Returning to school as a parent was a very strange experience. I recall on one of Helen’s first days in reception class, standing in the playground feeling terrified as she played on a climbing frame, the only kid to be doing so. I wasn’t sure if she was meant to use the frame and was terrified that I might get in trouble for letting her clamber over it. It was like I had reverted back to being a school kid and was worried about upsetting a teacher or, worse still, the headteacher.
Another school ‘thing’ that took me by surprise was having to write letters to teacher. It sounds straightforward, it should be straightforward, but it just feels so…..odd. Even though Helen is in year five and I’ve been writing notes for years to comply with various school policies, I still feel totally flummoxed every time I write one.
Firstly, how exactly do you go about writing such a note? Are you supposed to make it like a letter with your address, the date and a signature at the end?
I think the first couple of times, this is exactly what I did. I then felt this was a bit formal and left off the address.
It’s a personal thing, but I tend to run off letters using a computer printer. I could hand-write them, but years as a journalist using shorthand utterly decimated my handwriting. There’s no point producing a letter in handwriting so poor the teacher can’t read it.
This brings me on to another point. Are you and your children judged for the quantity and quantity of letters you produce? The parent that produces letters written in green ink every few days, complaining about everything and everything probably won’t be taken all that seriously.
And what of emailing the school? This is, of course, an option. If, however, you’re dealing with a delicate medical issue, an email to the school will be seen by administrative staff before making its way to teacher and that may not be appropriate.
Also, in my experience, an email can take several hours before it is passed on to the teacher and read. A note or letter gets to teacher at the beginning of the day, when they need the information, and it keeps sensitive matters discrete.
Am I getting carried away and worrying too much? Yes, I probably am, but the content of the letter your write to teacher is very important.
Spare a thought also for the younger me. When a teenager, I seriously injured my ankle when jumping off a wall (you can read the whole story in this recent blog post).
While recovering from the injury, my mother wrote a note to the games teacher. She didn’t quite get the wording correct. He interpreted the note to mean I couldn’t do team sports, but would be okay to jog around the sports field for the duration of my PE lessons. Guess what I was made to do on my injured ankle while my peers played rugby?
In fact, I learned a lot from that experience. On the odd occasion my kids have had a medical issue, I’ve written a letter making clear they aren’t to do sports at all. I err on the side of caution and don’t leave any room for interpretation whatsoever.
I’ll leave you with another tale from my secondary school years. I recall one occasion when a kid didn’t want to do a particular games lesson. He forged a letter from his parents that contained a spelling error.
Recognising the letter was fraudulent, the games teacher ripped into this kid about his spelling mistake in front of all his classmates. Oddly, however, he didn’t force him to take part in the lesson. I’ve never quite understood how he got away with that.
Do you struggle when writing letters to teachers? What issues did you struggle with when you returned to school as an adult? Maybe you forged letters to teachers when you were at secondary school? Please do leave a comment below with your story.