As a teacher by profession even when I was staying at home, I have always been averse to being That Parent. You know That Parent, the one who drives the teachers crazy by complaining about everything that goes on in the class when That Parent isn't there to protect their delicate flower--I mean child.
I have had 11th grade teachers tell me that parents complained that their teenager was asked to read The Crucible because "it's about witchcraft."
This type of parent annoys me because they are not well-informed. I think it's safe to say that The Crucible is not pro-witchcraft; it's simply anti-witch hunts. I can't be sure without a copy in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that there is nothing definitely supernatural in the play; there are merely accounts from eyewitnesses who claim they saw Goody So-and-so dancing with the devil, and so forth. Miller's point is that people can get caught up in group hysteria when their only hope of exoneration is condemning someone else, as was happening in 1950s Hollywood when Senator McCarthy was accusing everyone of being a secret Communist. There are important lessons we can learn from the play that are applicable to modern-day hunts for what our society considers evil, and actual devil-worship is not really a problem these days.
But the 17-year-old students whose parents freak out because OMG! Witches! are not going to learn to learn from history in order to keep it from repeating itself. Sad.
Believe me, you don't want to get me started on people who rail against Harry Potter. My feeling is, "If you have READ the books and still feel it is inappropriate for your child, fine. If you have just HEARD that it is pure evil, you have no grounds to complain. You're the parent; presumably as an adult you can handle reading/watching the potentially harmful material and DOING YOUR JOB as a parent to decide if you are going to let your child read/watch it."
Whew. You didn't even get me started on that topic; I just went off on it, all on my own.
Even though I try to support teachers and their right to decide what to teach, I felt compelled to write the following email to Miss Pink's music teacher. He is an enthusiastic teacher and Miss P loves him and his class. However, I thought about it and realized I couldn't let these lessons go by without saying something. If I did, I would be remiss in my responsibility to make sure my child is not exposed to age-inappropriate concepts. Seriously, what was he thinking to let kindergartners and first-graders (including kids up through 5th grade; they have several weeks of music class together per year) watch the "Thriller" video and the movie Walk the Line?
Here is my email.
Dear Mr. ______,
I realize I should have contacted you right away, but with the holiday I let it slip my mind. However, I did want to let you know that after Miss Pink watched the "Thriller" video in music class, she had trouble sleeping for several nights because she couldn't stop thinking about the scary images. She is pretty imaginative and I guess it was just too scary for her. As a parent, I'm sure you understand how hard it is to get a freaked-out child to calm down and go to sleep. I realize you only wanted to introduce the kids to the music of , but in the future, you might not want to show that type of video to classes that include younger kids.
Also, I could not figure out from what Miss Pink told me if the students watched the whole movie of Walk the Line, so if they only watched clips of the music, please ignore the following. I love Johnny Cash and the movie based on his life, but my husband and I feel the themes of drug addiction and infidelity were too adult for our first-grader. We would have liked to have had a note home so we could have opted out for that lesson(s). Trust me, as a teacher I understand it's hard to find interesting films that relate to your subject, and I hesitated to complain because I don't want to be That Parent who makes life hard for teachers who are doing their best, but I felt you would want some constructive feedback for the future. Please believe that I only want to help and that I am not angry because no serious harm was done; I am just asking you to rethink using these materials, or at least check with parents and/or the administration before using them in the future.
If you feel you need to meet with me in person or over the phone, you could call me at ______. Simply letting me know via email that you've heard my concerns would be enough to fix the issue from my point of view, however.
I tried to be conciliatory because I know teachers may get defensive when they perceive a parent is attacking them. I also went to the teacher directly rather than going above his head to the principal right away. In my opinion, parents should give the teacher a chance to apologize, explain, and offer a solution to the problem before they bring in the big guns. If the teacher responds appropriately, I will let it drop because I honestly don't think any real harm was done. Miss P finally forgot about Michael turning into a werewolf (although it took 3 or 4 nights) and she probably didn't even know drugs were being used in those scenes. Notice that I didn't jump to conclusions based on what my child had said since I really don't know if they watched the whole movie. Parents should remember that what their child says is from a kid's point of view and may not be 100% accurate, so we should give the teacher a chance to explain before we freak out. (There are exceptions to what I'm saying, such as when something really bad happens and you have to demand that something be done right away.)
What do y'all think? Is this a letter that will probably get the results I want--or was I even too wishy-washy? What should I do if the teacher blows off my concerns? And do you have any stories to share of how to approach--or how NOT to approach--a child's teacher?