Hope For Humanity

Gratuitous picture of Jackie Coogan

Something beautiful blew up the internet this week. Canadian teacher Miss Night’s open blog post letter to parents who complain about “that kid” who’s hitting, spitting and disrupting their kids’ classroom is destined for greatness. “Dear Parent: About THAT Kid…” is a plea for compassion and understanding that should be sent home to parents of school children every year.

Here’s an excerpt:

I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.

I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

I can’t tell you that his asthma medication makes him agitated.

I can’t tell you that her mom is a single parent, and so she (the child) is at school from the moment before-care opens, until the moment after-care closes, and then the drive between home and school takes 40 minutes, and so she (the child) is getting less sleep than most adults.

I can’ tell you that he has been a witness to domestic violence.

That’s okay, you say. You understand I can’t share personal or family information. You just want to know what I am DOING about That Child’s behaviour.

I would love to tell you. But I can’t.

I would love to live in a world where teachers do not have to remind parents that while yes, their child’s failure to grip a pencil correctly is a problem, it’s a minor one, in the grand scheme of things. I would also love to live in a world where the parents who don’t hit their children or leave them with their drunk grandparents don’t need a letter like this to realize how blessed their children are.

But that’s not the world we’re living in, of course. For every four people who stopped by the comments to thank this teacher for giving voice to the children who so often have no voice, there were two who came by to complain.

You can probably guess the nature of most of the complaints in the comments, but Commenter LostInTheShuffle, who responded with an open letter of her own, seemed to sum up the angst best, writing (in part):

I have to supplement my child’s education at home, because there isn’t enough learning happening in the classroom for my child’s needs.

I’m the one that has to try to offer reasons why these kids behave the way to do, so my child can make sense of it all, and hopefully, not turn into a complete cynic.

I’m the one that has to explain how to work on group projects with a child that can’t or won’t cooperate, or do their fair share, because the teacher is busy.

I get to explain everyday to my child, why another child would say or do, mean and hurtful things to them daily.

I’m the one wiping tears away from my child’s face when they come home, each time another child is disruptive or hurtful at school.

To say that parents like LostInTheShuffle missed the point is too obvious, but there is hope for mankind, at least wherever commenter Amy lives.

I totally was not expecting Commenter Amy’s response to LostInTheShuffle’s post (bolding is mine):

As a kid, I was in precisely the same position that your kids seem to be in. I was frustrated, unchallenged, held back by THOSE kids. I felt overlooked, sad, and angry.

In hindsight, those feelings were encouraged by my parents. They cared more about me than any of the other children (as, perhaps, they should), and fought for me. They complained about my school experiences, but did nothing to improve the situation. They did not feel for THOSE kids, and they did not encourage me to, either. They only cared about me.

Now, I wish that they had set a better example. That they had used my experiences with THOSE kids to teach me compassion and empathy rather than elitism and self-importance. Perhaps, in another environment, I would have learned more, thrived intellectually. But the environment I was in had a lot to offer too, in terms of patience and understanding, which I now believe to be far more valuable than higher levels of math and science.

I know that having a more advanced, privileged child has its own trials. Those are real and valid struggles. But it’s what you make of that negative situation that will demonstrate to your children how to cope with similar frustrations and instances of social inequity as they grow up.

There’s still time to treat that disadvantage as an opportunity for fundamental growth of character.

Amy’s my darling.

2 Responses to “Hope For Humanity”

  1. Thank you, so much, for this. The response to my post is giving me heop for humanity, too. And yes, Amy is my darling, too.

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