Dear Community of Educators,
Last August, we left my daughter at your college excited and prepared, although I know nervous and scared. She wanted to like it there--she planned to like it there-- and maybe, she'll still like it there. I keep thinking she'll turn the corner, but March 1st and the transfer application deadline arrived, and so did a few charges on my credit card from the Common App.
I don't know if she'll really transfer. "I just want options," she says, and I will do everything I can to honor that wish. But here's what I, and any other parent, regardless of what level of school their child is in, wishes you'd have done. I wish you'd reached out to her and treated her with kindness instead of robotic indifference. Maybe you did. But perception is reality, and she wants to keep her options open partially because she feels like no one really cares.
When she asked to meet with her advisor, that person made it difficult to set up an appointment. When she asked her professor about changing her grade to reflect the four point higher differential to report to the colleges, he rolled his eyes and hostilely asked for a pen. When she met with the dean to request her transcript and transfer forms, the dean told her exactly what she had to do on-line. The face to face meeting lasted seven minutes. Any of these interactions had the potential to change my daughter's experience, her intention, and ultimately her decision. (Could have saved me money too.) Maybe I should say these points to these adults to their face. Maybe I should find their numbers, pick up the phone, and talk to them. Maybe I'll write to them--send this letter, even. Maybe my daughter will. Maybe they'd care. Maybe they wouldn't.
I share these experiences because every day, parents send us their children and it doesn't matter if those children are three or twenty. Those children are their parents' everything, and how we treat them is filtered through those children's perceptions and realities and brought home or shared for validation, empathy, and love. My girl's experiences have made me look at my own interactions with other people's children. Am I intentional enough about showing them that I value them and I want them to be a member of my community? Probably not. Isn't it amazing that every child, even the big ones walking around your campus, are someone's soul walking outside of their body, sometimes far away from home?
A few days ago, I read a blog post from an on-line friend, Carrie Gelson, who was contemplating the power we have as teachers. You can read her post here. She starts her message like this:
Student safety, happiness and joy. Relationships. Acceptance. Calm. These things should matter. We all know unless we are pretending or making excuses that are all about us that these things should matter most of all. No learning happens unless we have accounted for these things. No growth. No wonder. No risk taking. None of it.
I think most of the elementary teachers I work with understand these words. I'm not in high school classrooms, but judging from my daughters' reactions, some of their teachers understand these words--maybe even more than I think. Today, I'm wondering about people who teach at the college level.
Ultimately, my daughter will be fine. She is a grounded, smart, resilient person. But I do wish that adults in her world had paid more attention to the power they had to raise her up or shove her down. Carrie's words matter so much. Safety. Happiness. Joy. Relationships. Acceptance. Calm.