Tonight, Bunny wrote a note to her teacher. In her very best handwriting, she wrote the following:
Dear Mrs N,
I was wondering if it might be possible for me to maybe move to a more challenging group in spelling.
It sounds simple, but it was actually a pretty substantial undertaking.
First, weeks ago, we went through the disappointment of being assigned to the middle spelling group. This group, apparently, encompasses the majority of the kids in the class though Bunny feels there is a great deal of disparity amongst them in the area of spelling skill. Bunny takes this very seriously, you guys. Lots of study and analysis of her peers going on here.
It has been mentioned by Bunny every single week that the words are too easy and she is in the wrong group. It's been driving her nuts. She says the kids in the top group are struggling and don’t want to be there but she would love to be there.
Tonight, I told her to go for it. I said, “Look, if you want to be in that group, you need to speak to your teacher and request the opportunity to give it a shot. Any teacher will respect your desire. If she feels you can’t cut it, she can move you back down. I bet she’ll give you the opportunity to prove yourself.”
Bunny agreed for a few moments and then lost her nerve and asked when my teacher conference was scheduled. I said, “It’s at the end of October. You don’t want to wait for me to speak to her. Anyway, it’s better coming from you. If it comes from me, it sounds like I’m pushing you. If it comes from you, it sounds like you have a desire to learn. Teachers respect that, Bunny. She won’t be mad.”
Then I heard a lot of excuses about how busy her teacher is and how Bunny will be bothering her if she asks and how if she wants to do it, everyone else will want to do it, too, and then Mrs. N will regret it….
And it sounded just like me. It sounded like me making all the excuses I’ve made for why I never ask for what I truly want when it matters most.
Worried that she might back down as I often do, I suggested she write a note. That way, her teacher can respond when it’s convenient. I also suggested that she use her loveliest handwriting in all her schoolwork because sometimes the sloppy writing Bunny is prone to use can make a teacher think the work is poorly done even when it is technically correct.
Bunny nodded and said she never thought about it that way. Then she undertook her note-writing task with tongue-biting focus.
I really hope her teacher moves her to the top spelling group. Bunny really wants it. And she’s got the spelling chops if I do say so myself. But, either way, I think the groundwork we laid tonight teaches a more important lesson than a year of learning the trickier vowel combinations will accomplish. I told her that if there is something she wants, there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying so. I told her that it's easy to clam up and hope for other people to be mind-readers or feel embarrassed being your own advocate. Women, especially, often struggle with this. I told her she is her own best advocate and that I am right behind her every step of the way and that no matter what the outcome is, she has shown herself to be a dedicated student and her teacher can only respect that.
And Bunny wrote her note and did her easy-ass spelling homework and tucked it all carefully into her notebook.
And I wished I had a working printer so I could scan that note and hang it on my bathroom mirror to remind myself that it’s OK for me to ask for what I want. It’s not just OK, actually, it’s important. It’s necessary. Bunny is watching. She’ll need that skill when she runs for president* someday.
*By that, I mean president of a not-for-profit that will save animals and stop global warming and fix our broken educational system. Not president of the United States. Bunny needs a job where she can truly make effective changes.
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