Monday, September 14, 2015

A Letter to Alex's Teacher #SOL15

To Alex's Teacher,

As a teacher myself, I know what it's like to get a class list, scan the names, and have a moment of recognition, and okay-dread, when you see a name that you've heard before.  Some students have a reputation that precedes them and like it or not, you already have some negative ideas about this student.  You might ask yourself: Will I be able to handle this student's behavior? How much extra stress will this student cause? Can I be the one to turn it around for him/her?

By now, you know my son Alex has been added to your class roster.  He will join your class tomorrow.  He has been in your school since he was 11 months old and next month he will turn 5.  Most of the time, he does a great job.  Sometimes he has trouble listening.  Those times have been more frequent lately, part of the reason he is making a change and joining your group.  

I'm worried you might be dreading this.  You surely have a lovely class and you've started setting up your routines and procedures.  New students need to be oriented to all of this and it is extra work and effort.  Another name tag in a cubby, another birthday cake on the wall, more items to be labeled with another name, another student to keep track of and assess.  I get it. But...

He is my world.  

Along with his dad and his sister, he is my family, the "dream that I'd been chasing" (love that line from Martina McBride's "I Just Call You Mine- always makes me think of Alex).  He is the baby I wished for and had trouble conceiving, his arrival making me what I always hoped I'd be and feared I wouldn't become- a mom.  He is imaginative and loves to create stories and scenarios for the little figures he has- Batman, cars, dinosaurs- always end up in some battle to defeat the "bad guys." He is energetic, curious, chatty, and sweet.  He has moody moments and gets frustrated when something is challenging.  He can be uncooperative at times.  He's a little boy who is learning his way in the world and there are hiccups.  

He is very verbal but needs help to learn his letters.  He has stories to tell but needs help learning to hold his pencil.  He needs you to believe in him, to make him believe he can learn, that it's okay to work at something and get better at it.  That not everything comes easy and sometimes, most of the time, it takes real effort to improve and grow.  He needs you to make school fun, exciting, engaging and to help him connect learning with happy feelings.  He needs you to help him get past those frustrated moments, those defiant times, to help him get back to the group and be accepted and welcomed.  

As for me, I need you to like him.  I want to believe you really get him and appreciate him.  I hope you will love the way he tells a story with such earnestness and innocence.  I hope you will harness his energy and see his excitement as a positive attribute.  I hope you will recognize his kind heart and the way he cares about other people.  I hope you will plan the day with effort and care and knowledge about young children; I hope you will keep him busy in meaningful, appropriate tasks that engage his senses; I hope you will know that his days with you will have a big impact on his days at home.  

Tomorrow, my little boy joins your class.  Today, at his Tae Kwon Do class, he was focused and hard-working. He gave me smiles and kept putting his little thumb up to show me he was trying.  It kind of broke my heart.  He is trying. We are trying. There is room for improvement all around.  It is all a work in progress and now you become part of our story, part of the picture being created known as Alex.  

Knowing the hopes I am pinning on you humbles me as a teacher myself and makes me realize that I need to work harder and be kinder to the students who are known commodities, who live up to their reputations for not following rules and causing disruption.  They too, are somebody's world.  They too, have families that are trying hard and I am part of their child's life story now as well.  What a responsibility and what a gift.  

I thank you in advance for all you will do to help my son have happy days full of learning and growing.  I thank you for your patience, for your kindness, for using a gentle tone when you want to use a sharp one, for understanding that little boys aren't perfect.  I thank you for reading stories, singing songs, designing experiments, and making learning come to life.  I know your job is really very hard but I also want you to know that it is really important. 

Hoping for a great year,
Kathleen Sokolowski


(Waterlogue of Alex at the beach this summer)