Teachable Moment

    Here we go, another school year and another teacher that I have to go back and forth with about her teaching practices…

    My oldest son has begun the second grade, this year, and I am already locking horns with his new teacher.  Let me begin by saying that I really try not to be “one of those parents.”  You know the type, they think that their child is perfect and can do no wrong and reject any complaints that the teacher might have throughout the school year.  I know that my son is a chatterbox and I accept that.  However, my little chatterbox always receives impeccable grades.  Additionally, I am aware of the classroom dynamic, from the teacher’s point of view, since I myself have been a teacher for the past 10 years.  This causes me to be sensitive to the plight of my children’s teacher and the amount of work that is involved in being a member of this profession.

    On the flip side, being a veteran teacher also provides me with a built in radar that goes off when I feel that my sons’ teachers are not adhering to best teaching practices.  In other words, my alarm goes off when I smell a rat.  Much to my son’s teacher’s chagrin, I smelled a large rat, the day before yesterday, when he brought home a Spelling test for me to sign that he had received a grade of 100% on and I noticed something strange on the corner of the paper.  On the right upper corner of the paper, directly opposite his perfect grade, was a B-.

    Obviously, I immediately wanted to know what that grade was for so I wrote a quick note on the back of the test asking my son’s teacher why he received that grade.  My son attends Parrochial school so I had a hunch that the grade was for penmanship.  Apparently, you have to have perfect penmanship to praise God.   I asked her what criteria or rubric she used to grade him in this area.  That is basically teacher lingo for, “what hat did you pull this grade out of?”  She promptly responded that the grade was indeed for penmanship and that my son needs to work on “formation of his letter b and d, staying within the lines, and spacing of letters.”

    I kid you guys not, this was her exact response, verbatum.  This answer ticked me off for a number of reasons.  First of all, my sons bs and ds look perfectly fine to me.  Secondly, how do you grade a kid on penmanship, on the sneak tip, when you are supposed to be grading them on their spelling?  That is like a two for one special.  I feel like that is a set up because the kids are already nervous about spelling the words correctly and they don’t pay that much attention to how neat their penmanship turns out.  It also seems like an easy way for the teacher to comply with having enough grades on each child’s handwriting to be able to justify whatever grades she gives them on the report card in this subject area.

    Last night, I typed up a lengthy letter to her listing all of my concerns.  I also pulled out my trump card and let her know, for the first time that I am a teacher.  This lets her know that I am not just some OCD Soccer Mom who is trying to tell her how to do her job.  Hopefully, the letter had its desired effect and didn’t just put a big red bullseye on my son’s back.  She didn’t answer my letter as of yet.  What do you guys think?

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  1. KeeperofthePenguins says

    That sounds like a really tough situation. I am not sure what I would do myself. I fear that you may have given the teacher a reason to dislike your son, Have you thought about speaking to the principle? Grading based off penmanship on a spelling test is without a doubt wrong, if she was going to do that, the test needs to be a penmanship AND spelling test, not just a spelling test.

  2. I totally agree with you. That really is not fair and especially in the 2nd grade. I know our kids have writing practice and tests. Nothing else, just writing. I hope it all works out! I don't know this teacher but not really liking her myself!

  3. Maybe she is frantically trying to develop a handwriting rubric:) I am not a teacher, but work for a public school system. I have to admit that I sometimes send emails to teachers using my work e-mail so that they know I am wise to the ways of the school setting. I have also found that a well placed cc to a key person can often get results. I am always incredibly nice and just have a very concerned tone in the majority of emails. I have found through experience that those parents who send a well placed letter (with nice undertones) and call the teacher occasionally usually benefit from the effort. Hope that you have a great school year!

  4. Kat, I am really not liking her at this point either. I feel that she is very condescending and not really taking the time out to address my concerns. Little does she know that, if she thinks she is tough, I'm an even harder nut to crack, especially when it comes to my sons.

  5. I completely agree with you. While I always do my best to be courteous and professional, I do make sure that my tone is concerned and has a certain sense of urgency. Working as a public school teacher in the inner city has shown me how many parents fail to exercise their rights in order to advocate for their children. I especially want my sons' teachers to know that, although I am not present at many school functions, since I work full time, I am still involved and invested in my children's educations. My sons' academic success is a non-negotiable and I will not allow someone's ego to stand in the way of that.

  6. Wow, this certainly seems a bit much for the age! I think you are justified in calling her on it; you are your child's best advocate.

  7. Love that you say your son's academic success is non-negotiable….I feel the same way about my children and can only wish that more parents would feel this way. I too can not always participate in all of the school functions (sometimes I am just too tired…hate to admit that..) but am very much involved in my children's academic endeavors. When the student's that I work with mention to me that they have not done their homework, project, gotten supplies and it is the 5th week of school….I am always taken aback as education is #1 in my house and all fun activities stem off of whether or not you are doing your best in the academic arena.

    Anyway….love your blog…will be a regular reader. PS..my son's handwriting is not very good, even in a perfect setting. When he was younger I had him write an a slanted surface, a 3" binder turned horizontally works, and this did the trick so that the teacher could read what he wrote. Now that he is in high school he types many of his assignments as he is taking a keyboarding class and wants to practice. He is a great student, in top classes and getting all A's…just has bad handwriting. OH WELL 🙂

  8. What happened? Just getting around to reading.

    I love the "you must have good penmanship to praise God." LOL.

    My son is in second grade too and his penmanship is atrocious. I keep meeting with the teacher about it (she is excellent) and she finally pulled out other boys' homework, covered up their names and had me compare it to my kid's.

    I feel much better about his penmanship now!

  9. Here we go again….Perfection is expected in everything our kids do- I don't get it! I have teens. I honestly thought my 15 year old had the worst penmanship of anyone in the whole school, UNTIL, I went through registration forms for an extra curricular activity. My son has outstanding penmanship! Somewhere along the line ( this is a public school) penmanship is no longer of importance. I could not read 1/2 of the kids' names, let alone their e-mail addresses! I do agree that it would be difficult to grade the letter d or b. That to me….is let's just say..taking it too far! Be an advocate for your child, if you aren't…Who will?

  10. It definitely seemed to be too much to me when I first realized it. You are so right, if we don't advocate and stand up for our children, who will?

  11. That is a great idea! I should ask his teacher to show me the other stellar examples of God worthy penmanship that the other students are using so that she can prove to me that my son's handwriting is as bad as she seems to think it is. It's good to know that you and I can compare notes on how our boys are progressing since they are so close in age.

  12. Exactly, Sara. Since when is having good penmanship an indicator of intelligence? I had a Chemistry teacher in High School that was absolutely brilliant but could not spell to save his life and had the worst penmanship that I have ever seen. He used to remind us all the time that studies show that being a good speller is not a prerequisite for being smart. Maybe he was lying to make himself feel better but, it always made sense to me.

  13. You know I had to throw the "R" word around. 😉 I wanted to throw the gauntlet down and let her know that I knew what I was talking about. Apparently, she realized that I am not a Mommy force to be reckoned with because she sent me a lovely response letter today addressing all of my concerns. She CCd the letter to the Principal to cover her derriere. This really wasn't necessary because I hadn't planned to involve him and get her in trouble, YET…

  14. I am so happy that you like my blog, it really means a lot to me to be able to connect with you this way. I'm also excited that we have so much in common by way of being Moms who work in the education field. Thanks for sharing your son's story with me, it really reiterates what I have been saying all along to my husband about this issue with my son's teacher. She is really focusing on minutia when she should be praising my son for getting perfect grades in all areas. Instead, I really felt like she was stealing his thunder by posting that penmanship grade on the corner of a Spelling test that he had received 100% on. As a teacher she should be building her students up not knocking down their self esteem. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

  15. Never mess with a Mama! Sounds like she could use a good swift kick off her high horse!

  16. I've been back and forth with teachers since my three oldest sons started school. They kept grouping them as the Bonner boys and not individually. If one did wrong they all did. I do understand your plight and the consideration you put forth to them as one of their fellow educators.

    Following you back from Mom Loop.


  17. Tomica, I know all about getting compared to my sibling in school. Unfortunately, since I was the one who always got good grades and my sister was the one who struggled in school, she was always asked why she couldn't be a good student like her sister. I know this had an extremely negative impact on her and I work very hard to not do that to my students when I have siblings in back to back years or in the same class.

  18. That is nuts. NUTS! If you can spell the word and read that he spelled the word it should be an A+.

    Eek. I'm not looking forward to 'real' school. Preschool already has me in a tizzy! 😉

    Saw you on the Mom Loop and am a new follower!

  19. Hello! Stopping by from MomLoop Friday! I agree with letting the teacher know that the double grading was a bit sneaky. And penmanship can be worked on after they get the spelling correct. (Won't they be typing soon anyway?)

  20. Oh boy, this brings me back to my school days. My entire goal for third grade was to be able to land a sticker on my penmanship paper. Every week was a struggle until I just let it go. Realizing that I would not ever get an A, I took my allowance and bought myself the damn sticker to put on my C paper. I learned to love my quirky writing and non-perfect Rs. Handwriting should be as unique as the individual who owns it.

  21. I love that you went out and bought your own sticker to validate yourself! Yes, handwriting is and should be unique to the individual, not mass produced. Thank you for passing by, I love meeting Latina Mommy bloggers like myself.

  22. Hi, Kim. That is exactly how I felt, that she snuck that penmanship grade right in there. Unfortunately, although I am happy with every other aspect of the education that my sons are receiving in parrochial school, they still hold on to this archaic belief that penmanship is the cornerstone of a good student. Don't get me wrong, I think it is important to write neatly and legibly, however, to have it pull their academic average down is preposterous!

  23. I've never heard of getting deductions in grades for bad penmanship – that sounds utterly ridiculous. Can they really do that nowadays? I mean, we can be taught how to write nicely and properly but this is spelling for goodness sake.

    You go and tell 'em girl! lol

  24. Yeah, since it is parrochial school, they can really do that. They decided to make penmanship part of the curriculum. I am not against my son learning how to write in script because I have seen how many kids I teach in public school cannot sign their name. However, I am against her being sneaky and grading him every single time he writes on a test for other subjects. Thanks for backing me up!

  25. Hi, April. Her first response to me was very condescending and she didn't seem to budge. I immediately drafted a lengthy letter outlining all of my concerns and letting her know that I am a public school teacher. Her second response was a lot more humble and she attempted to address all of my concerns. I think she came down a couple of pegs when she realized that I was a teacher and that I knew what I was talking about. Thanks for passing by, I really appreciate it.

  26. Hi, April. Her first response to me was very condescending and she didn't seem to budge. I immediately drafted a lengthy letter outlining all of my concerns and letting her know that I am a public school teacher. Her second response was a lot more humble and she attempted to address all of my concerns. I think she came down a couple of pegs when she realized that I was a teacher and that I knew what I was talking about. Thanks for passing by, I really appreciate it.


  1. Maria says:

    RT @toughcookiemom Tough Cookie Mommy: Teachable Moment http://bit.ly/90LymR

  2. Maria says:

    The gloves are coming off with my son's teacher. Am I overreacting? https://www.toughcookiemommy.com/2010/09/teachable-moment.html

  3. Maria says:

    Ladies, I need some Mommy feedback before I wait for my son's teacher in the school yard. http://bit.ly/90LymR #b2sb2b

  4. Maria says:

    Teachable Moment:     Here we go, another school year and another teacher that I have to go back and forth with ab… http://bit.ly/drIDBu

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