I was in the middle of writing this humorous slash ranting post about a parent-teacher-teacher-student-assistant principal conference I had the other day when I thought, hmm, the mother is a lawyer, the mother is irate, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to post this. Even though there is no way anyone could figure out who I am talking about, why tempt any issues. And so I switched gears; rather than write about what this particular student does to annoy her teachers who she does not like, or talk about how insulting the mother was to my colleague and me, I’ll skip right to the point that I think I was going to lead into.
Why do parents think that their attitude-rich, participation-free kids are any different in school than at home? Why do they think that their every interpretation of events in school is exact when they know that there have been evasions, half-truths, and even outright lies coming their way from said prodigy? Why do they think that we have to make their kids meet their expectations? And why do they belittle us when they expect so much from us?
Which reminds me of an incident I had this week with another student. He was mad that I apparently threw out his homework in my effort to derail his attempt to get his grade up. Yes, it seems that I did that to give him an undeserved zero because,it is clear, I do not like him. On day two of his contest of wills with me he looked through the folder where work goes if a student is absent on the day the materials are returned. Lo and behold, there it was. But with one little problem: there was no name on the paper. That must be my fault.
Why are we always to blame if something doesn’t go right? Why is my co-teacher blamed for her daughter not doing her work? And why am I told that I “should pick on someone your own size” if she knows that her daughter gets belligerent if criticism of any kind (and I mean “any”) comes her way? How come I have to figure out how to deal with this girl when both of her parents deal with her by yelling at her and buying her clothes?
Seriously, I’m here to teach English, with some ethics lessons mixed in, but I am not their parent and I am not a therapist. And how the heck am I supposed to figure out how to handle the personalities of 125 kids when the parents can barely figure out their one or two or three children who they have had in their homes for years? Why can’t we go back to the good ole days of respecting teachers, bending our fragile children’s personalities to the teachers’ personalities, rather than trying to break the teacher down?
On the same day of my conference, another teacher was dealing with a student and parents who have escalated the “she can’t take this test because the final day to take it has passed” into a big dramatic scenario whereby the teacher is accused of doing something she did not do. (I know this because I was in her room at the time.) So now this teacher has to stress about her reputation and her relations with her students rather than to focus on preparing them for their exams.
Seriously, what is the world coming to? Since I started teaching four years ago I have found the vast majority of the teachers I have worked with or took classes with to be committed to teaching their students, and have cared about their students as people. We spend hours trying to come up with lessons that will excite and intrigue, and to get them to remember those things that don’t excite anyone but need to be remembered. Why is this not seen?
And this is the thanks we get. I shouldn’t focus on the few parents who are nasty to me in meetings or barely veiled condescending emails, but that seems to be the nature of human nature. I should focus on hearing what they have to say, see if there’s any validity, and then figure out how to improve. But honestly, what are they doing when they get home? Are they thinking about how to better discipline or instruct or guide their children or do they feel satisfied that they got a professional to jump through their hoops? We’re professionals for content, not raising kids—that’s the parents’ job. How about the blame game not being so one-sided? How about parents acknowledging their own lacking and seeing if something that they have done could have somehow, maybe, resulted in a child who is belligerent, disrespectful and entitled.
There is a difference between parenting and teaching, and parents need to understand that. And kids need to understand that, too.
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, except for the few goodies from my school, I received one bag of chocolates and a “thank you” card from one student. I will try try try not to let some parents get me down, and I will try to focus on my successes. But it’s darn hard when I’ve got nasty mom reverberating in my head and only the silence of barely uttered “thank you’s” from other parents.
Maybe next year on the syllabus in addition to paper and pencils I should write that students are required to come every day with a positive attitude and a desire to learn.