An open letter to my child's preschool teacher after our last parent-teacher meeting
Read this Singaporean mother's open letter to her child's preschool teacher after their last parent-teacher meeting. What is she grateful to the teacher about and what was she especially uncomfortable with?
Hello Teacher D!
We just had our fourth parent teacher meeting — it was awesome! Have I ever told you how much I look forward to our parent-teacher meetings? Probably not.
I don't want to come across as that over-eager parent (now you know, I really am that over-enthusiastic typical Asian parent). But I do! I get to talk to you about my girl for a whole hour, we get to laugh over her antics and I love when you tell me about how confident she is, and how much she has grown over the year.
What I love best about her going to your school is that I'm not the only bad guy. Before you came along, Mummy's the one always telling her what to do or what not to do.
Mummy's the one getting angry when she does something wrong, while Daddy's kisses soothes away the tears. Now, there's another bad guy in her life, I'm the less bad guy! I love that you are firm with her, and I love watching her understand the meaning of boundaries.
When we talk about her social development, and you show a good understanding of the group dynamics, I know that you are observing her closely. Whatever little conversations she has told me, you add on to them and give these anecdotes an added dimension of an objective perspective.
Like when I told you about the tension she seemed to be having with another little girl in her class who, it seemed, would criticise her about everything.
I learnt from you that it was not her little friend who had started the criticisms first, but that she was simply asserting herself against my daughter's bragging when she brought something new or pretty to school that she was especially proud of.
You have big expectations of her. That's good.
You expect her not to be the best in class, but to try her best in class. You expect her not to be the most well-behaved in class, but you do expect her not to show the same bad traits when you have corrected them once already.
You do not excuse silly behaviour as "cute" (as her more indulgent grandparents are wont to do), but you correct it firmly while innately recognizing the innocence behind their actions.
For all that effort, thank you. Yours is a labour of love and then some more.
But I must confess, I felt something nagging at me after the parent teacher meeting. Despite thoroughly enjoying the hour of unadulterated
gossiping updates about my little girl, I felt vaguely uncomfortable. I thought about it long and hard, and I realised what it was.
I was uncomfortable with the fact that the only really negative thing you had to say about her had to do with her significantly rounder body shape.
Not that I am uncomfortable with negative comments, as per se. I recognise my daughter is far from perfect. It was the way this "problem" was presented.
For instance, you pointed out that my daughter looked round and roly-poly in her ballet costume for the year end graduation concert. You also wrote down in her progress report that she had put on a lot of weight over the semester - a progress report that I will save for her and that she will likely pour over many years later.
Interestingly, you did not know her actual height and weight, simply noting that in comparison to the rest of her classmates, she was a good height but probably heavier than the other girls in her class.
Now, if you had presented her weight issues as a health problem in relation to the more scientific calculation of her Body Mass Index, or highlighted that her physical development was impeded because of her weight issues, I would understand that.
Unfortunately, her weight issues were solely presented in the form of how she looked. You certainly did not mean it out of malice, but I felt you were imposing your own ideal body size on her.
For the record, we have noticed that she has grown noticeably plumper over the past year, but we have also noticed that she goes through phases where she would put on a lot of weight and then grown taller and slimmer and then pile on the layers again. Given that she's four, I am inclined to give her more leeway as a growth process.
Dear Teacher D, please understand that at four, she is discovering the world of taste with unbridled joy. Food is not simply sustenance, it is an experience, and it is an experience she luxuriates in (maybe a little too much).
But for now, as long as she keeps within her ideal BMI and gets a balanced diet, I am happy she's happy. (Happy stomach, happy child!)
Dear Teacher D, in a world where girls worry far too much about how they look, where they diet themselves almost to death, I would rather not reinforce such consciousness of her body image.
She's going to get plenty of insecurities all on her own as she becomes an adolescent. Neither does she really need to look at her progress report and realise that she was one of the fat kids.
I understand teachers are humans too. They have their own prejudices and blind spots. The next time I see you, I will show you that she is still of a healthy weight though looking a lot rounder than she used to.
I will also request that you not label her as "fat". But I will listen to your suggestions about how she could have a healthier, more active lifestyle nevertheless - in private, out of earshot of my child.
Till our next parent teacher meeting!
(P.s. Don't get me wrong. In general, the work that you have done on the little one is beyond commendation and I'm grateful, from the bottom of my heart.)