To Whom It May Concern:
My son is a curious kid. He’s high-energy and artistic and he loves thinking deeply. He’s a sensitive soul and sometimes the smallest amount of criticism can feel crushing. I could tell you the ideal way to teach him. I’d probably tell you to avoid the stickers. Opt out of homework. Go with qualitative feedback instead of grades. Forget the Class Dojo points and the Firebird Dollars and think instead about being ethical.
But here’s the thing: I won’t. I’m not going to tell you how to teach, because I’ve realized something humbling as a dad. I might be an expert on my son, but I’m not an expert on kindergarten or first grade or even second grade. I don’t have the professional experience you have. I don’t have the contextual knowledge you have.
I’m also realizing that the amazing things about kids is that they learn in different systems – ones that are more closed and more open and more traditional and more constructivist. I’m not sure how both of my boys ended up reading by the end of kindergarten, but I’m telling you that I couldn’t have done it at home. I get it. There are things that you’ll do differently, but I’m really okay with filling in the gaps at home. If, for example, he doesn’t get enough reading-for-pleasure time at school, he’ll do it at home.
I’m realizing that the diversity in experience is a part of how a child grows. So far my son has had to cope with different rules and expectations and systems than we have at home. That’s a part of learning. That’s a part of growing up. I know, I know. Kids are supposed to pursue their passions and run with their questions and all of that. However, one of the best parts of school so far is that my son has learned that he won’t always have his way in education.
Furthermore, I don’t expect you to be perfect. I don’t expect you to get it right every time. You will have thirty kids who are all different. However, truth be known, my kid isn’t always an angel when I’m at home. People say kids are naturally good, but I swear they would have launched nuclear weapons at each other when the three of my kids realized there was only one Popsicle left.
I guess what I’m saying is that I believe we live in a broken world. Systems are broken. Relationships are broken. But somehow beauty breaks through because there are teachers like you who choose to love thirty strangers and help them grow into critical thinkers. That’s pretty amazing to me. So, I’m not going to tell you how you should run your classroom. This letter is mostly just a heads-up ahead of time to say, “Thanks for what you do every day.” It’s pretty amazing.
On second thought, I’m not going to send this note. Instead, I’ll just send an e-mail somewhere along the line that says, “What you do is amazing. Thank you.” I think teachers could use a few more of those letters from parents.