An Open Letter from a Day School Teacher to His Principal

A work of fiction. I have nothing but respect for my students’ parents, but the concept of the letter below entered my head and appealed to me for its subtle sense of irony. What if, indeed, the teachers were allowed to complain about the parents?

Dear Principal,

I am writing to tell you how saddened and disappointed I am by the selection of parents you have made this year with which to fill my students’ spare time and complement the stellar education they receive in my classroom. By and large, the group of parents you have chosen for my students this year is incompetent and ungrateful, serve as poor role models, and instill inferior Middot by the way they spend their time, speak, act, dress, and behave.

As I do every week, I spent this past Shabbat lunch with a group of my colleagues, openly criticizing my students’ parents right in front of their children, analyzing their faults and failings and lackluster Middot. We feel that the messages our students come to school with from their homes can be quite disappointing. With all the time wasted by television, rampant and unchecked internet use, and corrosive video games between the time they leave our sterile classrooms each afternoon and the time they reenter them the next morning, we have concluded that these parents cause more harm than good and should be replaced before next year. Frankly, we expect better from you and your personnel decisions in the first place. Don’t you check references? Where did you find these people?

You cannot expect us to do our jobs under such conditions. Speaking only for myself, I am shocked by some of what I hear my students coming to school with that they pick up from hearing these poor role models at home. While we try hard to instill proper values and Middot in the classroom – honesty, fair play, proper speech, calmness under duress – our work is quickly undermined by the messages the students receive from their parents. Why even bother stressing the importance of daily Torah study when the students’ parents hardly ever live by such a creed? Why discuss proper decorum during Tefillah when their parents, in the rare event that they attend Shul at all, spend most of their time talking or reading the latest periodical? By and large, this crop of parents is seriously wanting in their religious commitment and personal integrity. How can we teachers be expected to perform our jobs when our students’ parents so thoroughly unravel the fragile thread we weave each day?

The parents are poor communicators, too – it takes forever to hear back from them, and they don’t seem terribly interested in proactively dealing with with their children’s educational needs, instead delaying the inevitable that they have seen every year until it is much too late. If they know my students so well, why not alert me to their problems before things get out of hand? I am also shocked by the way the parents speak to my students. While I try to encourage levelheadedness and the need to balance hard work with rational expectations, the students are burnished with unrealistic ambitions and self-defeating ultimatums from their parents. What difference does it make if they get an “A” on their Chumash test if they fall out of love with learning by being forced to lose sleep before the test? I never said the test was that important. If I don’t make the students stress over their dinner menu or dental hygiene, why should their parents make them so stressed over my tests? The parents’ heightened expectations might mirror the dislike they have for learning themselves, but it’s sure not helping my students be better learners.

Anyway, I wanted to express to you the disappointment that I and my colleagues feel in your choice of the parents my students have to deal with this year. Please do speak with them when you have a chance. I am sure they will understand and take all of these complaints as rationally and calmly as the consummate professionals we expect them to be. Some constructive criticism is the office hazard of any business, and I am confident that they want nothing more than to hear my thoughts and improve their work with my students. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing your response after you have had a word with them, and I am sure I will see nothing but marked improvement soon and permanently.

With Abiding Respect,

Rabbi G. Cohen
7th Grade Judaics Faculty, U-TACCY (United Torah Academy of Central Cubitsville and Yakkerstown)

This entry was posted in Communal Matters, Jewish Education (meta). Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s