23 January 2012

On being a professional

I have often complained about parents. Parents who take no stake in their child's education, or only blame teachers, or don't know what's going on at school. Parents who aren't, to my view, very good at it. Today, I bring you the story of a proactive parent.

You are rightfully confused. You know what the BlazeBlog is about. The BlazeBlog is about fighting the man, about rants, about making fun of misspelled words. What could I be writing a blog about a proactive parent on? Well, I'll let you in on a secret: it's not about the parent. It's about the person the parent hired.

First, some backstory.

I have a freshman who, for most of the first semester, was not passing. The causes were pretty standard for freshmen: work not turned in, poor quality, not taking advantage of test re-take policies. In short, the student didn't put in the necessary work to be successful. She's hardly the first (nor will she be the last, I suspect) to fall victim to a school where their hands are not held nearly as much as they have been in the past.

So, this student's mother decided to take action. She hired a tutor. I'm on board. This is great. The tutor comes in and meets with me and three other teachers of classes where aforementioned student is failing. We discuss. An action plan is formulated. I add to the tutor to my weekly "hey here's what's going on in Geography this week" email. (It's a real page turner. This week, conquistadors! Next week? Brazil and deforestation!)

So far I've given you 1,000 words and none of it has been anything out of the ordinary. So far, this seems like a success story.  It is for the kid - kind of. She's still not coming to retake tests or turning work in. But I email her tutor 3 or 4 times a week. 

And that's where I start to get spun up. Not about the communication. She's polite and we're on the same page about student responsibility. In fact, I suspect that if all parents were as active as this tutor, there would be far fewer failing students nationwide. 

No, my complaint is that this woman; a woman who has a master's degree (I know because it's on her business card. Fancy!), a woman who is a for-hire education professional and advocate, a woman who is communicating with clients and teachers has terrible email habits. The two that make me the maddest? She hasn't capitalized her name in the "sent from" field and she has a lack of grammar / punctuation that makes me want to stab myself in the ear with a pencil until I hit my brain.
You know what? Let's take a look at an edited screen shot to see what has me seething.

You know what? This deserves a list of things I would point out if I had this open at an establishment that served beverages made of hops and barley. If you know me, read the following in my "worked up pounding a table mode". If you don't know that mode, I encourage you to watch Lewis Black, and imagine him with a goatee. That's what we're going for here. Alright, enough preamble. Let's get it on!

See up there at the top? Lower case j and lower case m. I've taught freshmen not to do this in email addresses. It's right up there with having the actual address be something like sexxybuttzinsweatpantz@gmail.com. When this shows up in my inbox, I'm judging you. Not just a little bit either.I've pretty much formed my entire opinion of you. You're in a hole, "j[redacted] m[redacted]".

OK, now I'm into your message. I'm not going to begrudge you the pleasantries, even though I think you hate me and don't hope I am doing great. I'll let that go, this is a societal thing. However, that lack of a capital letter? Well, now I think we have a larger problem. Oh, also, I don't care for your use of an exclamation point there. You know better. Don't waste that mark.

Now - "just checking if E[redacted] retake the test...". 

1. Shift+j is the key combination you were looking for.
2. Retook - that's the past tense. 

"please let me know...." - Again, you want the shift key. That and I think that a read receipt is the more polite way to do this. Or, since I've replied to basically every email you ever sent me that warranted an email, you could trust me, as an education professional, to reply to you with the answer you requested in the line about this one.

And then we finish up with your sign-off, "Jm". Really? These are your initials. Let's give the M the credit it's due. It represents your entire last name. I think it deserves equal billing along with your first initial. 

I can hear you now dear readers. You're saying "give her a break, she probably sent it from her phone". I don't care. Your phone has a way to make capital letters. Maybe you think it's OK because it's only email. I certainly have worked with people who sent far worse emails that this one. That doesn't make this one OK, because those weren't OK either. Email is quickly becoming our primary means of written (and recorded) communication. Just because you compose it quickly or on a keyboard doesn't mean it should be slovenly.  

Moreover, she's a tutor writing to a teacher. I would never send this to a parent. I would be embarrassed. I hope she is better with the parents she emails, but then again, if she can't be bothered to go back and capitalize her OWN NAME in the "sent from" she probably isn't.

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