Mommy Mondays: Benefit of the Doubt

I recently read a poll in a parenting magazine asking if parents pay attention to other parents’ “reviews” of teachers. It asked if parents would go so far as to try to have their children moved to other classes if they had heard negative things about the teachers their kids were assigned.

The readers’ responses varied. Some thought it negligent to ignore the negative feedback—why put their kids through a potentially bad experience if they could help it? Others gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt—some teaching styles work better for some kids, so why not give it a try first? If you’d asked me this question last year, when my daughter was heading into kindergarten, there’s no question what I would have said.

[My daughter, Emma. Her daddy is 6’3, with 6’ sisters and a 6’7 brother!]

Flash back…there we were…waiting to see the class list and meet Emma’s teacher. We’d heard such great things about both kindergarten teachers. We’d played for years on the kindergarten playground and peeked through the kindergarten windows at the adorable little chairs and tables. Even the in-class bathroom door was tiny!

What a surprise to learn that one of those two teachers had taken on the school’s new preppy-K class and my daughter was assigned to a new team-teaching pair. At first we were thrilled—two teachers in the classroom! Too good to be true! And it was. What it really meant was that two teachers would split the week. Really? Neither one could commit to a 22-hour work week? Then the other shoe dropped— neither teacher had ever taught kindergarten before. Oh, and that cute little classroom on the cute little playground? Nah, we were down the hall with the big kids. And the tiny bathroom door was replaced with the big girl’s bathroom—across a corridor open to the street.

I did what any good parent would do—I panicked. I tried the principal, to no avail. There would be no relocations; the classes were full. I wasn’t alone: we were all worried—two teachers, two sets of rules, two styles— and in this crucial year, no less! After a few sleepless nights and more conversations than my friends care to remember (oh, and a deposit at the private school down the road, which we really couldn’t afford and whose religious tenets we do not believe), I caved. I mean, what choice did I have?

Well, a year later, I am both thrilled and embarrassed to report that the year could not have gone any better. One teacher was nurturing and sweet. The other was stern, but conducted kitchen science lessons every Friday with edible treat results. I never heard any student or parent complain of trouble adjusting to different styles or routines. In fact, they may have come out more flexible for it. The highlight of my daughter’s year was winning the silent auction at the spring carnival. The prize? Lunch. At Burger King. With her teacher. The stern one.

I am not a go-with-the-flow person, but  man, lesson learned. So when the flurry of phone calls, texts, and emails started rolling in when this year’s class assignments were mailed, I’m happy to report that I closed my ears and went with the flow.

And I’m glad I did. Emma’s new teacher opened this year’s Open House by telling the parents how grateful she was to have a job that she loves so much. Teaching is probably the hardest job in the world (okay, tied with being a mom). Teachers wouldn’t do it if they didn’t love it. So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. I know I will!

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