Mountain View Voice

Opinion - July 10, 2009

Mrs. P deserved better

by Karen Green

I am deeply saddened by the way Pat Polifrone has been treated.

I admit that in my time, I also found her frustrating. My son had her for third grade at Slater and I, too, spoke to Dr. Nicki Smith about the language Mrs. P used with children. Dr. Smith saw an interpersonal problem between the adults and mediated a conversation between us. A mature discussion was appropriate and diffused the situation. Dr. Smith is a smart woman.

The most impressive academic achievement I saw at Slater was engineered by Mrs. P. A child joined the class mid-year after an intercontinental move and did not speak English. Mrs. P told the class that assimilating her was everyone's responsibility. She assigned children to sit with her and had them talk their way through every activity. They took turns being experts in each subject and kept her company at recess. She was a fluent speaker by June.

Harnessing the power of the class was elegant, used resources efficiently and developed leadership. That child also made friends faster, which reduced the impact of the transition. Mrs. P gave that child a generous gift.

Given the breathtaking range of human diversity, every teacher/student personality combination doesn't work. However, Mrs. P was exactly what the doctor ordered for that English language learner. Any claims that she is unsuited to teach any child in Mountain View lack legal merit and supporting data.

There is ample research to support her methods. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that "self-control is more important than self-esteem in determining achievement. ... Self-esteem has gone up in the United States; achievement has not. If anything, compared with other countries, we have done worse, but our kids feel really good about themselves on average" (www.incharacter.org/article.php?article=147).

Duckworth studies people with "grit": those "who take things to completion" with "focused interest." Gritty people go to West Point, the Olympics and Julliard. They become heart surgeons, astronauts and chess champions. They earn the one spot in the chorus line or become the first African-American president of the United States. Like the master Shifu in "Kung Fu Panda," a movie with surprisingly profound ideas about teaching and learning, Mrs. P develops grit.

I asked my son what he remembers about Mrs. P and he admitted she was tough sometimes. He is now 15 years old and knows her criticism was constructive and accurate. He called her "an extremely nice woman" at her core, and "a brilliant teacher because she won't take no for an answer."

If I had known then what I know now, I would have appreciated Mrs. P a heck of a lot more.

Parents of incoming Graham sixth graders, please consider your child honestly. If he's an extremely bright high achiever, choose Mrs. P; she won't allow him to be idle or bored. If your child has a big personality and a lot of sass, she'll appreciate Mrs. P's boundaries. If your child is behind, Mrs. P will go above and beyond to help him catch up.

Mrs. P is not for everyone and preferences against her should be honored, but she is an excellent choice for many children. What if we end the fighting and commit to placing the right kids in her care? She'll help them to fly.

Isn't that what we want for all of the children of Mountain View?

Karen Green has had a child at Slater School and a stepchild at Castro School. She lives on Villa Street.

Comments

Posted by resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 10, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I can't believe I'm reading this. Is this some sort of a sick joke or an attempt to correct the record? The Voice has hit yet anohter a new low with this one. They've got Obama, West Point, Kung Fu Panda and Polifrone dancing in a chorus line.

"Mrs. P was exactly what the doctor ordered for that English language learner."
Are you kidding me? I'm howling now. Who was this doctor? And any other teacher would have done no better? How do you know? Where do you get your facts. What do you know about English learners to even form an opinion? Let's hear it straight from the English learner.

Beg you pardon but neither your 15-year old nor you are qualified to judge teachers. Then again, in this district one never nows..

"Mrs. P is not for everyone and preferences against her should be honored." Reality check. This is a public school district, not one where we can pick or chose a teacher to abuse our children. Teachers need to be ready to teach any student at any time.

"Self-control is more important than self-esteem in determining achievement... Mrs. P develops grit." So do a lot of other hedonistic personalities, until the objects of their wrath implode from the humiliation. Let's just ask teachers to berate our children into
submission so they can build them up again with the honed expertise. Say for exammpe with "that English learner." Thanks, but no thanks. I'll provide my children with a good upbringing and a sense of confidence, the teacher just needs to teach.


Posted by Ned, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Thanks for sparing me having to comment. The Voice just threw more gasoline on the fire. This whole thing is just too wild and out control.


Posted by Lee, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 10, 2009 at 8:19 pm

We are all sad for Ms. P. and her students as well, victims and success stories alike. But as far as the opinion above, it almost sounds like a last ditch effort to spin something positive from a train wreck. This is what happens when no one at the district office can comment on this teacher. We are left with this. This whole story needs to just go away.


Posted by just go away, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

To resident: So, you were the "English language learner" and that's how you know so much? You can guarantee that ANY teacher could do better. And just what makes you such the expert (that at least you think you are) at judging teachers? Why is it your opinion of who is or isn't a great teacher is the only worthy opinion? Where do you get YOUR facts?


Posted by resisdent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I don't understand the purpose of this article. I thought Mrs. P's case is over. She has been walked out of Huff, and will not come back to MVWSD. If so, I'm happy for the incoming students at MVWSD.

I am in such a chaos reading this article included these statements.

"about the language Mrs. P used with children"
"any claims that she is unsuited to teach any child in Mountain View lack legal merit and supporting data."
"her criticism was constructive and accurate"
"a brilliant teacher because she won't take no for an answer"
"commit to placing the right kids in her care? She'll help them to fly"

First, I do not know all kinds of language that Mrs. P used on her students; I have been told that she constantly call her students with rude, discriminating words.

Second, I believe there's a long list of legal merit and supporting data to claim that she's unsuited to teach children. The words "any child" here is misleading. A teacher does not fair to one student, is to say s/he is not good to teacher all students. Also, it said, she has her own favor students.

Third, There's no criticism is constructive. Criticism is blame, evaluate without necessarily finding fault. No one should criticize anyone. A teacher does not have right to criticize any students. Students do not need criticism from their teachers.

Fourth, Mrs. P won't take no for an answer, so she's a brilliant teacher. What's the definition of a brilliant teacher? I'm totally lost. This is to say she won't listen to others; she's self centered.

Finally, "No child should left behind!" – This is American's slogan. So, how you can define right kids vs. wrong kids? So, in your words, wrong kids will break their wings in Mrs. P's class and will not able to fly. I would rather say, "All young children are in right teachers' care will fly higher and higher." That's what we want in our MVWSD.

I believe there's no right or wrong students; but there's right or wrong teachers. Starting Pre-K and K, parents place their children in schools. The students are pure as white drawing papers; teachers are doing painting on those white papers. This is Education, and how important to have right teachers for all young children. There are terrible education founding cut in California, I believe to define right teacher, and education; how to keep right teachers to perform right education is more important and urgent.




Posted by JJ, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 15, 2009 at 10:46 pm


If Mrs. P will ever come back to MVWSD. Home Study may be an
alternative. Many parents do Home Study for their kids, because they don't trust school education, and don't belive school can teach their kids. This is sad!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Mrs. P is coming back to MVWSD. She will teach sixth grade at Graham Middle School according to the Voice article a few weeks back.

This letter was published in poor taste and with poor judgements. The writer is completely uninformed and does not appear to have an authority or a professional knowledge to make such statements.


Posted by David Floyer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2009 at 5:16 am

Thank you Karen for your fair and balanced opinion.

My Son is also proud that Mrs P taught him, and I came to know her well. She was his most effective teacher at Huff. Mrs. P was brilliant at engaging with the kids and bring out the best in them. My son and was proud when she took the time to watch his soccer match as a quid pro quo for classroom achievement.

Mrs. P's only challenge was communicating with pushy parents. When Mr Goldman was principal at Huff, he provided a shield when necessary. The principals that followed were ineffective at protecting Mrs P from a vendetta pursued by very few.

My son and I are delighted Mrs P will be teaching at Graham, and we hope that she will be teaching him when he returns as a 7th grader this fall.

The best of luck, Mrs. P; you are the best of teachers.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 16, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Knowing Mrs. P mistreated some children at Huff; and these children are the smartest, good behave, and gate students. Everyone would put a question about the comments "she is the best teachers." I would say her style happened to match to those lucky ones. I would not put my child in this risk environment if I have choice.

I don't have the count of how "few" are okayed with Mrs. P, how "few" were on the other side, how "few" were in the middle or no comments. Until, we have the numbers, or even the "few" is "one", we should not jump into the conclusion on "few" are the vendettas; or "few" are just getting brown noses; or "few" just afraid of Mrs. P would do anything to their kids if they don't say any good comments about her. Parents do know how to say political correct words; they do not need to be challenged by their children's teacher. I know most of these "few" victim parents at Huff; they are the most friendly family. To deal with teacher for their children, they have to be strong. All parents will be strong if their children were mistreated by their teacher9s). I think these parents are doing something not only for their children, but also for the others.

I don't feel it is fair to criticize those victim parents and children to say they are the "vendetta" or they are "pushy", or any words of such.

Parents, if you are the lucky one, please do not just speak for yourself. It may happen to your child because Mrs. P is moody, ALL the time, most of the time, or just few times. Think about your pre-teen, teen students with a moody teacher at Graham middle school.
They will be like "walk on thin ice" in Mrs. P's class.

If Mrs. P has to be at Graham, please keep her in 6th grade. just for language art and social study. Not on any other events, elective classes. So, my child will not be in her class, or any risk to be attacked.

We may need a willing list for those who wants to be in Mrs. P's class before school starts to avoide changing/switching classes/schedules.


Posted by Oh Please, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 21, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Can just any one write in to this paper with an uninformed opinion and get published. I too question whether this is responsible journalism.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields