Today’s lesson: not-so-friendly letters

October 6th, 2011 · 62 comments

As part of a lesson about civic responsibility, many teachers encourage their students to participate in letter-writing campaigns to Congress, the school board, the Mayor, or other public figures. (Thanks to the efforts of second-graders in Mission, Texas, for example, Texans can now proudly refer to tortilla chips and salsa as their official “state snack.”)

Meanwhile, this teacher in Ypsilanti, Michigan enlisted her 18 middle-school students in a cause even closer to home — her home, that is — by getting them each to write a persuasive letter asking her noisy neighbor to curb his all-night partying.

Dear Neighbor, Please Do not blast any music while my teacher is trying to sleep. If she doesn't get any sleep we won't be able to learn. And I will get in trouble with my parents. Please stop for the sake of my education. Sincerely, [redacted] student

related: An indignant middle-schooler speaks up

FILED UNDER: guilt trip · kids · music · neighbors · noise · schools & teachers · sleeping · that's unprofessional · Won't somebody think of the children? · Ypsilanti

62 responses so far ↓

  • #1   Rat Liz

    wow, as a member of the Ypsilanti community i am sorry. and as soon as i can figure out where this lady lives i am going stand out side her house in a trench coat and blast some Peter Gabriel

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:01 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.1   Sean Sutton

      If what you’re blasting is Peter Gabriel, you really should be sorry.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:32 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.2   The Gecko Hunter

      Had to thumb! Sorry if some don’t get it. I won’t “say anything”!

      Oct 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #1.3   Nick

      Shut your stupid, stupid mouth, Sean Sutton.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #2   lagne

    That’s kinda funny… until I think about it.

    Then I think about what I’d feel if I, as a parent, discovered that my kid’s teacher had indirectly involved him/her in a dispute occurring in Teacher’s personal life….

    All I’m sayin is I hope s/he erased the names – first and last – from all of those papers. And that s/he’s never my kid’s teacher.

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:02 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.1   Ryoko

      She didn’t – look in the top middle-ish of the photo, you can see someone’s name with part of the last name cut off only by virtue of the size of the picture.

      Oct 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.2   twhit

      I’m not sure who submitted this, but I don’t think it was the noisy neighbor. I doubt he ever actually got the letters and that the teacher never meant to give them to him, only to give the kids real life experience, because if there is one thing almost everybody will have to deal with in their life it’s noisy neighbors.
      But is it weird that she gave an example from her personal life? Yes, very. Talking about your personal problems with students is pathetic and needy; if I were a parent I’d be worried about that. If she did give them to her neighbor she should be fired.

      Oct 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.3   Grant

      Since when was PAN writing on the school curriculum? OK, I know they taught writing a letter to the Times in the UK system… Actually, now I come to think of it… it IS a life skill…

      Oct 7, 2011 at 4:03 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.4   The Elf

      Good for the teacher! Writing PANs is a life skill the students will surely use in the years to come! However, I must decry the use of only one color ink. No hi-lighting? Where are the hearts and the XOXO? The “Love” signatures? The tone of friendly advice? The multiple exclamation points? The “j/k” followed by the “Seriously, I will cut you”? You can’t expect the recipent to take you seriously without those! If I were grading these, they’d get Ds.

      This is exactly the problem with public school these days. Here they are, teaching a valuable skill, but not pushing the kids to do their best. They’ll be passed to the next grade anyway, regardless of their PAN performance. You know it’s just teaching to the standardized PAN test developed for NCLB, not actually teaching passive-aggressive writing skills. We should not settle for substandard passive-aggressive notes from our students!

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:40 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #2.5   notolaf

      What the heck makes you think the letters were ever delivered? It’s a writing exercise, for pete’s sake!

      Oct 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #3   fuzzbutt

    I think i know who this teacher is…..

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.1   Sean Jungian

      Well? Is she decent-but-misguided, or a big pain in the booty?

      Oct 6, 2011 at 10:24 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.2   Rat Liz

      does she live downtown with all us college kids? thats what i want to know

      Oct 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #3.3   Ypsi Pride

      I heard she’s an amazing teacher, the students loved the assignment, she never actually gave the letters to anyone…and she’s really pretty.

      Oct 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #4   Ed.D.

    This is inappropriate on so many levels. Bad teacher! Bad!

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #5   qua

    P.S. Either stop this loud noise or my teacher will beat the living crap out of you and bring all your brew to school !

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:10 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #6   Sarah H

    Oh lighten up, that’s hilarious! Good for her. I’d think that was adorable if it was my kid, as long his/her grammar and spelling are correct, it’s all good.

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.1   park rose

      Missing words get a free pass?

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.2   Robert

      Missing words? Where? I only see a missing comma in the second sentence and a missed opportunity for a compound sentence. Technically, the student can start a sentence with “and.” Combining the second and third sentences into a compound sentence would have been a bit clearer in context.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.3   Louise

      It says “able learn” insead of “able TO learn”.

      Oct 8, 2011 at 1:58 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #6.4   park rose

      I was referring to Sarah H’s post! Now I’m sure to have a few missing words in my own.

      Oct 8, 2011 at 5:45 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #7   kat

    I really don’t think she’s wrong for doing this. Many people don’t respect each other. She’s just trying to Getty a point across to the damn neighbor. What’s so wrong having your students write a little letter. I know I wouldn’t be upset or anything if I was one of the kids’ parents.

    Oct 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #7.1   park rose

      That’s the way to address things in the burg!

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:45 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #7.2   The Elf

      I saw what you did there…..

      Oct 7, 2011 at 10:40 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #8   Dave

    “If she dosen’t get any sleep we won’t be able learn.”
    Wow. This guy better quit partying, these kids can’t write/spell for crap!

    Oct 6, 2011 at 10:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #9   Nahhh bang

    Still printing in middle school. {shakes head}

    Oct 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.1   Jordie

      Cursive is dead. I graduated high school a year ago, and I can safely say that I haven’t used cursive since fifth grade, except to sign my name.

      Oct 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.2   Skewl

      Sorry, schools have stopped really teaching cursive writing around the mid 90s… It’s not on the standardized tests.

      Oct 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.3   havingfitz

      My teachers allowed me to print everything, since in spite of their best efforts (and my own, I voluntarily went in for extra help) my cursive doesn’t even look like a language known to humans. I’m 36 now, and the running gag is that if you can read my signature, it must be a forgery.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 12:21 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.4   Sean Sutton

      Nahhh — you misspelled “Get off my lawn!”

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:34 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.5   Adriana

      I graduated in 2000 and I was forced to use cursive in school. Now, at almost 30 years old, I only use cursive when I am signing my name. I’m glad they’ve stopped teaching it in school.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:35 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.6   The Elf

      Same thing happened to me, havingfitz. That is, until my 11th grade English honors class. That teacher was a stickler and insisted I either write “properly” in cursive or type. This was before the days of ubiquitous computers, too. If she couldn’t read my paper, she’d make me stay late and read it aloud to her.

      I have to say, she was one of the best teachers I ever had.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:44 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.7   park rose

      In my secondary school schooling in the eighties, we had the choice of either printing or using “running writing”. It was up to the individual student. I remember using cursive from 3rd grade to 7th grade in elementary school, though.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:49 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.8   divaandwriter bang

      I went to school in the 50s and 60s, and we had no choice. Penmanship was one of the subjects that we studied, and it appeared on our report cards. In addition to this, the method that was taught in our school was so non-user friendly that most of us eventually gave up and started using hybrid forms of writing taken from what we saw other people using. I always had terrible penmanship, and I still do. Most of the time, I just print everything. It’s easier, and much more readable.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 10:06 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.9   bookworm

      Learning how to read and write cursive helps me to read the chicken scratch a lot of people pass off as legible writing. I find it amusing every time people feel the need to announce their pride in having poor hand-eye coordination every time the subject comes up though.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.10   JBee

      After having cursive shoved down my throat in elementary, to the point where they made me cry with threats that if we didn’t get cursive down we would be a failure in the rest of our education , I was actually told by teachers from then on NOT to write in cursive because they had so much trouble reading it.

      Printing is so much easier to read, I think they should stop teaching cursive, and just teach you how to sign your name.

      Oct 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.11   Shannon Elliot

      The reason people can do without cursive now is that they do most of their writing via the keyboard, but if you’re physically writing, cursive is a lot faster than printing. Being able to write quickly was key to doing well on exams, particularly in university.

      I’ve no doubt that in another decade or two, we’ll switch over completely to keyboards, and future students won’t have that reason.

      Oct 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.12   The Elf

      It’s not pride, bookworm. It’s a defensive reaction from being an A/B student with a consistant D/F in handwriting even though you really tried to write better, and then your parents overlooking the rest of the report card to focus on the D/F and punish you for it while your C student older brother gets praise for being average even though you still beat his GPA by a landslide but it just isn’t good enough because of that one little D/F.

      I’m a little bitter.

      Oct 11, 2011 at 8:41 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #9.13   Nocturnesthesia

      Yeah, I remember being forced to use cursive (and write with a pencil) in the 80s. I hated this because my hands were black after a paragraph or so, plus cursive took me much longer than printing, and looked more like Arabic. I also remember having to erase an entire page of work and redo it because I forgot to double-space on one line, and couldn’t just start over on a new page because it would be a waste of paper.

      Long story short, I really think abolishing this time-wasting bullshit and teaching kids some relevant life skills can only do good.

      Oct 14, 2011 at 2:14 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #10   Somebody Else

    Wow. Just Wow. This takes passive-aggressive to a whole new level. Which is intellectually kind of cool and emotionally terrifying at the very same time.

    I think that a parent using their kids to manipulate their own parents (as in, “you’ll never see your grand kids again”) is worse than this, but perhaps only slightly.

    And if it doesn’t work, “Teach” could always take an ad out in the paper, eh?

    Serious abuse of power if you ask me. And what great PAN lessons s/he is giving to all those kids. Shudder.

    Oct 7, 2011 at 2:02 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #10.1   park rose

      Maybe it’s a hypothetical situation.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 7:56 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #10.2   Somebody Else

      Well, ok then. Nevermind, lol.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #11   Canthz_B bang

    That’s one quick-thinking teacher.

    When (as a student) I fell asleep in class, it never occurred to me to blame the neighbor…much less ask the class to start a letter-writing campaign.

    To be awakened from her slumbers at the head of the class and pull that one off is nothing short of amazing!

    Oct 7, 2011 at 3:10 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #12   GhostWriter bang

    Teacher sleeps in class: Neighbors’ fault

    Student sleeps in class: Whiteboard eraser to the head

    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:16 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #13   GhostWriter bang

    Ahh, early middle school! Fifth grade, tops. Before children start realizng that:

    (a) Teachers have little effect on your actual “learning”.

    (b) Teachers do not want you to be a part of their life away from the classroom.

    Oct 7, 2011 at 9:29 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.1   Palomon

      I think this kid may have figured it out both.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.2   Palomon

      - figured out both-.
      Jeezus. Been gone for months and make a typo my first reply.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #13.3   park rose

      Don’t feel bad, Palomon.

      You can’t help it if your neighbour was blasting music while you were trying to sleep. If you don’t get any sleep you’ll make typos and get in trouble with the PAN contributors.

      Dear Neighbour, please stop for the sake of Palomon’s elucidation!
      Sincerely, Palomon’s advocate, rose.

      Oct 8, 2011 at 5:58 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #14   Gen

    I have a kid in an Ypsi middle school, and I’d think it was hilarious if this were one of her assignments – provided the letters were either 1) not actually given to the neighbor, or 2) the names were taken off before being delivered to said neighbor. In fact, I kind of wish this teacher could be the replacement for the one who just quit at her school. I’d also like to see it properly marked & graded for grammar, punctuation, and originality.

    Oct 7, 2011 at 10:31 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #15   Lorel

    I would be pissed if my kid had to write this letter.

    Oct 7, 2011 at 11:46 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #15.1   TippingCows

      Pissed? Is that really appropriate? I’m sure you don’t get worked up over stupid stuff much ever.

      Oct 7, 2011 at 10:12 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #16   Quite Contrary

    State snack? Oh, thank god Texas was able to achieve bipartisan agreement to establish that critical public policy.

    Oct 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #16.1   Jordie

      Did you see how seriously it was written and justified? I loved that.

      Oct 8, 2011 at 1:59 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #16.2   Somebody Else

      Thank you both for your posts, lazy me didn’t press Kerry’s link the first time through.

      What a mistake that was, eh? Now that I am familiar with the factoids on that page, life is just so much more satisfying.

      Thank God for Texas, and God bless America!

      Oct 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #17   M.E.B.

    If I was a parent of one (or more) of those kids, I would be furious over some teacher dragging my child(ren) into her passive-agressive BS.

    Especially since, she did not erase the names on the letters, and they obviously got sent to someone. (Since I don’t see the teacher posting this herself. )

    Oct 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #18   Army of Words

    I actually think this is cute. I’m surprised to see so many people butthurt over it. I highly doubt she gave them to her neighbor and even if she did, it looks like she had them sign the letters “Blank’s Student.” (Yes, I can see some names on the other papers, but those could be from other assignments. The paper on top has no name) It’s not like she was having them write letters to her ex, it was a noisy neighbor.

    Oct 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #18.1   Somebody Else

      Oooh, *that* would make this entire exercise so much better …

      “Class, take out your number two pencils and a clean sheet of paper.

      Now, I want you to imagine that through a bizarre case of temporary insanity of some kind, you married the biggest *&^-hole in the world, a guy who made your life a living hell in every way. Just like I did. Fortunately you wised up the next month and got a divorce, pronto.

      Your assignment today is to write Mr. F_ck-face a letter, explaining to him calmly and rationally why he needs to stop putting large containers of his own urine into the refrigerator in the garage. Use the principles of rational argument that we learned yesterday.

      Remember to write neatly, and put your name in the top right hand corner. If you don’t put your name on it, you won’t get any credit for this assignment. Okay, get to work people.”

      Oct 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #19   Frankenstien

    FAKE. Look at the handwriting. The note especially, but the ethnic name “Delavain” on the second paper?! Come on.

    F. A. K. E

    Oct 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

    • #19.1   Somebody Else


      Which really is a name, as I discovered here.

      Whether somebody actually named their kid that or not is still up for debate, I suppose. But I wouldn’t rule it out, myself.

      Oct 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #20   Niki

    when I was in 3rd grade we did a hypothetical exercise like this so that we could learn to be polite when writing to someone. I think this must’ve been a manners lesson for the students, at least I hope thats what it was

    Oct 10, 2011 at 12:30 am   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #21   pdx_reader

    The important thing here is that somewhere in America there is a Middle School classroom with only 18 students. I’m moving to Ypisilanti.

    Oct 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up

  • #22   Um

    Ypsilanti is a college town. If she doesn’t want to live next to someone blasting music all night she should probably not live within the city limits of Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor…just sayin’

    Oct 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm   rating: 90  small thumbs up


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