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?