When Camden came home from school one day, teary-eyed and upset, his parents asked him what was wrong. The second-grader tried to shrug it off, but his parents persisted in knowing. Eventually, Camden produced a piece of schoolwork that had scathing criticism on it from his teacher. After taking a closer look at the paper, Camden’s father, Chris, noticed that this was no ordinary critique and was not about to let it slide.
He was a pretty normal child, according to his father. Therefore, it came as a surprise to the Pillin family when their young son started receiving so many different criticisms from the same teacher at school. When Chris saw the note on Camden’s schoolwork, he started wondering whether there was something more serious going on that he didn’t know about. That’s when he started to look into this more seriously.
Young Camden is a student at Valley View Elementary School and is currently in second grade there. As far as schools go, Valley View is a pretty ordinary public school. Camden was not an overachiever by any standards, but up until this incident, the child seemed to be doing reasonably well with his schoolwork, and they didn’t have any serious issues. However, ever since starting the second grade, the amount of complaints Chris had received went up dramatically. While Camden was otherwise a typical young kid in many ways, his father had always known him to be a good student.
While we all know that most kids tend to hate homework, up until the second grade, Camden had never had any problems with regards to completing it. It was difficult for his father to sit back and watch as his child was slowly starting to fail more and more. As a responsible parent, he felt that he had to do something. While Camden was by no means an unintelligent kid, it had become apparent that he was struggling. His grades were dropping regularly, and his father felt like it was unlike him to do so poorly at school.
When he returned home one day with a written criticism from his teacher, Alyssa Rupp Boenik, Chris realized that the teacher was likely at the center of all of this. The note read, “Absolutely pathetic. He answered 13 in three minutes. Sad.” A little too harsh for Chris’s liking.
The teacher in question, Melissa Boenick, had been teaching at the school for some time and had earned herself a reputation for being a pretty tough teacher to impress. Camden was one of her students, and she’d not gotten along well with him that year. It seemed as though everything Camden did was wrong, and every mistake he made was met with a harsh written warning. The negative feedback was clearly having a negative effect on his self-esteem and confidence. Chris was really angered by this comment that Boenick had written on Camden’s homework.
He felt that the criticism was uncalled for and that she’d gone too far. Instead of offering constructive criticism, she’d simply attacked him personally. While he also wanted Camden to do better at school, he realized that this kind of negative attention was not helping at all. In fact, judging by the state that poor Camden was in when he got home that day, it was truly destructive. Had this been the only negative comment that he’d received from Mrs.
Boenick that year, Chris probably wouldn’t have had such a big issue out of it. However, Boenick had been sending home a lot of negative feedback over the course of the year, and most of it was a little more personal than Chris would have liked. Had the criticism been fair and balanced, Chris would have addressed Camden directly. But now he felt that it was important to talk to the teacher instead. Chris felt that calling a student pathetic was going too far.
He believed that Boenick, the teacher, had a responsibility to ensure that every learner was treated fairly. He believed that encouraging students to do better was a much better solution to poor grades than harsh negative feedback. So, in order to get back at the teacher and make a point, Chris decided to post an update on his Facebook page about the incident and express his dislike for her attitude. After making a post explaining what had happened and showing the note that his teacher had written, Chris was surprised to see that it had exploded online. It was as though the whole country had taken an active interest in the saga that was playing out in his son’s school life.
The comments and interactions from the public showed that they were strongly against the teacher’s harsh words. In some ways, both Chris and Camden felt somewhat vindicated by this. After having made the post online, Chris was prepared to leave it at that, but it seemed as though the internet had not yet finished with the saga. In next to no time, someone had started a petition online calling for Boenick to be fired. Chris was amazed that the public had rallied behind him like this.
He never once thought that the story of his son and his teacher would mean so much to so many. The petition made things pretty serious. It meant that Boenick’s career would be on the line if she didn’t find a way to defend herself against the backlash. At this point, though, Chris was already seeing red and believed that firing her would be the best option for both his son and any other children who may have fallen victim to Boenick’s harsh criticisms. Sometimes you simply have to draw a line, and for Chris, this was one of those moments.
After the petition started on Camden’s behalf, nearly 10,000 people had already signed it. However, a group of teachers started speaking up for Boenick, stating that she didn’t deserve to be fired over what she’d done. In truth, what she’d done was pretty damaging to such a young student of hers, and while they all agreed that she deserved to be reprimanded for her actions, they felt that losing her job would be taking things too far. Some of the people taking Boenick’s side turned the issue on Chris and his parenting skills. They advised him to stay off social media and spend more time raising his children.
They argued that had he spent more time with his son, ensuring that he did his homework in the first place, there’d be less chance of something like this happening. Ultimately, though, the majority of people felt that Boenick was in the wrong and that she needed to make up for it. It had also become apparent that Boenick had become pregnant in recent months and that she’d be expecting a child of her own later this year. Some speculated that this could have made her more hormonal and short-tempered, thus affecting her levels of patience. However, it also helped to prove a point.
What would she do as a parent if she found herself in Chris’s shoes one day? Would she simply let it slide, or would she also make her point known? Ultimately, the lesson of Camden’s story is an important one for both educators and parents alike. While we know that teachers are meant to act in a certain way, the truth is that they’re only human. We all make mistakes, and it’s important to notice that.
But as a parent, it’s important for you to take an active interest in your child’s schooling and make sure that at home, they have the best conditions possible to study and work hard.
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