again. Perhaps bring the principal in on it this time. What was written on Jane's paper is IMO totally not age-appropriate. And what's with the number sign? does she also require her phone number?

I feel for you too. Not fun. Best of luck in deciding how to proceed, and in getting it all sorted out.
Anonymous said…
Oh I'd be *SO* into discussing sarcasm with her and inappropriate but amusing retorts such as "Is sarcasm the only language you speak?" and how it's not about her, it's about Ms. Sarcastic. But we all know the trouble some kids can get into with knowledge of such retorts, so I'm with ya here.
Good luck, Barb!
Sarah S
Ann in NJ said…
Unfortunately, since this is probably not the last bad teacher Jane will get, Jane will need some help with coping skills so that this year does not end up one long stomach ache. Although calling it a "learning experience" doesn't make it any easier.
Karen said…
Oh boy, when I saw the title of your post I immediatly commisserated. Remember two years go when I had my issues with the 8th grade reading list? Well my second son is now in that class and he told me yesterday that he thinks "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is on this year's list. Anger doesn't begin to cover my feelings. Just who do these teachers think they are!?!?!?! I'm sure I'll be logging about my situation if it's confirmed ... In the meantime - I believe your girl will have the fortitude to make it through this and come out a better person than her teacher is. And hopefully YOU will survive, too. Sending love.
joannamauselina said…
My daughter had a horrible fifth grade teacher, and stomach aches, headaches, etc. to prove it. When I finally realized what was happening and talked to the principal, it was very late in the hear, and he said that there was no point in changing classes at that late date. It is early in the year now. Jane does not need a "character building" experience - she needs to get out of that classroom. I had a couple of meanies myself, and am still resentful.
Susan said…
Get her out of there now! I taught for almost 30 years and I have seen a few teachers like the one you are describing. This is not a situation where you counsel your child to learn coping skills. I truly believe that most of the time you can teach your child coping skills with teachers but this is not one of them.

In my opinion, this is blatant lack of respect. Why should it be okay to be disrespectful to children when you wouldn't dare be that way to adults? I spent most of my career preaching respect to my students - respect for others (whether or not you like them), respect for everyone's strengths and weaknesses, respect for authority (when it doesn't turn around and disrespect you back!!), respect for others' belongings, etc.

In an atmosphere as toxic as the one you are describing, disrespect takes over and the kids start being horrid to each other too. A school year of your daughter's life is too long to leave her in there.
Georgi said…
I do realize that many people thing this would be a good learning experience for Jane, however I do not. There is no reason for a child to have to deal with an evil, sarcastic teacher for 9 months. At this point, you have already discussed with her your thoughts on how your child should be treated; IMHO, it is now time to bring the principal into the situation. You cannot be the first parent who has objected to the way the teacher treats the children in her class, so the principal probably is waiting for a parent call. Children are too precious to have to deal with this kind of horrible teacher day in and day out for 9 months.
I am angry now too :-)
Annabanana said…
I'm a teacher now, and that makes my hair sizzle....we teach MUTUAL respect, dignity and kindness at our school, we model it, and we expect it, and it happens. We settle things like that with gentle requests "Please write your whole name on your papers so I can be sure who's work it is". It's not rocket science, and it actually makes everything better for everyone. Ding dang it, y'all!
Barb Matijevich said…
We are pulling Jane from the school as soon as possible and sending her to private school. The principal is the other real problem at that school so there is no help to be had there. I could fight to get Jane into another class but even that class would have 26-27 students in it.

When Ana was in first grade, I left her in a class with a teacher who not only wasn't a good teacher, she was also mean-spirited. (I called her Ms. Bra Strap because she used to wear her bra strap hanging down her arm like some sort of fashion accessory.) The biggest regret of my entire parenting career (and I have made some WHOPPERS of mistakes) is that I didn't remove Ana as soon as it became clear that the environment was abusive and doing Ana harm. Coop agrees that we will NEVER let that happen again.

It's very disheartening. We bought this house and moved into this area because of the schools and we've just had one bad experience after another. I didn't think any of them were damaging to my kids before this one, though.
Hannah said…
I wonder if the teacher is one of those who sort of resents gifted kids? Like, sort of enjoys taking them down a bit? I am so sorry this is happening to Jane. You and Coop sound like wonderful advocates for her -- she is very blessed that way!

Hope you can get her into a better situation lickety split!
Marion Gropen said…
I am so sorry to hear that your Jane is dealing with this.

If the principal isn't willing to move her to another class, then there's not much you CAN do, except yank her into another school or homeschool her. And you already know that either option is going to be not only expensive but disruptive and difficult in its own way.

On the other hand, you can't leave a child in a situation where things just aren't working. I have a situation like that at the moment with my own (fifth grade) daughter. We are suing the school system because they require us to do so before they'll pay for the private school that can address her disability and giftedness simultaneously. I only wish we had done something like this earlier.

Gifted kids, as your two obviously are, need to be tended as much as any other kid. And our schools truly aren't set up for that in NY state. It's not PC, doncha know.

Go get'em!
Bev said…
Be prepared. Jane will never change and these kinds of teachers are everywhere. We had to have a conference with a COLLEGE Debate coach who could not figure out how to work with our state champion child (19 years old). We had to tell him exactly the same thing you did. I just hope someday he can deal with the negative in someway other than shutting down.
Lynn said…
Livid. Incensed. (Right there with you.) I hope the private school turns out to be everything you could want. How blessed Jane and Ana are to have parents who are both caring and effective.
Tenna Draper said…
Barb, I know that teachers vary from one to the next, and this one might be a bit hard on Jane, but take a look at my blog and tell me what you think?

Lots of Love, Tenna
Unknown said…
Been there...on both sides of the desk. I sent my own kids to private schools & then homeschooled them, so I certainly understand wanting your child to be treated respectfully.
OTOH teachers are the hardest working people on the planet. To go home and grade 25+ papers...and then have to take an extra couple minutes to record the grade because a kid couldn't be bothered to put her last name on the paper? I dunno -- I'd be ready to take points off.
I now teach at the college level, and see the entitlement these kids expect. It does not help them in the long run. For one thing, it makes it much harder in college. I'm soft-spoken and respectful. But it seems to come to me often that I have to be the line in the sand. No, it doesn't matter how many hours you studied, or how much your mom thinks it is unfair. If you don't learn the material then you do not pass.
So good luck with private school. But do keep in mind that teaching a child to respect a teacher is a good thing.
Barb Matijevich said…
Y'all. This is not about the heading on the paper. Jane has to do that and she has to do it in a way that makes the teacher's life easier. What this is about is MUTUAL RESPECT. My issue is with a nine-year-old fourth grader being spoken to in such a demeaning way and also that Jane could have no defense of that. What was she supposed to say "Do you have a FIRST name?" If Jane had addressed her teacher the way her teacher addressed her, she would have been punished. If Jane yelled at her teacher the way this teacher yells at her class, she would be punished.

Believe me, I have the utmost respect for teachers and their work loads. All four of the my kids' grandparents are educators. NONE of them would ever address a student with such blatant disrespect. Furthermore, if someone larger than you, and in a position of power, demeans you, isn't that usually called BULLYING?

The reason I wrote about this subject is because, as my friend Tiff says, "Bullies thrive in secret, by attacking those they perceive as vulnerable when they think no one else is looking. Sunlight is good."
Unknown said…
Hugs to Jane and her angry mama (and papa too, I'd imagine).

Devereaux lost points because he didn't put his last name on a paper yesterday too (it was not mean like that though). Poor kid was frustrated and said, "Mom, do you think you could have given me a shorter name so I could fit it all on the line?!?" :) I'm evil you know. I planned that all out 11 years ago so he'd lose one point on his science quiz in the 6th grade.

I hope your private school experience is awesome.
tanita✿davis said…
Barb, you are doing exactly what I would have suggested, were I suggesting anything (since I have kids I am tying my mouth shut. But I *was* a teacher... at a private school). I'm totally lighting a candle for you - this is what I wish my parents could have done for me (and my guy said the same thing: private school, the sooner the better.)

Good luck.
momwhoknits said…
I'm putting my two cents worth in rather late here. We pulled our kids from public school when our then in kindergarten son kept being put into the "quiet corner" (the teacher's term for time out) because he wouldn't listen. He wouldn't listen because he was bored. He was bored because the teacher kept teaching to the kids in the class who could not read. He could read, but because she gave him no alternate task to do, he zoned out and started causing trouble. I explained several times over to the teacher that he needed something to challenge him or he would continue to disrupt. I offered to help set something up so he had a place to go and something to do while the rest of the class was reading. Her solution? Put him into speech lessons with the already overburdened speech therapist because "at least he was out of the class and had some quality one-on-one time".
The private school proved to be a boon for him (at least in the early years) - smaller classes, teachers who worked with him on his strengths and the bonus for him was that the school instituted gender separation in 4th grade (it's great for girls - but in our experience, was WONDERFUL for boys). I hope your experience is the same and that Jane finds the joy that strong teaching and intellectual stimulation brings to bright kids.
Heidi Malott said…
I agree with Susan and many others on this sitution. Sorry to hear you are going through this. We had this problem in an expensive parochial school (the public schools were worse) we actually moved to another district and are very happy now. Anyway, you are wise to get her out of there. Teachers like this are in the wrong profession. When they are bitter, disrespectful, yelling, bossy, etc. most kids give up and dont want be pleasing and shut down. These things can change a childs attitude for learning for the rest of their years in school. Sure we must learn to "cope" with these people but young children in this situation lose. Hang in there Barb
Unknown said…
you go Barb, do what's best for your girl!
michiganme said…
I wished I would have intervened more in my children's elementary years; I think I always thought they should learn to 'deal' with it. But looking back, I know there were times when these situations 'changed' who my kids were meant to be. A layer of resentment or fear was added to their psyche at a time when they were too innocent to know how to respond.

Good for you!!
Ellen said…
We had this teacher last year. It was a long year. We managed to get through it though, and Grace is slowly coming back and regaining her confidence with a wonderful, happy, teacher this year (who I fought for). They are resilient, but I understand your desire to remove her from the situation. Good luck with the decision.
Becca said…
Have you ever heard the song titled "Flowers are Red" by Harry Chapin? There are good teachers and bad teachers. Hope this private school works out well for Jane!
cardinal said…
Agree that you're doing the right thing by moving quickly to protect Jane. I am interested in the fact that no one else commented on what strikes me most: this scrawled, messy comment is from the TEACHER? And why is there a # in front of the question mark? (Is she using it like a hash tag on Twitter?) It looks like a grape-scented marker a young child would use.
Blogless A.R. said…
My mom always told us, "A school is only as good as the teacher your kid has that year." Reputation of the district be darned.
Sarahviz said…
Just seeing the picture made me see red! Please keep us posted!
Anonymous said…
Perhaps there is another way to look at this situation. Did you ask Jane how many times she had been asked to put her last name on her papers? Is it possible that just maybe she had already been asked more than once,but just kept forgetting? If you picture the teacher saying that same sentence with a smile on her face, then it becomes a playful reminder, not a sarcastic scolding.
jennyp said…
Totally not a playful reminder when written down-and especially to a 4th grader. I have been a teacher for 11 years (with a few years off in the middle) at every level - currently with middle school - and I would never write that on a student's paper. Reaching kids is all about the relationship. Can they trust you, the teacher? Is your classroom a safe place to make mistakes? If the answer is no, learning won't take place. This teacher is all about having power "over" the kids. A teacher can maintain control without resorting to a power over relationship.

I have taught in public and private schools, so realize that private schools will have their own issues (although really awful teachers aren't usually one of them because teachers don't have tenure - I know a whole other issue!)

I would recommend making a quick change. My friend's son had this sort of teacher last year. She has now changed schools and says her son is just now getting back to being himself. She regrets not doing more last year to help her child (also a gifted kid). Good luck!
Bullwinkle said…
((hugs all around))

Mean teachers suck. Good for you for doing something about it.