Today I sent you an email to inform you that your child has failed to turn in yet another assignment. With only a few weeks left in the semester, he is in danger of failing my class, and I thought you might be concerned about his grade. Turns out I was wrong. Instead of asking me if there is anything he can do to make up the work, or what he needs to do to pass, you blamed me. You accused me of not liking your kid.
To be perfectly frank, he’s not my favorite.
He is rude. He lies to me. He blows off my class, and he proclaims my lessons “stupid.” I have seen him mouth off to kids who are bigger and tougher, and I’ve seen him be mean to kids who are weaker and less fortunate.
So you are right. I don’t always like him. But I do care about him. I care very much, and I am worried.
You see, one day very soon this boy you are so eager to protect will leave your nest, and I am worried that he does not have the skills to make it in the real world. I worry that his future employers or friends or spouse, will not have the patience that you and I have. I worry that he will slack off at work and make excuses. I worry he will be rude to his boss and mouthy to his coworkers. I worry he will be unkind and that he won’t be able to keep a job or friends or a wife. I worry that he’ll be lonely. And when these things happen, you will not be able to protect him. When he blames others for his problems by saying, “Well, they just don’t like me,” he will be right.
It’s true. Sometimes I don’t like your son. But mostly I am just frustrated by how hard he makes it to like him. I’ve seen enough to know that it could be easier. Sometimes he forgets that he’s supposed to hate school. He forgets that caring isn’t cool. Sometimes I see a spark of interest. I see a light come on. On those days when he shares some insight into a poem or a thoughtful opinion about something we’ve read, I can tell he gets it. And he likes getting it. Your son is funny. He has a quick wit that is charming when he doesn’t use it to cut down another kid. But even though he can be mean, I know he just wants to fit in. Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. When he doesn’t, my heart aches for him. My heart aches because I know that there is so much more to this boy than he is showing either of us. There’s so much more to him than even he knows, and definitely more than you are expecting from him.
I admit it. At times I don’t like your son. But he has bigger problems. I don’t like him, but I do care about him. Soon he will be out in the world where there will be people who neither like him nor care about him. He will be out in a world that doesn’t accept excuses or bad moods or phone calls from Mom defending poor behavior. Please do not send him into that world unprepared.
A Concerned Teacher
Bio: Concerned Teacher is a high school English teacher
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