need advice on weird teacher letter

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Rannveig, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    I wondered if you all might have some suggestions, as I'm at a loss. husband and I received this weird letter from Thor's teacher today, and I don't know how to respond. She seems to be accusing us of neglecting our child, and I'm afraid of being too defensive in reply for fear of giving her ammunition to say...well, I don't know what she'd say. Here's the letter:

    Dear Mr and Mrs [X]
    I am writing to you concerning Thor's welfare. He says he is not hungry at all at snack time and never has his own snack, but I see him begging from the other students. My TA has then noticed that he eats ravenously at lunch time.
    Tonight he said he would be staying on at school for the [school play], but has no money for dinner.
    I assumed that you would be coming to hear his performance, but I just wanted you to know what I have been observing in class.
    I just want to be sure that you are aware of this.
    Thank you
    [Third Grade Teacher]

    I haven't had a chance to discuss this with Thor yet, but what I do know is that he eats breakfast at home and dinner with the family, and at school he has a paid-up lunch card that enables him to choose from a variety of healthy dishes in the cafeteria. Is it so odd for an active nine-year-old to be ravenous at lunchtime? (And what does "ravenous" look like?) Odin's theory is that Thor doesn't like the snack choices at home, so figures it's not worth bringing any to school, but then sees his friends having things that look good so asks to share. Of course Thor needs to know this is not okay, but the teacher's letter seems to suggest there's some deeper problem. I can practically hear social services at my door.

    About the dinner tonight, Thor mentioned earlier this week that he'd need money for it but didn't give me the details, and I confess I forgot. That's bad. But honestly, ordinarily I do feed my kid.

    Another thing -- earlier this year this same teacher accused Thor of stealing library books after a bunch were found in his locker that he hadn't checked out. But Thor said he didn't know how they got there, and it turned out the lockers aren't locked and that things can even slip from one to another, so it wasn't even clear that he was responsible. The teacher ultimately admitted as much to him but never responded to the thoughtful e-mails husband and I each wrote to her at the time.

    In case it's relevant: Thor gets good grades and is not disruptive, but the teacher always writes on his report cards that he works too slowly and is too day-dreamy. And he's always losing stuff or leaving stuff behind and having other people return it. Wristwatches, hand-held games, cell phones, even his winter boots! (He has a cell phone for personal safety, as his school is far from our home -- it's not that we spoil him.)

    I'm seriously tempted to write back something really snotty. Or even just to write, "What exactly are you actually trying to say?" But I thought you all might have some more constructive ideas. I would really welcome them -- it breaks my heart to have this woman suggest I'm not taking proper care of my child.

    Thanks, Ranny
  2. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Apologies -- I mixed up the kids' names, as they aren't the real ones. The kid the teacher wrote about is the younger boy, who's in my sig as Odin.
  3. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    I would thank the teacher for noticing that Odin wasn't eating his snack. Explain that you have a snack bucket at home and that Odin always refuses to take one saying he is never hungry at snack time. Ask if you can provide a box of snacks she can keep at school for Odin or any other child who forgets and needs one. Also include that you checked his lunch card balance and he has plenty of credit to purchase his lunch.

    I wouldn't address the missing dinner money at all.
  4. compassion

    compassion Member

    This is really, really common. Please don't take it personally or get defensive. I know that is easier said than done. My kids ALWAYS want to eat others food,not there own. Perhpas, he is just not that institutionlized :) I would though be very cooperative to the teacher, regardless how judged you feel. I know kids in those situaitons often eat ohers's food,etc. Compassion
  5. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    Don't worry too much about the letter. Simply respond with exactly what you wrote here. - He eats well at home, has a lunch account, does not like healthy home snack choices (maybe list them), and admit you forgot to give him dinner money (you are not the first). The more communication the better. We were once turned over to child protection. My then 3 year old liked wearing the same shirt, and would only let us take it off to wash and would wear it again the next day. We also left a bandage on too long and he developed a rash. I called the Dr. about the rash and was told to put lotion on it for three weeks. The day care thought it was getting infected. Between that and the kid wearing the same shirt every day they reported us for possible neglect. Finding the child protection notice was horrifying! And we had to wait all weekend before the Monday meeting. But when she finally came, and checked everything out it all went very smoothly. She was not there to take our son away she was only there to insure he was being treated properly, and it was not hard to prove he was.

    I don't think the teacher would be concerned enough to report you. And the more inforamtion about what's going on she has the better. She cares for your son. If worst comes to worst and you are reported you will make it. If you are worried keep a diary of what foods are offered, and be prepared to show your snack collection. Don't be afraid to say you forgot to give the money. Again you're not the first and he is not the first picky eater. Communication works the best.
  6. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I am by no means rich. I had even less when difficult child 1 was younger. But we always had money for groceries and lunch.

    However, difficult child 1 played up the poor boy routine ad nauseum, and it made me so angry. I got letters like this (he wouldn't tell me when he needed lunch money and that was before easy access to lunch accounts to check them so sometimes he didn't HAVE any money in his account). But I would send $30 at a time to school for lunch, he would eat it or loan it to buddies in 3 or 4 days, then be out of money for days on end, after which he'd beg, borrow, and steal to eat. I'd just point out the routine, ask them for suggestions as to how I might correct this behavior, and keep my response to print, sign, and mail again when the next "you need to feed your child" note would show up.
  7. compassion

    compassion Member

    Shaqri, GOOD points! Impulsivity, being bored with lunch, wanting money for other things, or wanting to make friends by givng money away all could be posssiblities. I think it is really important to keep the focus on the young person, not on the parents.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thank her so much for her concern and for alerting you. Then write what everyone else told you to write. At the end tell her to please continue being so observant about your son--that you appreicate it--and to let you know again if you notate any problems. To me, I'd put in the niceties to get her on your side and not get her defensive so that she calls social services. I've made some really nasty teachers turn into my biggest cheerleaders this way ;) Assure her that you are aware that he may have a learning disability (or whatever you want to call it) and that he is receiving help. My own notation: Has he ever seen a neuropsychologist? Just curious. How are his social skills?
  9. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Dear Teacher,

    Thank you for your concern and bringing this to my attention. O eats a healthy breakfast and is given options of nutrious snacks to take to school. He has not mentioned to me that he would like whatever the other kids may be bringing. I will ask him about this and if the other kids are having nutrious snacks, we will see what we can do to add those options also. I will not send sugery, unhealthy snacks so if he is begging for candy or chips he will not be getting those from home.

    I am interested to hear more about your definition of "ravenously". I have never witnessed my definition of this in O. My guess is that he knows the sooner he eats, the more recess he will have. School lunches tend to teach kids to eat too fast. I would need more information on this one.

    The school has not sent out information about kids needing to bring money for this evening. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. That will be taken care of.

    I will talk to O to find out why he is not eating the healthy snacks from home and why he is rushing through his lunch. My guess is that other kids he is begging from probably do not bring healthy snacks and the quicker he eats the more play time he has.

    Thank you!

    O's Mom
  10. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Thank you all so much -- you made me feel a lot better and like I can take control of this situation rather than vice versa. I think my back has been up ever since the library book incident -- that the teacher basically accused my kid of being a thief, and when I replied really nicely (truly!), and it became clear that she might well be wrong, she didn't respond. (Plus I got the sense that if he actually had stolen the books she was looking to blame my parenting as opposed to wishing to partner with me in solving his problem.) The one time when I observed the class I saw my kid with his hand raised endlessly while she seemed to call on everyone else first (and she hadn't met me yet, so it wasn't because I was there), and then she says on his report card that he's not engaged.... I mean, I don't genuinely feel like she cares about or "gets" my sweet son.

    MWM - No, he's never had a neuropsychologist, but I've made an appointment with our family doctor to see if he thinks we need to explore the absent-mindedness issue further. (husband is in complete denial that there could be an issue, so that makes things harder.) As for social skills: he gets along very well with adults (except this teacher, apparently) and with his older brother's friends but is somewhat overly emotional/teary when he has disagreements with kids his own age. Seems concerned lately about getting bullied but says it's only because he has seen it happen to other kids, not that it's happening to him. It's hard for me to tell if he has many friends because we live in a different area than most of the kids in his class, and there are only a couple of kids his age in our neighborhood. Those friends I've met seem appropriate and likable. Since infancy he has always been wonderfully affectionate with me, but unlike my older son seems to take little interest in nurturing younger kids and pets.

    Thanks again for all the helpful advice and reassurance -- makes me really glad I posted. And Andy, some of your exact language will soon be flowing from my keyboard....
  11. eekysign

    eekysign New Member

    I like this. Pretty much what I was thinking.

    I always wanted my friend's foods, too, as a kid. Grass is always greener, etc. :)
  12. WSM

    WSM New Member

    Does he take a snack to school? Maybe he's eating it on the way?
  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm with MWM in keeping this light, friendly and thanking her for her keen eye. It's really important to keep a teacher on-side.

    Think of her posible motives:

    1) She really cares and is worried for your son, and may have been a bit apprehensive about writing, in case it upset you. In which case, a harsh rsponse from you could hamper future information which in fact you need to know. It IS important to know if your son is hungrier at school that you realised.


    2) She's snotty and trying to have a go at you. In which case - don't give her the satisfaction of getting under your skin. Respond as if she was doing something very kind by alerting you, and ask her to kep watching out - it will keep her off balance and could eventually recruit her into a team of supportive adults looking out for your child.

    So either way - respond politely and in a friendly manner. I wouldn't reply too formally - keep it friendly and informal, as much as you can. Informality keeps people off-guard and reduces their thoughts of officialdom. So use pherases like "thanks" instead of "thank you", for example.

    HI Mrs X, thanks for reporting back on my son. I really hadn't considered that he could be hungry - he does have a paid up lunch card, plus I send snacks Occupational Therapist (OT) school for him. Maybe I've made my snacks too nutritious and he's rebelling against my fruit Nazi role? I'll talk to him about his preferences, he might be seeking foods I normally won't allow, as they're a bit too full of empty calories and poor nutrition. Maybe as he is an otherwise healthy kid, I can bend the rules and let him have occasional treats as long as he stops begging food form other kids. If you could keep an eye on him for me to let me know if the begging continues, then I'll know if I can justify such a reward or not. Thanks, I appreciate your keen eye.
    As for dinner - oops, I goofed. I guess it happens to us all. I'll stick a large note on my fridge to help me remember for next time.
    Honestly - growing boys! He's always in such a hurry to play I worry he'll choke, the way he eats!
    Again, thanks for caring. We need more teachers like you, especially with kids like my son, who we're currently having checked out for possible learning problems."

    It says much the same things, but the familiarity helps reduce any possible hostility and also is aimed to recruit teacher as co-conspirator and spy in your own camp.

  14. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Ditto, Marguerite.

    I have found it really beneficial to praise any and all teachers who reach out in any way regarding my kids........especially the ones that "follow the beat of a different drummer". Truthfully I think saying "thank you for your interest in my kid" is worth more than volunteering to be the room Mother or giving outstanding holiday gifts! :redface: DDD
  15. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    So I peeled a big carrot for Odin last night before I went to bed and left a note on the fridge asking him to take it to school for snack. When I get back from walking the dog this morning, there's Odin in the living room eating the carrot. Even though he had to get the carrot out of the fridge, he says he didn't notice the note on the fridge door! I ask you...!

    I offered to peel another carrot for him or have him take an orange. He said he didn't want to take a snack. Finally husband convinced him to take a couple of granola bars.

    I asked him what the other kids were bringing that was so appealing. He said they bring whole lunch boxes full of different things, for example sausages and smoked cheese. Thor said, "You brought smoked cheese home one time!" Odin claimed the kid was handing it out. I said I couldn't imagine how cold sausage could be appealing and asked what it was like. "I haven't convinced him to give me any yet," Odin said rather wistfully.

    He did in the end agree to my request that he not ask other kids for food anymore: "Now that I understand the problem," he said grimly.

    I must be a difficult child myself (or in denial?) because at some level I find all this rather humorous. I totally get what everyone is telling me about focusing on the positive, i.e. that the teacher reached out to me (and I did write her back in the way you all recommended), but it still burns me up that the teacher can't find any kind of positive spin to put on Odin's unique personality. You're not the first person, DDD, to mention "the beat of a different drummer" with regard to him.

    Anyway, each one of you said something that touched me, and I won't soon forget the T-shirt story, aeroeng.

    Thanks again,
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Cold sausage is a great snack for kids. Whenever we cook sausages for dinner, I always cook another half dozen to keep cold in the fridge. The kids have always loved a cold sausage from the fridge, I've even made sausage sandwiches for school (slice each sausage into three lengthwise, then spread tomato sauce (aka ketchup) on the bread, lay the sausage slices on it then that's it.

    If your child is 'different', sometimes they like different snacks. It sounds to me like a case of "Grass is greener on the far side of the fence".

    And like you, I also see the funny side of this.

    If you lose your sense of humour, what is left?