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School is out for the summer and my youngest son’s report card is posted on the front of the refrigerator. I can at long last write here about something that occurred this past winter.

My son just finished his high school freshman year in a very small, private school (nondenominational Christian). I have been pleased, in most respects, with the education he is receiving, especially the way his teachers have validated, encouraged and challenged him. He needs structure and affirmation. I love the fact that the students wear uniforms and there are no cliques. Rather, the students are respectful, polite and function as a little family where everyone is included and supported.

Unfortunately, private schools cannot offer the kind of salary and benefits packages available to public school teachers, so I have found, after having one or both of my children enrolled in private schools at various times, that you must be diligent about researching the teachers’ qualifications and monitor homework assignments, etc. Often, teachers who do not possess a teaching credential conferred by a reputable college or university end up employed by private schools, often completing their credential program coursework concurrently.

Both of my children are talented writers and have won awards for their work. Both enjoy writing and my youngest, in particular, has a really creative and imaginative style. Once, he wrote a lengthy essay about life on the expedition with Lewis and Clark — from the perspective of their dog. While the idea was provided to him, the manner in which he narrated the dog’s adventures was uniquely his. He delighted the audience when he read his story at the honors assembly.
So enough bragging and on to the dilemma:

A few months ago, he brought home an essay he had written in his freshman English class. I was not surprised to see that he received an “A.” But what shocked me was the comment his teacher wrote on his paper, suggesting that, although the essay was quite good, he

“could of developed” one part of the story more fully.

I was stunned.

It occurred to me that perhaps the teacher had enlisted an older student to assist with reading and critiquing the freshmen papers, so I asked my son about that.

“No, Mom, she grades all of our papers herself. This is Mrs. ____’s handwriting. Can you believe she wrote that?”

I asked my kind-hearted, shy boy if he said anything to the teacher about the comment.

“No, Mom. I wouldn’t want to draw her attention to her mistake and . . . you know . . . hurt her feelings because I really like Mrs. _____.”

I called my sister — an English teacher. Let’s just say that her attitude was not quite as charitable.

Understandably, she was horrified by the teacher’s incompetency, not to mention distressed about the way such incidents reflect upon her profession.

I could not justify the teacher’s error by saying, “Well, a lot of people get confused about that.” The mistake is not, in my experience, a common one. Most people know that the teacher should have written “you could have developed” the story more fully.

And I might have been more forgiving had the comment been drafted by his math, science or computer science teacher.

But his English teacher?

Here are my questions for you: Have you ever had a similar experience? If so, how did you handle it, i.e., did you contact the teacher and confront him/her or take the matter up with the department chairperson, principal or other administrator? How do you feel such a situation should be handled? Leave a comment!

Next week I’ll tell you how Iopted to handle the matter.

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