The Risk of Assumption

Last year in first grade, Claire adored her teacher. Her teacher was wonderful, warm, funny, and had high expectations. She loves kids.

At the end of the year, though, Claire began saying that her teacher hated her. This total 180 in her perception startled me. She also said she didn’t love her teacher anymore. Claire even told strangers — while being sworn in as a Junior Ranger, for example, when the ranger asked her if she liked school — “Yeah, but my teacher hated me.”

I met with her former teacher today for coffee, because we also became friends over the past year. This teacher was assigned to teach second grade next year, so there was a possibility that Claire would have her again. I told Mrs. G about Claire’s story, and she was surprised, puzzled, and concerned. Now, my girl can hold a super glue grip on a grudge, and I was puzzled too but had made a shoulder-shrug peace with it.

This afternoon I told Claire, “Hey, I saw Mrs. G today for coffee!”

Claire: “Why?”

Me: “Because we’re friends. I mentioned to her that you think she hates you. She was sad about that, and surprised. She said, ‘I love Claire!’ What could have I done?'”

Claire: “Well… I’ll tell you what happened. [pause] I told Mrs. G, ‘Next year I really hope I get a different teacher.’ And she said in a stern voice — but maybe it was just her accent — ‘Well, then I’ll make sure you’re not in my class next year.’ And so I thought she hated me.”

Ohhhhhhh! Wow! So I had the opportunity to clarify, and say that Mrs. G was actually giving Claire what she wanted. Claire said yes, she understood, but it was the stern voice. And I pointed out that sometimes people have a serious tone of voice but that it doesn’t mean they are mad. Claire is very sensitive to sternness — it makes her anxious and then she becomes defensive, or even goes on the offense, to protect her feelings. (Her assumption is similar to the phenomenon of bitchy resting face. Sometimes women are assumed to be angry, unfriendly, or bitchy because they aren’t smiling and sparkling. Here is something women with BRF would like you to know.)

After this, Claire said, “Tell Mrs. G I must have misunderstood. And that I think she understands that sometimes you have to move on.” I asked if she thought Mrs. G still hates her. “No,” she replied, “I think she feels loving to me. When can we have a play date with her daughter?”

claire presentation

The Face of a Miserable Student

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