A letter to the faculty at my child’s school

I’ve just walked home from my daughter’s end of the year program for fourth through sixth graders at her school. She attends the only k4 through 9th-grade academy in our Southern California district. When I enrolled her here, I expected something more than was available in other schools. The name “Academy” fooled me. The reasonable test scores mislead me. I have been disappointed with this school to the point that I’m considering enrolling her across town in her previous school even though I would surrender two and a half hours a day in commuting and line waiting.

Dear Faculty,

As we approach 2015/2016, let me make a few observations and suggestions for improvement.

I know the last year was a rough one. Anytime a fourth grader has to be suspended for fighting in the second week of school, we can expect a challenging year. I knew in the first week that the school was going to disappoint me when a group of boys passed by me as I stood on the school grounds and told me I was a “fucking bitch” for asking them to curb their language. Actually, I said “watch your mouth” which led them into a brief diatribe about my choice of vernacular, and then they called me a bitch. Yes, a fine introduction to your school. I should have pulled my child out that day.

My daughter cried for weeks when she arrived home. Ran through the house, slammed her door and cried. She was nine. I am a bad mother. I said, “It will get better. You’ll make friends. Be nice and they’ll be nice to you. Do what the teacher asks. Set a good example.” These were the wrong things.

I should have said, “Who cares what they think? Tell them to shut up and walk away. If no one will play with you, go to the library at recess, read under a tree, ask the teacher to stay in the room (not possible). ” I did say, “If someone is mean to you, you don't want them as a friend anyway. Don't start the fight, but finish it. If someone touches you, hit them hard then run, and I'll handle the school. Scream if you have to. If the school goes into lockdown again, run. Run away from the school as fast as you can. Run toward the back of the playground and lie flat. Always keep your cell phone in your pocket. If the teacher finds it and takes it, I will handle the school.” She was nine years old.

Educators often say that they are underpaid and not treated like professionals. There may be a good reason. The faculty here dress like it is “football jersey day” every day or “dress like a stripper day” or “woke up ten minutes before school started day”. For weeks when school started, I couldn't place the principal in the early morning drop-off line, then my daughter pointed him out. Every day the man has worn Converse shoes, blue jeans and a hoodie. The school has over nine hundred students, and he dresses like an eighth grader.

If you want to be treated like a professional, dress like one. Here’s a suggested uniform.

Women, knee length or longer skirts. Hormonal boys don’t need club-length skirts flashing them every time the teacher leans over a desk. Moderate heels instead of stripper shoes. Color-appropriate bras under see-through blouses. Better yet, don’t wear sheer blouses or white ones that aren’t thick enough to hide your bras. Long pants are fine, even more practical than skirts, but not blue jeans, not pegged leg pants, not jeggings, or yoga pants, or tights under a butt-length tunic. And I don’t care what kind of underwear you wear as long as no one can see it. Please. Well-fitted pants over comfortable shoes. You’re on your feet all day, after all. If you wear a button-up blouse, please make sure that you buy it large enough to fit over your bust. I know the manufacturers do a lousy job of this, but if it doesn’t fit, keep trying. A shirt is supposed to wrap all the way around, button, and have a little ease so that it doesn’t pull against the buttons. Sweaters and jackets, too. I don’t care what you see on youtube in those haul videos. It doesn’t fit if it doesn’t go all the way around and button easily.

Men, jeans may be worn only if you wear a button-down shirt, a tie, and a jacket. Otherwise, it might as well be Saturday. Golf attire is also acceptable, except no jazzy pants. A collared knit shirt over khakis, preferably with a sports coat. Here’s a great link to show you how, but the photo below isn’t one of the suggestions on the site.

What’s the point of dressing like a professional? Students will respect you. They respond to the attitude you express. If you look easy to manipulate, you will be. If you look like authority, maybe you can expect your students to sit in their desks and be quiet when you tell them to. Maybe you won’t have to stand in the front of the room and whine that they should be listening to you instead of throwing things, pushing my daughter around, and running around the room. Maybe you can actually teach.

I have thought seriously about transferring my daughter back to her old school if they still have room, but I’m heartened by the fact that the lackadaisical principal will no longer be at our neighborhood school. I don’t know why he was moved, but we were told in a robot call that he’s no longer principal. Hopefully, the new principal will institute immediate changes that will upgrade this school’s professionalism. I’ve seen it happen before. A professional principal can make a difference in the quality of the staff. A professional educator leads our children into a better future by not accepting substandard behavior in his staff. I’m hoping for a better school year, but I will not leave my daughter there if it isn’t. Homeschooling is starting to sound like a good idea.

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