Friday, October 28, 2011

On Your Side

Aren't teachers pretty much on every student's side? I mean... I plan entire terms... I give out rubrics... I model what I expect... I write lesson plans... I grade papers... I accept late work... I reach out to the kids who are failing and try to intervene...

So why, then, do parents insist on making a teacher the enemy?

My friend Cody shared this comic on my wall...



The thing is, that it's not really a comic. It's not funny. It's the truth.

We've even talked about it extensively in faculty meetings: Gen X parents! They're freaking insane.

I have to write this blog because I have 5 more classes' narratives to grade, and I cannot concentrate because I am too upset.

I had this student who pretty much did nothing all term. I'd explain directions two and three times, and he'd be doing something totally different. Or he'd be doing nothing at all. Or he'd be sleeping.

Here in the last week of the term, comes mom to the rescue. She wants to know what he can do to get his grade up. So he turned in a bunch of work and went from an F to a C-, which I think is pretty awesome, all things considered. And he's lucky I even took so much work he had no excuse not to do in the first place.

She calls me today inquiring about why a certain grade was not entered. I explained that it was because I am still grading those and will enter them later today. I told her what her son received on it (10/30), and she was not happy.

"Well I read his draft and it seemed fine!" she defended.

"I graded by the same rubric as I gave the students, so they knew what I expected. He didn't really meet the requirements of the rubric. If you want to sit down and talk about it and why I gave him this grade, we can do that."

She then asked, "Do you have something against my son?!"

Granted, I have lost my patience with this student before. Even before I get angry, though, I try to inquire what students are thinking and what their thought process was behind what they were doing. This particular student never has an answer; it's like he is a mute. That's fine--frustrating, but fine. At least he's not disrespectful. I've never been unfair to him. I have been noticeably (and I think understandably) frustrated with him, but not mean to him. And in front of her, I have been stern, but never mean.

After being totally taken aback by what she was asking me, I responded, "No, I don't have anything against him. I mean I will admit I have gotten frustrated with him throughout the term because of how many times I will give instructions 3-4 times and he is still not doing his work or following directions. But no I don't have anything against him."

She said, "OK, thank you!" in a totally ungrateful tone. I said, "M-hm." And I guess that was how we were saying goodbye, but I didn't know this, so I didn't hang up. I stayed on the phone long enough to hear her say, angrily, "F---ing b---h!"

My mouth dropped open in surprise, and I hung up the phone.

A few minutes later, after my heart rate doubled and after I had gathered myself together a little better, I wrote her an email.

In my email I attached the rubric for the assignment which her son didn't do very well on, his actual submission, and another submission of A-level work, explaining that this should clear up my expectations on the assignment. Then I wrote, "I couldn’t help but overhear what you said after our conversation over the phone. I apologize if you don’t like me or the way I run my class. I will attach the disclosure so my policies, procedures, and expectations are clear."

I went on to reassure her that I don't have anything against her son and that his grade jump is something to be proud of. I explained that in spite of his work ethic, I have accepted and generously graded all of his assignments. I told her that her son is capable of much more than he has been putting out this term and that we both can work together for his success.

I believed it was a very professional approach to the issues she brought up, and a good way for me to have closure about what she had called me.

While I was out of my classroom talking to the administration about what happened, the lady called again and left a message.

In her message she claimed such things as, "I did not say anything about hating you, and you did not hear that out of my mouth." (She's right, I said nothing about her hating me. She chose that word on her own.) "I don't appreciate the email that you sent me. What you are saying is a lie, and I do not appreciate it." "I have noticed the way that you interact with my son, and it's not nice." "I said 'OK thank you,' and I hung up. Nothing ever came out of my mouth after that, so I don't know where you're getting your stuff from." "But I can sense how you interact with my son. It's not an adult way. And you have something against my son." (Actually, now I have something against you, but your kid's OK.)

So all of this totally took me away from being able to grade narratives.

I responded to her by email just a few minutes ago reiterating my intentions to help her kid do well next term. If she or her son felt like I had dealt with him unfairly or inappropriately, or if she wanted to talk about anything else, I said, we could do that with an administrator. Again, I've been stern with her son, and I've gotten frustrated with him, but not unfair or "not adult."

It took a lot of restraint for me to not call her back in a rage. First, calling me an effing B, and then calling me a liar?

"You know what, ma'am, you're right. Since you say I didn't hear it, I didn't hear you call me a f---ing b---h. I'm a liar."

When it comes down to it, she is embarrassed that I heard her call me a name, and she's trying to place blame elsewhere and make the problem into something else entirely. And what was that? "I said 'thank you' and hung up"? Oh. That sounds like a lie to me.

If he switches to another class, where the teacher won't accept late work in the last week of school like I do, then he'll probably fail. See what a "f---ing b---h" I am when the other two seventh grade teachers won't take his work! Good luck with that.

Instead of, "Thank you for taking his late work! Thanks for your help. I am sorry for his laziness. We'll do better next term," I get called names. So fun.

There are good things about my job. Sometimes. But parents rarely have anything to do with that.

1 comment:

Megan Phillips said...

Wow...you handled that a lot better than most would! What a dumb dumb. It really is sad how entitled the generations are now. It is sickening. You sound like a great teacher and I know I would have loved you. Good luck, and I HOPE that kid switches classes. Love you girl!