Dear Mrs Z.,
I knew what happened but I never had a name for it. In my mind, it was an incident that lasted a school year with so many details. The story had too many details to explain. I finally came up with the name that I hope will serve many so that it can be easily described, recognized and trained to avoid.
My daughter was only nine when I trusted you to teach her and care for her future. Throughout her twelve years of schooling, she has had a variety of teachers with different methods of educating, discipline and mannerisms. They were enthusiastic, fun, stern, kind, sensitive, creative, traditional, new-age, tired, and some were stressed from changes in education yet, very dedicated. The vast majority of them were driven by their passion to teach, in spite of the hurdles thrown in their way. They have been heroic and each one has been a stepping stone to my daughters success and to so many others like her.
Mrs. Z., you were the exception.
I want to thank you for recognizing that my daughter was the student who never received a “yellow” light on the board, as a warning to improve in some area. She was well liked by all of her classmates, mindful, and friendly and she historically earned high grades and commonly received “outstanding” on her behavior grade.
I desperately want to thank you for being a teacher that took good care of my daughter and built upon her confidence by educating her well.
However, after a few months in your class, my once vibrant daughter was wearing a withering confidence all over her nine year old body.
It showed on her expressions, her posture and an apparent weakening of her excitement for life, as a nine year old.
My husband and I spoke with you on a few occasions and every time you smiled and told us, “She is doing great in class and is a delight.” We spoke with you and the administration, but again we heard what a wonderful child she was and she was doing well. You did add that math was not her strongest subject but there was nothing to worry about.
But Mrs. Z. you were not telling us how you really felt about our daughter.
In front of her peers, you would say to her repeatedly, “There is something wrong with you, if you do not understand this.” For some reason you did not think that one of her peers would share with us all of the details. I am not sure if you were not completely aware of your surroundings or because my children had separate last names or you assumed they were not close because they were step siblings. Regardless, my son shared.
I am also not sure what you were trying to teach my daughter with your angry eyes that my son witnessed on many occasions. I am not sure why you made her feel uncomfortable by your daily words and looks or keeping her from taking turns in the “fun” activities.
I wished so many times that I could have been a fly on the wall when you taught, as there was such a discrepancy between your words and her sadness.
Mrs. Z. I cannot help but think that you knew you were not nice to some of your students and that you took your aggression out on them. It almost would have been better, if you did not know. It would have made this a teaching opportunity for my children in terms of how some people do not have great people skills and have difficulty getting their messages across. However, I think that you did know that you were not nice to my daughter. You did not treat everyone this way; this was not your way of teaching because there was no consistency in your style. I know this, because you treated our son and daughter differently and according to you, they were both well behaved and did well in school. For awhile, I thought that my daughter was being too sensitive; but, that was not the case. Mrs. Z, I think you were actually mean to her and you gave my daughter something that she did not deserve, or anyone else for that matter.
You see , Mrs. Z., you suspended my daughter from school for fourth grade. No, it was not the typical suspensions that children receive from acting out repeatedly with many warnings to improve behavior. You know the suspension where administration gets involved including parents and a plan is devised?
I think you had a secret suspension system that no one knew about except for you and the children who were placed within your four walls. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you held mental meetings, judged and decided as to who was to be in your class and who was not to be.
What you did Mrs. Z, was that you gave my daughter an emotional suspension. You took it upon yourself to suspend her from your class by using negative emotional methods that made her mentally leave your class to protect herself.
Although she always earned great grades in academics and behavior, she shut down in your forth grade class. Her emotional suspension carried over in her fifth grade class and tiny pieces continued in subsequent years in school. No matter how wonderful the teachers were, she never escaped the words “there is something wrong with you.” There is a tiny piece of her nine year old self that never returned after her experience in your classroom, within the four walls that I trusted she was in good care.
I would like to say that you had no right to do this, but you did. You were a licensed teacher. You earned your right to teach children with no other adult supervision. I also think you wanted to be a good teacher to all of your students but it was too challenging for you. Your administration did see something in your style the following school year, as they apologized to our family and told us you were “taking a break.”
After all of these years, I could never put a name to what you did. It was not until I listened to a radio show that spoke of physical school suspensions where kids have to leave school for a designated amount of time due to behavior issues and then return. The program explained how suspensions are a pipeline to certain outcomes for some children and regardless of the reason for the suspensions, a child carries that punishment in their life because it is not easily forgotten.
Emotional Suspension…that is the name I came up with to describe what you gave my daughter and no matter how hard I try, I cannot recognize your ways as some sort of life lesson and a stepping stone in disguise.
I really wish I could.
Still Forever Close