Sunday, October 19, 2008

She's Got Mail

For the past two weeks Olivia has been coming home from school, not as her usual bubbly self, but in a foul mood. When I pressed her about this, she’d say nothing’s wrong, but finally admitted she didn’t think her 4th grade teacher, Maestra Amaya, liked her. “Why,” I asked? Olivia went on to explain that when she raises her hand to answer a question or participate in a discussion, she’s rarely called on. O.k. I thought, not such a big deal, I suggested maybe Olivia could ask to speak with Amaya privately to address her concerns. Stubbornly, Olivia huffed that she had no intention of speaking to this teacher about anything.

Let me provide a little back-story. For the most part, Olivia has been treated like a little star since her early days in preschool and it’s only continued once she hit elementary school. I’m sure it has a lot to do simply with how she looks; she stands out with her bright smile and head full of dreadlocks. To top it off, she’s a great kid. She’s friendly, can engage anyone in conversation and acts her age. So, I’m sure Amaya’s seeming lack of overt enthusiasm over my girl may have taken Olivia aback. This is Amaya’s first year at the school, she’s still finding her way around, learning who’s who and what’s what and probably hasn’t been peeped to Olivia’s status.

I continued to urge Olivia to speak with her teacher, explaining she may be reading Maestra Amaya all wrong, but unless she talks to her about it, she’ll never know. I’m pretty big on communication, trying to talk things out, owning your feelings and where you stand in a situation, and as Olivia gets older and starts to navigate pre-teen social dynamics, I know these will be useful skills if she starts exercising them early.

Well, as Olivia continued to mope and dismiss my calls to talk to her teacher, I offered another option. I suggested Olivia write down her thoughts and feelings and send them to her teacher in the form of an email. She’s been asking for an email address for the past few weeks and although Loverman and I have been pretty restrictive when it comes to video and computer games, we felt ok with her getting her own email address.

Olivia fell for the bait and agreed to send her teacher an email once we got set her set-up with an email address. She spent about a half hour getting her thoughts together and writing the email. Once she was satisfied and feeling accomplished with what she’d written she released it to the universe and pushed “send.” Olivia went on and sent additional emails to Loverman, me and a few of her friends at school. Later that evening, she asked if she could use the computer to see if anyone had responded to her emails. “Sure,” I said and to Olivia’s surprise, her teacher had responded with a detailed email addressing Olivia’s concerns. She also asked Olivia if they could meet during snack time the next day to continue their discussion.

When I picked up the kids the next day, Olivia was her usual upbeat self and when I inquired about her meeting with Amaya, Olivia said they had spoken and she now has a better understanding of her teacher’s position. Amaya told Olivia that she does, indeed notice Olivia’s continued interest in participating in class, but not all of Olivia’s classmates participate at the same level and she feels like if she has a choice between selecting Olivia or another student who may not participate as often, she selects the other student. Amaya also told Olivia how much she appreciated Olivia’s email.

I am so proud of Olivia and I’m happy this particular incident has been resolved to Olivia’s satisfaction. She learned a lesson and so did I. I learned that in spite of my efforts of denial, my girl is really growing up and for the most part, she really listens to what Loverman and me are saying to her. I know that my years of total control of what she does, whom she interacts with and my handling of all her affairs are fleeting, but I can see that she’s going to be just fine.


pam said...

quite inspirational. sometimes people expect kids to be either too adult or perpertual babies. you recognize your kid is a kid with a personality.

im not sure i make any sense but its a great approach.

pam said...

i posted this comment initially in the wrong space... under ur niecy nash post!