I recently received an email from the mother of a student in one of my Honors English classes. It was a venomous attack on everything she wholeheartedly believes I did wrong. It was an email crafted in the heat of self righteous indignation. The mother bear was rearing up because her cub had been wounded.
I have somehow managed to lose several of her child’s papers. You know, the ones that are collected by students lining up in alphabetical order to turn work in–directly to their class period bin….. Yes, for some reason, her papers jump out of the bin and disappear into thin air. It is interesting, too, that it is only her child’s papers being lost. I’m sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that her child is frequently seated with empty hands when the other students are lining up to turn the work in.
Also, I never replied to mom’s numerous emails that were sent earlier this year. These too, have somehow escaped either the inbox or the parent email folder on Outlook where I keep all electronic communications with parents. I even keep the emails informing me a student will be absent the next day. However, I must have ignored the emails from this mom and deleted them rather than replied.
Every petty inch of me wanted to defend myself in a sarcastic manner similar to what I have done here.
When I read the message a second time, my eyes were opened to the heart of the message. The message started with the statement that I had made a comment in class that had hurt her child’s feelings. This is the only thing that mattered to me in the email. I do not care if the mother continues to believe I am the worst teacher ever.
The perfectionist voice in my head is screaming that I must prove I was right and the child read the comment incorrectly. However, the God given love in my heart for my students is winning the fight. I do not need to defend myself.
I need to meet the needs of a child whose feelings I hurt. It doesn’t matter that my comment was not said in spite or with malicious intent. What matters is the child’s response. I have no defense because if she was hurt, I was wrong. Defending my comments, my classroom organization, or my responsiveness to parent communications would amount to nothing if my student still walks away feeling hurt.
So, instead of poking the mother bear with the stick of self defense, I will humbly bandage the wounded cub.