This letter has been going around:
To my children’s teachers:
I apologize in advance for the condition my children might be in when you see them on Thursday morning. You will have your work cut out for you, I can assure you.
They will likely be very tired. They have been going to bed late and sleeping in because, frankly, that is what I call a great summer.
Their brains are not in learning mode. If they read a book this summer, I am not aware of it. I sure didn’t ask them to. I’m sure they read the back of the cereal box full of processed ingredients. That may be it.
Their handwriting will likely be chicken scratch for a few weeks, at least. Well, with Anderson…..the chances of improvement are slim to none. That ship has sailed. You will want him to type any written work so it will be legible. I’m pretty sure my son hasn’t held a pencil since May.
There has been no practicing of math facts or algebra review. My oldest counted money and tickets at the arcade by the beach. Pretty sure that was the extent of math practice this summer.
They aren’t looking forward to seeing you. In fact, my soon-to-be first grader cried tonight just thinking about having to sit in your classroom. Have fun with that.
My rising freshman told me he didn’t need to see you a day early on back-to-school day because, and I quote, “I’ll figure it out on the first day.” Preparedness is not his strong suit, so consider yourself warned.
No, they aren’t ready to see you. To be honest, I’m not ready for them to see you either. Please don’t curse me under your breath when you receive them into your classrooms on Thursday morning. Know that while they may be underprepared, it is because they have been busy being children. Because in the blink of an eye, they will be grown men holding down careers and supporting families of their own. And lazy summers will be a thing of the past.
I do promise to make sure homework is done and they are in bed on time during the school year. I promise they will be well-behaved and obedient because they have been trained, and they know how consequences follow them home. Please remember, however, that they are boys and will need a daily outlet for the energy they so carefully try to constrain while you are teaching. Recess isn’t negotiable for them.
Take care of my boys. You have them for as many waking hours as I do each week, and that is no small thing.
As always, thank you for overworking for pennies so that my kids can learn. I promise to be generous with the gifts and service in your classrooms.
A Summer-Loving Mom
Last Sunday on a leisure drive back from lunch we passed one of the most prestigious private high schools in our area. A sign was proudly posted at the front entrance stating: “100% College Admission for our Seniors — again.”
I’ll have to admit I cringed on seeing that. Now I know that any high school principal who doesn’t claim this as his/her goal is likely to be accused of not having the students best interests at heart and would also likely be run out of town by indignant parents. But personally, I think there is a major elitism at play here. And ultimately, a lot of those students suffer as a result. Is our goal really to prepare every student for life in a cubicle? In looking at my grandchildren I see those who would weep at such a prospect.
The elitism is in believing that every occupation pursued by a path outside of college is somehow “lower” and not a worthy pursuit for our students. We have become a culture that looks down on labor and craftsman positions. So, really, in this graduating class we will have no Ferrari mechanics, no sculptors, no HVAC specialists, no one I can contact to design another water feature, no skilled carpenters, no stone masons, no welders and no piano tuners?
Two days ago I had a young man come out to do the spring check-up on our air conditioning systems. Just a check-up, no parts were required. He was here less than two hours and my bill was $149. Yesterday my John Deere tractor was returned with new bearings in the front wheels. Total bill – $2690.78. Most of that was labor – billed at $70/hour. At the same time I have a young attorney friend who is working part time at Kinkos at $10 to supplement his income. The HVAC guy and tractor mechanic – $70 an hour.
In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that the expansion of “higher education” beyond what our labor market demands creates for white-collar workers “employment in substandard work or at wages below those of the better-paid manual workers.” And then he added, “it may create unemployability of a particularly disconcerting type. The man who has gone to college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in professional work.”* I’m sure you know people who are stuck in $12/hour jobs who would never lower themselves to work in something like being a tractor mechanic.
If we consider our children to be smart and really want the best for them, should we not consider a broad range of occupational possibilities?
via 100% College Admission â€“ How Sad.
The Work Should Be Done
A mother once wrote to me and shared the following:
“I had to run to the store, so I told my 11-year old son to make sure he stayed focused on his math. As I was leaving the house, I shouted out a follow-up and said, ‘The work should be done by the time I get back.’ Apparently my tone and body language threatened him with negative consequences if it was not done. When I returned, I found a totally stressed out, sobbing child. In my wisdom I immediately thought, ‘He’s been goofing off and he’s trying to play me to get me to help him.’
After I reviewed the reality of higher math with him, explained that it gets harder, told him things wouldn’t always be easy for him, and so forth, my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I’m not afraid of the math. I was afraid of getting into trouble with you. The only thing that was going through my head was that it needed to be done before you got back.” Then it dawned on me; my son is a pleaser and all he wants to do is please me. How could I be so blind? I totally stressed him out! We talked; I asked for forgiveness and we hugged.”
Recently, I heard a practical thought that can help us overcome our tendency to overreact and govern others with power and pride. “Suspend judgment and be kind.” (1) Lately, I have been saying this to myself over and over again – “Suspend judgment and be kind.” I think this is what Paul was communicating in Ephesians 4 when he wrote:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
(1) Sweatman, Steve. Personal Interview. April 2012.