Moms Columns & Blogs

Advice made me a friend to principals, foe to parents

Several weeks ago in this column, I encouraged parents to not ask principals for teacher reassignments, as in “I think my child, who has a learning problem, will do better with Mrs. Whimsy because I hear she's more patient.”

As one might imagine, I am now the Certified Hero of Principals Everywhere. On the other hand, some parents who previously enjoyed reading my column have now decided I am Parenting Satan.

Parents have asked: Do I deny that a certain child might do better with one teacher as opposed to another? “Better” in what sense? If grades is the issue, and it usually is, then that perspective is nearsighted.

What about the inestimable benefit of learning at age, say, 9 that life isn't fair, to keep on truckin' under less-than-desirable circumstances, and that adversity isn't apocalyptic? In my life, the greatest gains have been produced under the most unpleasant conditions. I bet you will say the same.

An elementary principal in New Mexico: “I have had parents come in, without even meeting the teacher in question, and want their child moved because they have heard that the teacher is strict or demanding. Quite often, the real reason for the request is that the child's friends are with another teacher and he/she wants to be with them. I remember, as a child, not getting the teacher I wanted. My parents simply told me to Cowboy Up and get over it.”

She continued: “Many of our parents want everything to be easy for their children and for their children to be happy all the time. Real life is not always easy or happy, and children need to learn how to cope with people and situations that they don't like or agree with.”

The parents this principal and I grew up with tried to help us accept full responsibility for our own happiness. Many of today's parents apparently feel adversity is a bad thing, something children need to be protected from.

And so, today's kids learn to complain. Oh, we complained too about teachers we hated, but rarely to our parents. And the subtext was the resignation that this was the way it was going to be, period. Looking back, nearly everyone in my generation will attest that we were better off in the long run because our parents stayed out of such things.