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Dear Parent Of The Average Child: One B.C. Teacher's Confession

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Dear Parent of the Average Child,

I'm sorry. Your child is wonderful. She is always at school on time, does her homework almost every day, works well on her own, and is patient with those around her. I really wanted to go tell your daughter how proud I was of her, of the work she was doing today.

I was about to, but you see, I had a young girl over in the corner crying because she hadn't had breakfast. Another was tromping around the classroom in winter boots. It's May. When I asked her to change, she told me she didn't have any other shoes.

I needed to send them and my CEA (certified education assistant) down to the office to see if we had some food, and any extra shoes in the lost and found.

Oh and over in the other corner, there was a boy screaming at the top of his lungs because, well no one is sure why. He is on a list to see a specialist; they hope to have a plan in place for him soon. Of course it has been three months, but the specialist teacher is overworked and only at our school a few days a week, so we have to be patient.

More children trickled in. One girl told me that her backpack is at Mom's but she was at Dad's last night. He forgot to send a lunch. She also wanted to tell me about her dad's new girlfriend but she told me I wasn't to tell mom because it's a secret.

A young man tells me his cat died last night. Another lost a tooth! Exciting -- until he sees the blood, then the fear sets in.

A child came in a little late, looking afraid and tentative. She watched carefully what was going on, but was too afraid to join in. Everyone agrees that the child's fears aren't normal and that she needs some counselling, but there are only so many hours in a day. They might be able to see her for one or two sessions next month. I started to go over to help her.

Your daughter, wonderful child that she is, helps her put away her things and leads her to her desk.

I was about to head over and say thank you, but I notice three boys in the corner playing rough. I ran over to stop them and have a conversation about expected behaviour at school. I also tried to throw in a lesson on non-violence while I was at it.

I turned back to look for your daughter. I haven't forgotten that I wanted to check in with her, but I look up and realize I should probably begin teaching the lesson of the day. I told myself I would check in with her later.

This was all before 9 a.m. Many other things happened during the day that made it very difficult for me to check in with your wonderful daughter. Students with learning disabilities, diagnosed and not diagnosed. Students with special needs and with behaviour problems. Students who are needier or put up their hand more often. Students who yell louder.

I realized after a day of running from child to child and crisis to crisis, I never did get a chance to check in with her today. I don't mean to leave your daughter alone, but she seems to be doing just fine without me. I hope it is true.

I'm sorry. I feel terrible. Would you mind telling her how proud I am of her? Let her know I appreciate her? I will check in with her tomorrow.

From Your Child's Teacher

Author's Note:

I have 23 little treasures in my room. I care about them all. I want to teach them all and see them all succeed. I've had more days like this one than I would like to admit.

When I think about a classroom without class limits or I think about a school system with even fewer specialist teachers and fewer services for our students, I worry. I wonder how many average kids go unseen everyday. I honestly don't think I can do this job under those conditions. Somedays I wonder how I do it now. I know for a fact I won't be able to do it well.

Please, please please understand how important this issue is. I didn't become a teacher for the paycheque or the glory. I became a teacher because I wanted to help kids do amazing things with their lives.

I want that for all my students. I want to do my job well. That means that I need the tools to do that. This includes a reasonable class size and help from specialist teachers. That is why I'm willing to take a 10 per cent pay cut and walk out in spite of the threats. For me, it isn't about the money. It's about the kids.

(A version of this blog was first published at What I learned at school today.)

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