Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Slice 8 of 31- #SOL17: A letter to a college community

This is the 10th year that Two Writing Teachers has hosted the Slice of Life Challenge. Thirty-one days of writing during the month of March, here we go!

Dear Community of Educators,

Last August, we left my daughter at your college excited and prepared, although I know nervous and scared. She wanted to like it there--she planned to like it there-- and maybe, she'll still like it there. I keep thinking she'll turn the corner, but March 1st and the transfer application deadline arrived, and so did a few charges on my credit card from the Common App. 

I don't know if she'll really transfer. "I just want options," she says, and I will do everything I can to honor that wish. But here's what I, and any other parent, regardless of what level of school their child is in, wishes you'd have done. I wish you'd reached out to her and treated her with kindness instead of robotic indifference. Maybe you did. But perception is reality, and she wants to keep her options open partially because she feels like no one really cares. 

When she asked to meet with her advisor, that person made it difficult to set up an appointment. When she asked her professor about changing her grade to reflect the four point higher differential to report to the colleges, he rolled his eyes and hostilely asked for a pen. When she met with the dean to request her transcript and transfer forms, the dean told her exactly what she had to do on-line. The face to face meeting lasted seven minutes. Any of these interactions had the potential to change my daughter's experience, her intention, and ultimately her decision. (Could have saved me money too.) Maybe I should say these points to these adults to their face. Maybe I should find their numbers, pick up the phone, and talk to them. Maybe I'll write to them--send this letter, even. Maybe my daughter will. Maybe they'd care. Maybe they wouldn't.

I share these experiences because every day, parents send us their children and it doesn't matter if those children are three or twenty. Those children are their parents' everything, and how we treat them is filtered through those children's perceptions and realities and brought home or shared for validation, empathy, and love. My girl's experiences have made me look at my own interactions with other people's children. Am I intentional enough about showing them that I value them and I want them to be a member of my community? Probably not. Isn't it amazing that every child, even the big ones walking around your campus, are someone's soul walking outside of their body, sometimes far away from home?

A few days ago, I read a blog post from an on-line friend, Carrie Gelson, who was contemplating the power we have as teachers. You can read her post here. She starts her message like this:
Student safety, happiness and joy. Relationships. Acceptance. Calm. These things should matter. We all know unless we are pretending or making excuses that are all about us that these things should matter most of all. No learning happens unless we have accounted for these things. No growth. No wonder. No risk taking. None of it.
I think most of the elementary teachers I work with understand these words. I'm not in high school classrooms, but judging from my daughters' reactions, some of their teachers understand these words--maybe even more than I think. Today, I'm wondering about people who teach at the college level.

Ultimately, my daughter will be fine. She is a grounded, smart, resilient person. But I do wish that adults in her world had paid more attention to the power they had to raise her up or shove her down. Carrie's words matter so much. Safety. Happiness. Joy. Relationships. Acceptance. Calm.

Happy Slicing,


  1. Strong letter. Your values and passion are well expressed. You care for your child and for all the children. I agree - the kind and caring shouldn't stay in elementary school but be everywhere. People and relationships should come before academics and points and documents.

  2. This is a powerful letter, Melanie, and I hope you will send some form of it to this college. I was discussing school culture with my principal today. It is vital to the growth of our students. Carrie is spot on. Safety. Happiness. Joy...
    I hope your girl will find her way. I am confident she will, but it's sad it had to be like this. Another thing I said to my principal, "I don't believe that everything happens for a reason, but I believe we make a reason for everything that happens. We learn and grow from every life experience."

    1. Love what you said to your principal, Margaret! I agree!

  3. Oh -- I have to admit I had too many text to self connections!!! So hard to hear and read and realize this can happen. I agree she will be fine, more than fine, but I also agree that one small gesture of humanity could have made all the difference. I think you should find a way to let them know -they need to hear that they are not losing a number, they are losing an incredible human being. Hang in there.

  4. powerful post! This portion hit me especially hard--Am I intentional enough about showing them that I value them and I want them to be a member of my community? Probably not. Isn't it amazing that every child, even the big ones walking around your campus, are someone's soul walking outside of their body, sometimes far away from home?
    Brilliant and beautifully written. Thank you.

  5. This is such an important post! I'm a college professor, and we most definitely forget about all of this--and then spend hour after hour in meetings talking about what we can do to improve retention. SIGH. I think we need to read your post and start our conversation there!

  6. Melanie - I have been sifting through posts that I didn't get to comment on with all of the busy of writing. Thank you for referencing my words here. I just commented on another post about risk taking. This post was a risk for me. So was a conversation I had after finding some courage from posting. I so agree - each child is so important - whether they are little ones or college age. We need to support and truly see each child. The human factor matters so much.