Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features

Dear Miss Manners: Treat son’s ex-teacher graciously

Dear Miss Manners: I am the mother of an 8-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s extremely intelligent and highly emotional.

Second grade presented him with significantly greater expectations in the classroom, which he greeted with significantly more disruptive behavior. His father and I and the school intervened quickly and were, we believed, working collaboratively to help him learn appropriate behavior within the constraints of the public school system.

I’ll spare you the details; what matters is that each day was pretty unpredictable and stressful for him, his teacher and his classmates. His teacher was an experienced professional (20-plus years in the school) who had taught our older child two years before. Apparently, she reached her tipping point, because out of the blue one day, the principal informed us that she was changing our son’s classroom placement in order to give him “a new beginning.” He managed the transition pretty well, though he was very sad about leaving behind the friends he had made in his original class.

I simply cannot find it within me to greet her civilly when I see her in the hallways. I cannot even bring myself to make eye contact with her. My son has moved on, emotionally, but what he doesn’t know is that she just gave up on him; she decided she couldn’t tolerate the disruptions he caused in her classroom and asked for him to be transferred. (I know this from a conversation with his present teacher.)

Even realizing that such a teacher makes a bad match for my special-needs child has not helped me to forgive her. I know also that I am modeling a bad example for my son, which adds to my distress (except that he is oblivious to nonverbal social cues, so unless I were to instruct him not to speak to her, which I’d never do, I can nearly rationalize my own bad behavior). My son is not a monster; he has a medical disability, and it kills me that her decision signals to every other teacher in the school that she views him as ungovernable.

I assume my anger will dissipate with time, but in the meanwhile, I want to behave better. Can you make some suggestions for the next time I encounter her at school?

Gentle Reader: Look her in the eye. Greet her civilly. And if it doesn’t choke you, tell her that you appreciate her having tried to deal with what you acknowledge is a difficult situation.

Since you are appealing to Miss Manners, she assumes that you know she will not justify behaving, as you admit, badly. But it may help you to know that behaving graciously is the best thing you can do for your son.

It isn’t only the example, although you should not count on his total oblivion to your distress. He has evidently not been branded as ungovernable, because another class was found for him. You do not want to saddle him with the burden of being part of a package deal with an ungovernable mother.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.