Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Serious Case of Email Chutzpah

Although better than I used to be, I can be a serious chicken shit when it comes to confronting people.  However, I am the queen of the scathing, no-holds-barred email.  What I can't say to someone I write, and the intensity is through the roof.  However, I'm learning that these emails are not only cathartic, but also incredibly healthy.  Under one important condition:  I NEVER, ever send it.  Just this week I was furious at the lack of communication displayed by my son's math teacher.  I'd had it with him.  Well, in all fairness, I'd also had it with the annoyances that come with life, compounded by end-of-semester chaos (believe it or not, Organic Chem doesn't get easier as the semester progresses).  Anyway, I was over a lot of things, and his lack of communication pushed me over the edge.  So I wrote him this email:

Joe,

Jay came home with a homework sheet involving some fairly in-depth word problems.  The conversions involve both US customary units and the metric system.
My questions are as follows:

1. Should I be providing him with the conversion factors, or were these provided in class?  Fortunately, he has parents who are proficient in unit conversions...but I'm guessing not all parents are.
2. If they were provided, should he be taking notes in class?
3. Jay claims he was given the assignment and told to have at it, with the aid of a calculator if necessary. Is this true? Was there additional instruction? Is the use of a calculator permitted for homework?
4.  Why don't I know the answers to these questions?

We'll call this homework assignment the mathematical equivalent of the "straw that broke the camel's back." The lack of communication is beyond perturbing. We have received notices home saying that he is two math assignments behind (which ended up being four) and will not receive credit if they are not returned completed by Monday.  Did I mention that it came home in his Friday folder with not a word mentioned to his parents?  What if the assignments hadn't come home?  Would he have just received a failing math grade? I consider us very involved parents who grace the halls of the school no less than 2 times a week.  Yet we've never received an ounce (sixteen in a pound, by the way) of information about his performance in your class, or in many cases, lack thereof. I understand that you have dozens of students, each with their own unique needs.  However, his notebook, his teacher, email, and a good old fashioned note home would go a long way in terms of informing us of Jay's situation and needs.

Sarah

Now, my husband called it "evil," whereas I would have gone with "strongly worded."  And sadly, this is not even close to being the worst I've ever written.  Like a stiff drink, email releases me from my guilt, insecurities, and most of all, my filter.  Email frees me to say what I'd never say face to face, for fear of being a bitch (or perceived as one) or hurting their feelings.

I shelved the email and went to bed, annoyed.  However, I woke up feeling, well, vented.  I no longer harbored ill will towards him, and I felt vindicated despite the fact it never so much as touched his inbox.  I did end up saying something to him a couple of days later, but it was lighthearted, and he heard me.  I don't think we'll have this problem again.  And that email will never be promoted above 'draft' status.  Nor should it.  You see, that email freed me in ways that I never imagined.  It allowed me to say what I felt without the guilt and shame hangover that usually accompany the use of the SEND button.  It empowered me to say something to the offender, but in a more effective, healthy way. Go figure.

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