Written by: Nick Rokicki
Well, I managed to do it again.
Yep, I stepped in a big pile ‘o poo.
Yesterday started out much like any other day, in this wild and wacky world I live in. I rolled home from my job at Jeep at around 4:00 AM. I was in bed by 5:00 AM. And then I was awake at 8:30 AM— to go play a children’s book author on TV, with Rebecca Regnier at 13ABC. Don’t cry for me, Toledo. I’ve gotten used to the 3-4 hours of sleep each night/day. It just comes with building cars and chasing dreams.
At the station, Rebecca and her other guests were talking about a blog post that had “gone viral” about a teacher’s note sent home to a parent. Long story short: parent forgot to sign 7-year-old’s reading log, teacher wrote questionable note on said log, sent it home with kid, parent got mad, parent wrote blog, Earth hears about it. Here is a screenshot of the note:
For my children’s books, I run several Facebook pages. The people that follow those pages are primarily parents and teachers. So, my main content is links, articles, memes, photos, etc. that are all geared toward that audience. Yesterday evening at around 5:00, just before returning to work at Jeep, I shared the ABC News link about the story and asked folks for their feedback.
Well, things got hairy.
I expected there to be a pretty even back-and-forth in the comments. I thought, wrongly, that people would be well-tempered about this. In my opinion, the teacher went a little far, then the parent went a little far. Everything should have been handled with a simple phone call or face-to-face talk, in an attempt to smooth things over. After all, aren’t we all mostly concerned about the education of the child?
But people were jumping all over the the teacher. Take, for instance, these comments:
I believe that each one of us has a similar story to tell— as a student, parent or teacher. My story? In fourth grade, my parents took me out of school for two weeks in the winter to complete a Florida vacation. I was lucky to have older parents. My Dad was about 65 years old when I was in the fourth grade. He was enjoying retirement, I was a good student, my parents wanted a vacation— and they believed that traveling was an education unto itself. So the teacher got my homework ready and off we went. Yes, we did Disney. But we also did NASA.
When I got back, another student was absent on a Friday and Monday for a family trip to Chicago. My teacher, Mrs. Buck, remarked, “Erik’s parents aren’t the type that would just take him out of school on a frolicking vacation— they are going to every museum Chicago has to offer!”
Well, the little fourth-grade muckraker that I was, I reported this information directly and promptly to Sandy Rokicki. My mother was less-than-fond of teachers in general, so I knew this was gonna be good. Sure enough, the crap hit the fan at the parent-teacher conference the following week. My Mom said her piece. And then… Mrs. Buck apologized. I sat in the back of the classroom for the rest of the year and enjoyed my good grades. End of story.
Fast forward to 2014… and we have social media. That’s the real difference here— instead of approaching the teacher directly, this parent chose to take the problem to a national audience. Which is why we’re all talking about it now. And which is also why I have apparently ruffled some feathers. But the fact that this story has blown up is also indicative of something else— there remains, in this country’s education system, a schism between parents and the teachers trusted with instilling knowledge and morals into our children.
When I posted the link last night, one person came to the defense of the teacher. She is also a teacher— named Christina Parsons. Mrs. Parsons teaches at a local “Academy” school. Her and I went to high school together, although I can’t remember who she is, since I had about 3 friends back then. Anyway, Mrs. Parsons was a big fan of my books for children. She incorporated them into classroom learning and even did a writing assignment about one of the stories, sending me copies of all the kids’ work. I can’t tell you how special it is to see artwork, stories, assignments, etc. that stem from something that I’ve created. I will forever be indebted to Mrs. Parsons and the teachers like her that have shown me some of their students’ work.
So I was extremely taken aback when I received this message last night, on my lunch break at Jeep:
Sure enough, I was blocked from Christina on Facebook. She is probably burning my books as we speak. Throughout this book-writing journey, I’ve learned to think like Ms. Taylor Swift. After all, the haters gonna hate, hate, hate. Just this week— literally, just this week— I’ve heard the following criticism:
1. “Do your books have Christian teachings?”
“Well, each book is about something different that I believe applies to every child, Christian or not. Like honesty, encouragement, gratitude, acceptance, sharing.”
“But do they have Bible verses in them?”
“Then they are not Christian books.”
2. “You’re not credentialed to write children’s books— you’re not even a father!”
I couldn’t even muster a response to that stupidity.
3. “You really haven’t lost enough weight to speak to children about healthy eating.”
“71 pounds isn’t enough?”
“It just doesn’t look convincing.”
These exchanges I can laugh off. I’m having way too much fun writing books and reading to kids to let that kinda crap get to me. But Christina Parsons bothered me.
This lady, who has been so supportive of me and my books, decides to write me off because I shared an article that she didn’t agree with? To be fair, maybe it was the other Facebook users comments that got to her. But I was at work— I didn’t have time to police those. And I surely wasn’t commenting under other accounts, as Mrs. Parsons seemed to accuse me of. No, I was screwing screws into Jeep Cherokees!
The biggest heartbreaker, though? When Mrs. Parsons said, “I was a supporter of yours and tried incorporating your books into my classroom. I felt they fit so well with our goal of educating the whole child.”
So, in other words, Mrs. Parsons, you are willing to let your own personal beliefs affect the teachings that go on in your classroom? You are willing to deprive current and future students a great learning opportunity because an author (that you know personally) shared an article that you don’t agree with?
In one of the Facebook comments yesterday that you promptly deleted, you spoke of teaching children to deal with problems in the real world. Well, in the real world, the world away from Facebook, one doesn’t have the privilege of spouting their nasty thoughts and running the other way, “blocking” anyone that may disagree.
This is a very poor attitude, Mrs. Parsons. Especially when I never gave my personal opinion. I just shared an article. Perhaps you are allergic to information. Or maybe you are simply above holding a debate with a parent, fellow educator, tax-paying citizen or even the homeless guy on the corner. If either of these are true, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching tomorrow’s leaders, orange highlighter or not.