19 September 2009


Goosey had a long-term substitute in kindergarten last year while her teacher was out on maternity leave. The sub was terrible. She simply just didn't have "it" when it came to kindergarten. That was a rough three months. The day that Goosey came home and told me they had watched Blues Clues in class was the final straw. I discussed it with a few other parents who I knew had been having the same concerns as me and then I wrote a logical, considerate email to the principal. He took care of things. Here's the thing: Goosey never knew what was going on. She didn't know that I thought this woman was ruining the kindergarten experience for those children, or even that I was frustrated, because I always treated Ms. D with respect. Because, at the end of the day, she was Goosey's teacher.

What happens when our children hear us degrade, insult and show a general lack of respect for someone? Let me tell you another story.

I was once in a home where the teenage son was degrading his history teacher. He went on about how the man was and idiot, how he knew nothing. The teenager's attitude was that he didn't have to listen to a thing the man said because he thought he was an idiot--and that's why he would get up and walk out of class whenever he felt like it. I was appalled. Truly. I began to defend the teacher when the teenage son came back with an example of a lesson that the teacher had recently taught. As heard about the lesson I realized that I had had that lesson....in a college history course, and it was one of my favorite I had ever sat through.

At this point I said to the teenager, "Wow! I'm really impressed. I learned that in a college US History class and it was a fantastic way to learn that material. I think your teacher is trying to keep things interesting and is challenging you. Sounds like he has a lot of faith in you guys and expects a lot. That's awesome."

At this point the father breaks in, "No, we met him at the open house. He's weird. The teacher is an idiot."

Well folks, there's the problem. Rather than teaching a child respect for a position or office the parent degraded the teacher in front of the child, validating the child's behavior. After that it was no surprise to me that the teenager was struggling to graduate because he saw no value in a high school education--what could anyone who teaches high school teach him?

Lack of respect. I see it so often. What good does it do us to teach our children that we can degrade and dismiss people simply because we don't agree with their ideas or ways? Such behavior creates a society of rudeness, of unkind acts, of feelings of superiority over others.

And now, to the point.....

I had no problem with President Obama's school speech (a little behind the times, I know... but this post has been percolating). While I may not agree with all of his politics, he's the President of the United States. I respect that office and the authority that comes with it. Which means what? That if I had a child whose district/school/teacher wanted them to watch the speech I'd have let him. I wouldn't have made a to-do beforehand.

Rather, that afternoon I would've have discussed the speech with my child; asked what value he saw in it. Why did he think the President wanted to address school children? How did it make him feel? What did his teacher have to say about it?

Because that, my friends, is how we teach our children to think and to make choices. Hiding them under a bushel will never allow them to shine. We must teach our children to function in the world by having respect for others.

It's always a police-officer and never a "cop".
I will encourage my children to work within their teachers' framework.
They will address my friends as Mr. & Mrs. or Brother & Sister.
I will always call him PRESIDENT Obama.

And so I will keep on.....

Because it's about creating a better world by respecting each other.


~j. said...


This is how I feel, as well. It gets under my skin when people refer to 'Obama' with that condescending tone. I'm always deliberate in referring to him as President Obama. I voted for him, and though no candidate was (or will be) perfect, nor do I agree with everything he may represent, I find myself in a peculiar situation, defending him on a very base level: He is our President.

I phoned my girls' school the morning of the speech to make sure it would be shown, but before I could get that out, the secretary said, "If you don't want them to watch it, just send a note." Interesting that THAT was the immediate assumption. In all honesty, I don't know that a kindergartener, or a second-grader, or maybe even a fifth-grader, would remember details of what the president said, or that he even spoke to them. What they will, however, remember, is that one time when their mom made such a fuss about 'wanting her country back' and kept them out of school, or even that half-hour of class. The feeling of the situation stays.

To those who are not in agreement (with what was, in my opinion, a brilliant and completely politically-benign Let's All Work Together To Be Educated speech), I say, What a wonderful opportunity! In this, and all, other instances, discuss your child's school day with them. Ask them what they heard, what they learned, and ask them what they felt about those things; discuss how those things and ideas compare with what your family teaches, what you know to be true. What a great opportunity to show them, rather than just tell them, that we don't all think alike, and that it's OKAY.

Bravo, Carrie. Bravo.

b. said...

Picture me: in my jammies, in my kitchen, standing up to applaud you.
Not because I live what you are teaching here to a 'T' (in fact, I have miles to go) but because I believe it at my core, because I am trying and because I want to do better.
Thank you for writing this.

Shannon said...

Thanks. I may not agree with his politics all the time, either but he IS the President of the US. I also don't think one speech heard in the third grade is going to corrupt my children for life. If it does, my parenting skills and effectiveness have dropped into a deep dark pit at the South Pole. Like you said, it was the perfect time to sit down with the kids and talk about what was said and how we felt about it. I couldn't believe the numbers of people who flipped out about this.

The speech wasn't shown in any of our schools, from what I understand, because by the time all the uproar came about there wasn't enough time to get permission slips sent home and returned, so they opted to not show it. I had one friend who took her children out of school as a sort of protest to go home to watch it, but I'm not sure I agree with that, either. It's that respect thing for teachers and schools again. It was on You-Tube and all the news sites, we could have watched it after school. People sure are interesting sometimes.

sue-donym said...


I will be sending this post to several of my family members.

Well said.

kiki said...

This post makes me want to improve myself.

La Yen said...

This is exactly EXACTLY what I want to say, but in better words than I have to use! You are brilliant. Amen.

c-dub said...

i gave you a big AMEN in Google Reader, but it bears repeating.


Fig said...

Fabulous, fabulous.

I wrote a letter to the editor at my little Utah hometown's paper that was very similar to this post (albeit shorter), after the parental uproar prevented the speech from being shown to any students.

The paper didn't print it. Sweet.

Anyway, you said it right. Thanks.

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