Dear Ms K,
Thank you for pissing off my child enough so that she tells me about it. If only one person reads this blog today I hope it is you.
Parents are invisible except in what you see in our children. With any luck the best of us reflects in our teens. But they are their own people by this time. They aren’t just influenced by us, but by the kids around them and by the teachers and by what they read.
This is about what they read.
And this is specifically for you, my daughter’s Freshman English teacher.
She says you hate her. I told her that you don’t. She says you’re negative. I’m sure you are but… she doesn’t see what you have to deal with day in and day out. Or you might not be negative at all except through the eyes of a frustrated 14 year old girl.
My daughter is a freshman this year. She reads books about drugs, suicide, cancer and mental illness. These books are dark. These books don’t have happy endings. Nobody celebrates at the end.
Her reading list includes: Go Ask Alice, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars.
She is enjoying the section in class about civil rights. Maybe there are a few happy endings there. She was vocal about the chapter on Internet awareness and censorship.
She is frustrated by the lack of discipline among the other students in the class. That never seems to end well. She said she feels sorry that you have to deal with the problem kids. She wishes they would go away forever.
Her fiction, the stories she writes, can be dark. Extremely dark. But her stories are good. Really good. Adult good. But I have to admit she can work on spelling (me too.)
But this isn’t about what she writes. It is about what she reads and your reaction.
Yesterday you mentioned that my daughter reads dark books. You asked her if she wanted to go talk to a counselor about it. Maybe hash out some feelings. I don’t know exactly what you said because I got it second-hand from a peeved off 14-year-old who has been peeved all year about her English class.
You noticed what she was reading. No doubt you noticed that my kid wears a lot of black and too much black eye liner as well.
But the point is that you noticed what SHE, my teen, was reading. You have around 200 students to keep track of. They don’t think you see everything – but you see a lot more than they (your students) will ever know.
She said you told her that she could go to a counselor. It sounded like you almost pushed her to get out of class and go seek help. That pissed her off and she defended herself and said she was fine. Sappy books aren’t her thing.
Then she complained that all you like are fantasy books that she doesn’t like. Then she complained about everything else in broad terms. I don’t think she understood where you were coming from.
Thank you for looking for things that might just be a little off or disturbing. Thank you for looking for patterns that could mean maybe things aren’t quite right.
My daughter complains that no matter how well she does that she gets no positive input. She came from a very very small school with 30 8th graders and then jumped into a school with over 500 Freshmen. It was a bit of an adjustment. It is frustrating. So give the kid a break and sometimes just say “Your story had a lot of grammatical issues but the characters were well-developed. Good start. Work on your grammar.”
Not getting into Honors English was a huge blow. She would have thrived there. She is disgusted by the lack of respect the other kids show the teachers in the “non-honors” classes. She is frustrated that she isn’t close to the teachers like at the smaller school. She is frustrated that no matter how she does that she never gets positive input from you, her English teacher. She loves English. She loves to write. She is good – really good.
I know those last two paragraphs would have received a lot of red marks. In my defense, I’m writing fast, like eleventh hour fast. I’m rambling too… just call it musing.
Listen, I know a little about writing (not just rants like this.) I’m an admin for a highly successful online writer’s group. I am a published author. I also write an odd little semi-popular blog.
I know more than a little about teens. In my blog I cover issues about teens and suicide, bullying, depression, being an outsider and all sorts of problems. I also write about the wonderful and amazing goodness of teens – including their music and culture and humor. Yes, teens are funny. I love teens. That is one of the reason I write a parenting blog.
I also write about Vampires. Yes, my daughter has a shirt printed with the words “My mom blogs about Vampires.” I’ve written a fair amount on the blog and I have to admit that some of it is pretty good (passable.) But this isn’t about me.
A while back I heard an interview of the author Stephen King. He was talking about how when he was a kid he was fascinated by crime and serial killers and other unsavory things. That is exactly how it is with my daughter. She read about things she finds awful but fascinating. One day she hopes to be a Psychologist specializing in teens and tweens with mental illness. Just like Stephen King, she is starting early in her research.
I told my child to bring in Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck or The Crystal Singer by Ann McCaffrey so you won’t worry too much. She said she wants to read Of Mice and Men – one of my favorites but another dark story that doesn’t end well.
Today my daughter is wearing a yellow shirt, blue jeans and maroon shoes. Her necklace is a manatee picture on a bottle cap. On the way to school we talked about Obama Care, the drought and roller skating. We talked about how neither one of us like Little Women. And she told me that she loved me then laughed about some lame joke I made to her.
No black today. I want to tell you not to worry about her, but that wouldn’t be true. Thank you for worrying about my daughter and showing concern. Thank you for showing concern to all of the kids, because I know you do.
Your students have NO IDEA that you are going into more or less a battle zone five days a week for five periods a day. Your job isn’t easy. Dealing with kids (including the shit heads in your class who throw books, call you the “C” word and don’t care about schools) isn’t easy.
That said, you have at least one student, my child, who talks to her parents and tells us about school and about her frustrations and daily battles to get through it. She cares about school. It might not always show but she really cares. Just like it might not always show that you care – but I’m glad I found out that you do.
Once again, THANK YOU for caring enough to say something. Thank you for noticing.
Thank you for being brave enough to teach Freshman English in a public high school.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman
Be it the click of the metal keys or the click of a computer keyboard…I will write.