Teaching Respect Without Respect…?

This is the e-mail that I received from my six year old’s teacher this afternoon… I’m actually livid at the moment, so if my response to her doesn’t say enough, I apologize. But only half-heartedly. Because I stand fully behind what I said.

Hello Denelle,                             October 7th, 2014

I wanted to discuss with you how Braeden is doing and some areas of concern that I have this year. It would be helpful for me to discuss this with you in person but I realize you are very busy too.

Braeden is a very sweet boy and has the ability to do very well in school! Most days he seems very tired and will just lay his head on his desk:( He also likes to play with things and many times is in his own little world. Sometimes it difficult to bring him out of that world.

Now that we have been in school for awhile and I have had the opportunity to get to know Braeden a little better, it seems as though he has a difficult time looking at me when I am teaching, and he has a need to play with things when it is listening time. He is very easily distracted and in the last couple of weeks he has cut his hair and his stuffed animal that he brought to school today. Can you help me understand, so I can find ways to help Braeden at school. We both want the best for him and I haven’t found anything that motivates him. This too is an area where I need your help. I want to work together with you so that Braeden has an awesome year in first grade.

I’m also concerned with the number of sight words he can read. Right now he knows 22 out of 60 words that we have had so far. Is there someone that can work with him each night on these words? Once he learns to read, no one can take that away from him.

Thank you for any insight so that we can help Braeden enjoy school and do well.

Your partner in education,
[Insert teacher name here]

While I appreciate her pre-programmed and seemingly scripted e-mail to help soothe anxious parents, what she neglected to mention is that she took that stuffed animal and threw it away, as well as taking away his scissors.  I’m technically fine with taking away both, but my response explains the rest:


I’m not sure why Braeden seems to have such a hard time with his sight words at school. He practices them at home and misses only a handful of 60 at worst. As far as focus, it isn’t the first time the issue has come up for us as two of his older brothers have ADHD (one of whom lives in the same household). I’m hesitant to say that’s what he has or if he is just emulating his big brother’s behavior, because when they are apart from one another at home, he is a completely different person. However, he is around children who can be easily swayed into hyperactivity (as most 6 year olds can with/without an instigator) and that is probably part of the problem if he is seated near anyone he feels he can amuse or entertain or “impress.” His 10 year old brother was the same way. He can be somewhat self-conscious and shy at times because of it, but I’m sure that it leads to episodes of acting out and “over-acting” to compensate. A very valid reason I will not start him on medication just yet.

That being said, I’ve read the episodes about the scissors on all occasions they have come home. He has been talked to quite sternly on all occasions. “Don’t cut your hair. Don’t act like you’re going to cut other people.”, etc., and grounded from video games. Today, however, has me quite upset and I’m surprised that I can actually type this up as calmly as I am and in logical terms, albeit somewhat dry and “medical,” if you will.

My problem is this:

Braeden has explained to us the extent of the damage that he did to this stuffed animal, which was not actually his, but something that his 4 year old brother allowed him to take to school because Braeden was told he was allowed to one day this week and that, being his favorite game and a favorite character, is what he chose to bring. He has impulse-control issues; I understand that. So do many (most) children. He also has issues remembering things he was admonished not to do prior because his mind is constantly going 100mph and, again, his desire to make people laugh, even inappropriately, takes over. Again, so do many (most) children. If not, most parents would not feel like a broken record player, even though most kids these days have no idea what the saying even means when we say it.

What I’m getting to is this: he informed us that the damage he did was a minor snip wherein no damage was truly done. If that is not, indeed, the case, and you can show me otherwise that it was unable to be salvaged with a needle and thread, then I can understand a first instinct to toss it into a garbage can. However, the correct response is to package it in one of the plethora of gallon Ziploc bags that are provided at the start of the school year and return it to the parents so that the parents can decide what to do with the aftermath. It is not your place to throw out anyone’s personal property other than your own and it is our place, as his parents, to decide if he should have it back.

I feel that you owe my son an apology, if not a search through the trash for his brother’s belongings, as I also feel that he owes you an apology for disrupting the classroom. However, he’s 6. I’m certain he isn’t the only one at that age to do so since I just had 15 of his friends in my home for his and his brother’s birthday party this weekend.

Disrupting is part of the territory and part of learning what is and what is not acceptable in class.

Learning that it’s ok for someone to disrespect your property while telling you to respect theirs is not something I think he should be learning.


Denelle Wolff


First post in 2 years… and it took a first grade teacher to bring it.


About Caitlin's Concepts

Mom to 4 boys and drowning in a sea of testosterone!
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One Response to Teaching Respect Without Respect…?

  1. I would be livid if I were you, too. Not just b/c of the stuffed animal thing(which really, she never should have thrown it out) but because what she should have done was to pick up the phone and call you, not dump all this in an email. Just b/c we’re able to send emails so easily doesn’t mean we should. Real issues need to be taken care of a little more personally and where there’s room for conversation.

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