Year three was a real eye opener for me. I never realized the value of the chain of command until my third year of teaching. I was teaching English to students in grades 6-8 in a small private school. I also taught home economics (now called family and consumer science) and physical education.
In my naivety, I did not know that people did not always come to the teacher first if there was an issue with a student or some conversation that needed to happen to make the school a better place.
I got called to the principal’s office because a mother called complaining about my class. She did not see why her son had to do reading homework because she felt that he should do all his work at school. I shared with the principal that I was following the policy of the school that was published to parents. The school had a policy that teachers should assign homework on Monday – Thursday only, with Thursday’s assignment due on the following Monday. I did follow that policy.
To make a long story short, the boy wanted to read a self-selected book over the weekend and was not really interested in doing family chores, so he used the reading of the book as an escape from chores. Inside, I was secretly jumping for joy because he had actually picked the book himself and wanted to read it. This was something I was trying to nurture in my middle-level students so that when they got to high school reading would be comfortable instead of drudgery.
Unfortunately, the issue went to from the principal to head of school to the board of directors. I was never part of the conversation with the parent. The end result was that the child was removed from our school because the parent wanted the school to follow her edict.
I felt so sad the next week when the student came to me with tears in his eyes asking me to sign his withdrawal papers. He handed me the book that he had half-read and walked away with his head down. I asked him if he wanted to keep the book since it was a book I had personally purchased for our classroom library, and his face light up so brightly. He left the school with the book and I never saw him again. I hope he still loves to read.
Parents, if there is ever a dilemma with your child or the school, take that up with the child’s teacher before you even go to the next level. Chain of command is there for a reason. It means solutions for problems come at the lowest level. The winner will be your child.