A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, February 02, 2007

Don't be hatin' if you're perpetratin'.

"The one who cannot restrain their anger will wish undone, what their temper and irritation prompted them to do.”-- Horace

Every year you get at least one. A parent or, even better, a set of parents, who are on a teacher like stink on a skunk any time the teacher says anything at all to their Beloved Offspring. Personally, I approach things from the other side-- if one of my kids' teachers has to say something to my kids, I will be quick to spring to action, alright-- to reinforce my disapproval of my kids' action which drew said ire. But que sera, sera-- it takes all kinds of parents to really force a kid to seek therapy later in life.

But this set of parents were not your garden-variety ki-yipers. They would sound perfectly reasonable-- until you actually prevented their kid from doing whatever she wanted to do. Then suddenly, the tone on the phone would turn subarctic and you would be informed that they "really don't appreciate you doing/ saying/ expecting/ refusing permission" to Pweshus, and then they would tell you what you were going to do: "I expect you to take that work/ I expect you to stay after school every day in case Pweshus decides she needs help/ I expect you to email me any time you mark an answer wrong on her homework/ I expect you not to ask her to participate in class/ I expect you to never take any consequences if her phone goes off in class, because it's probably me calling, but even if it's not, we've instructed Pweshus to leave her phone on" blahblahblahblah.

I would always just express my regret that they felt that way and reiterate that I was going to follow my policy. They would continually push, I would pleasantly refuse to engage and visualize martial arts kata in my head to keep from getting annoyed.

They would usually bid me a regal good-bye-- and immediately call the principal and scream at him over what a complete tyrant/idiot/harpy I am. Last month, after we were having one of these cheery little confabs, the mother called the principal and loudly complained that it was obvious I was taking notes during our conversation, and that therefore I must have some nefarious ulterior (pronounced "inferior") motive. Now, if you're hung around here for a while, you will know that I recommend keeping notes of conversations with parents as a bit of posterior coverage which has stood me in good stead numerous times in my career. So yep, guilty. The principal thought that this complaint was particularly hilarious-- after his ear stopped smoking.

And apparently these people were more polite to me than to anyone else who came into even casual contact with Pweshus. The poor principal has been getting daily doses of invective drilled through his eardrum for months now. Always, always, there were excuses as to why Pweshus couldn't do her homework/come to school on time/come for tutoring/get off her damn cellphone/stay awake/manage to be in school any time there was a test.

So during a few tirades, a few kernels of information dropped out that made us wonder: why so paranoid about me taking notes when asking about why Pweshus couldn't get to school on time? Why is it Pweshus never took the bus if her parents couldn't get her here? After all, her address was fifteen minutes' walk away from school.

So some discreet investigation was done, and-- guess what? Pweshus doen't live in our school district-- not even close. No one would have probably ever known if her parents hadn't shown their asses so much. If they'd just been reasonable, no one would have ever realized that two plus two equals several thousand dollars in lost tuition payments charged to non-resident students.

So what is the moral to this story? Don't be hatin' if you're perpetratin'.

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At 2/2/07, 11:15 PM, Blogger Drussell said...

Are you sure you weren't with me in my classroom last year? It seems as if we had the same parents. It is reassuring to know that you handled the situation the same way I did - keep smiling and stick to your guns. I've never met a teacher that left teaching because of the kids. Parents are another story.


At 2/3/07, 7:42 AM, Blogger 100farmers said...

I nearly fell out of my chair at your last line. Too funny. I love to tell my kids "to stop hatin'".

At 2/3/07, 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me make sure I understand this ... Your principal actually supports you over complaining parents, and communicates that support to you, the parents, and the student?!? Your district actually holds out-of-district students accountable and ... doesn't allow them to attend if that's the case?
I didn't know such things existed anymore. I'm jealous but encouraged.

At 2/3/07, 8:16 AM, Blogger Mike in Texas said...

I'm glad to see a teacjer win one for a change

At 2/3/07, 11:40 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

danita-- after you've been in the game as long as I have, you either tune these nutcases out, or you are driven out of the classroom. I know you know what I mean.

100farmers-- thanks. I had a kid say it to another kid who "protested too much" and I thought it was a riot.

anonymous-- he is an assistant principal, but yes, he did support me, because I had been keeping the heat off of him by being calm when the parents went crazy. Some of my fellows were not so mellow, which made it worse. And actually, I think the head principal would probably support me, too. But there are a couple of APs in my building who would have been complete worms. It's the yin and yang of education.

MIT-- Yeah. Can't say I'll miss those parents. Pweshus actually wasn't too bad once she realized I meant what I said.

At 2/3/07, 12:29 PM, Blogger ms-teacher said...

love this post. I'm so tired of parents not holding their pweshus children or themselves accountable for anything. I wonder how they'll feel about having pweshus live with them when she's an adult.

At 2/3/07, 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An administrator who doesn't feel bullied by parents, and a district who doesn't need the money of out-of-district attendees to the point of feeling equally bullied.
Still jealous, but still encouraged.
As for "keeping the heat off" - most administrators don't see you as doing that unless they never hear from the parents, period.

At 2/3/07, 9:00 PM, Blogger Fred said...

We have a major change in the way our district operates in 2007-08, and publicized a meeting very heavily so everyone could hear us explain the changes.

Twelve parents attended. We have 2200 students.

That says it all.

At 2/3/07, 9:22 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

anonymous- Well, I imagine that he won't stick around very long-- he actually does his job.

And Freddie-- I've been in places like that. And there will be all kinds of shrieking that parents weren't informed....

At 2/4/07, 6:34 AM, Anonymous mrschili said...

I always leave posts like this one feeling recognition and reassurance that I'm not the only one experiencing this stuff combined with a sense of dread and despair that I'm not the only one experiencing this stuff.

I hear a lot of noise about people decrying the state of our society, yet I see MOST people - not all, certainly, but most - behaving like the parents you describe with such eerie accuracy here in your blog. Accountability and personal responsibility are sorely lacking and it's only going to get worse, I fear...

At 2/7/07, 7:54 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

Heh! That felt kind of empowering to read! I have never (pauses to knock furiously on wood) had such virulent parents, at least that administration didn't thwart or calm a little first. (More wood knocking.) But I love how this one ended up for you!


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