She smiled ever so sweetly at my mother on the first day of 7th grade.
We're delighted (her voice rising a full octave on the syllable "light") to have
your daughter this year!" But, as soon as my mother left, Miss Wilkenson-with her smile permanently relocated
to another continent--took a deep breath, lifted her massive chest, and blew out at a full octave lower-"I
H-O-P-E that we will not have as much trouble with you as we did with your cousin!" My cousin was truly not
meant for school although looking back, no one would have been "meant" for Miss Wilkenson. My cousin was,
however, meant for the stage, and went on to star in "Hair" on Broadway. And so began 7th grade.
It did not go well. I was not a passive child. If something didn't make sense, I would question it. If something
didn't seem fair, I would challenge it. If something was, in my so humble 7th grade opinion, just plain
illogical, I wouldn't do it-a teacher's dream pupil, in effect! I certainly stayed long beyond my cousin,
and Miss Wilkensen and I became each other's worst nightmare! My mother was called to school constantly and Miss
Wilkensen was always most encouraging in front of my mother. She's so bright; she just needs to focus
more. I do not believe she is working to her fullest potential."
"She HATES me,
It yelled itself from the rooftops in everything she said and did to me. To my
mom's credit, she never blamed my imagination nor did she try to make it less than I felt. But nothing changed.
Miss Wilkensen continued to glower at me. I continued to be defiant.
The year finally ended.I did
I hate English! I hate my English teacher!
she picks on me. I know she doesn't like me. She never gives me a good grade
I'll let you in on a secret- there are teachers who are nice,
and teachers who are not nice.
Yeah, and I got the not nice one.
I guess so,
but you have a problem. And you know what your problem is?
She hates me.
That is not your problem. Your problem is you need to get through this class, right?
never gives me a good grade!
You don't have to get a good grade. I'll let you
in on another secret.
get the skills you need and the grades will come automatically, promise.
English class is about reading and understanding books, learning how to write essays, and increasing
your vocabulary. That's what the class is all about, right?
Did I mention your teacher?
No, but she teaches all that stuff!
She's only teaches that "stuff, " Charlie, she
doesn't own that "stuff" That "stuff"
belongs to everyone. She's just carrying that "stuff" to you-she's
handing that suitcase over to you, so, it's your "stuff," really. And
do you know what that "stuff' is?
The skills you need to get the
grades you want.
It really doesn't matter whether she likes you or not.
Because it's not about your teacher, Charlie, and it's not about what your
teacher thinks of you. It's about getting your hands on that suitcase so that you can travel far beyond that teacher.
You don't need your teacher to like you Charlie, you only need her to teach you what you have to learn. That's
her job. Your job is to get a hold of that suitcase and those skills—they're like secret codes. Once you
have the codes inside your brain, you won't need your teacher anymore. Do you understand what I'm saying?
So, next time you're in class, concentrate on the characters in the book you're
reading, think about why they do what they do, try writing in clear and also creative ways, start building vocabulary that
will help you express yourself. Your teacher still knows more than you, and you need her knowledge, not for her to like you.
This is English class, not Teacher class. Keep her totally separate from English. Focus on the subject and you will end up
the winner, here. Promise!
Later on in the year, Charlie told me that his teacher didn't dislike him so much anymore.
I just smiled. I didn't tell him that he probably wasn't focusing on her so much anymore.
We are eternally grateful when our children have gifted and dedicated teachers who have a passion
for their vocation and truly inspire. But what happens when they don't. Kids need to get above and beyond their
negative impressions of a teacher. This is where Perspective can play a pivotal role is moving a young student forward academically.
We do not want a child getting stuck in this moment in time and shutting down, all because of a bad relationship with a teacher.
When I write about this further on in "Protecting Our Kids' Dreams" I speak in
reference to sports. No one coach's personality should hold sway over your child's love of a sport.
The same holds true, more importantly, in the classroom. No one teacher should determine a child's future love
of learning or academic success.
when our children come home and say, my teacher doesn't like me-listen, don't disagree but ask-which
do you think is more important? How your teacher feels about you or what you need to learn in that class? The more you learn
the less you will have to deal with teachers you don't think like you. Instead of worrying about your teacher,
tell me about the book you're reading, what weird word have you learned; let's use it tonight in silly
sentences. Let's have fun with this class, and forget about the teacher. It's not about the teacher.
If, with our help, our child can learn how to separate the teacher from
the subject, it will be a first big step in not getting stuck. And not getting stuck has a great deal to do with surviving
school, and protecting a love of learning. The ability to separate a difficult person from the issue at hand is also a life
skill essential for future work and accomplishment. Friday I will post a letter from a parent, and my response.
Installment #19/Teacher Complaints
H20 to Go! Copyright,
By Margo Judge
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