The pandemic presented us with difficult times as we continue to navigate the aftermath of its many challenges. Personally, I believe those most affected are our younger students. Some students still don’t know how to express their feelings,or ask for help. Whether it’s due to age or the inability to communicate difficulties encountered, they start to hold things inside. As we all know, unexpressed emotions can often start manifesting inwardly as anxiety and depression.
This is the case of a 5th grade girl I know, who had been thriving at school and earning excellent grades. Until, she came across a teacher with zero empathy. This teacher would berate their students, sometimes even going as far as to call their work “trash.” Many of her classmates have been experiencing difficulties during the pandemic, and having a teacher like this has dimmed the excitement of learning. This teacher also shames individual students regarding their grades, assignments, and exams in front of the whole class. These acts of humiliation have caused stress and anxiety; especially for those students still struggling with virtual learning.
Hearing stories like this infuriates me and makes me want to ask this teacher; could it be that your students give you junk work because that is what you inspire by the way you teach? Have you ever asked yourself how you’d want to be treated, when being in the vulnerable position of trying to learn new skills and information?
Even if the student turns in unsatisfactory work, teachers do not have the right to expose and ridicule them in front of the whole class. This does not help them, and actually, does the quite opposite. It lowers their self-esteem. Fortunately, there is excellent communication between this student and her Mother. When her Mom noticed her daughter’s changes (both emotional and academic) they began to talk about what this teacher had been doing to the class. Her Mom began to understand how bad it was, and how the teacher made her daughter feel. Her Mom was outraged by this treatment, and asked her daughter to put everything in writing.
The anxiety of this student was through the roof. After beginning therapy, her doctors confirmed the stress she was dealing with from this unprofessional teacher was unacceptable. One of the reasons I wanted to write this blog was to commend this excellent Mom, who observed the change in her daughter’s behavior, and was attentive to her needs. The letter her daughter wrote was presented to her doctor, therapist, and the school principal. It caused an immediate change, and she was assigned to another class.
To this Mother, I applaud you for getting your daughter out of this horrible situation. But I do wonder, what about the other students who continue to suffer in class with this teacher? These students probably don’t know how to communicate problems to their parents, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and may even trigger suicidal ideation or attempts.
I understand you as a human being. I know that living in a pandemic has not been easy for anyone. I know this situation has not been easy to adapt to. I know that you have your own problems, difficulties, etc. But it’s not your students fault, and the classroom is not the place where you take out your frustrations. I remind you that the teacher before imparting knowledge, must impart empathy and happiness.
A special congratulations to this girl who acted with such maturity at her young age. It’s important for her to know that writing this letter will help other students as well. As it was mentioned previously, the letter was presented to the principal of Ridge Crest MVUSD Elementary School (Moreno Valley Unified School District) and will be taken to the Superintendent of this district. Hopefully, for them, this is a wake-up call.
Below, I’d like to share the letter this brave girl wrote to her teacher:
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