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 29, 2008

Treating teachers like #&*$!, part 2

If you teach for more than a couple of months, you will begin to collect stories. The sad part is that these stories are TRUE. So our discussion about the level of discourse in my previous post brought to mind a story from early in my teaching career. And I give you my word that this is true.

There was one young man we had that year who was particularly troubled. Due to special circumstances, I didn't have Al in my class, but I did talk to him in the hallway. Never turned in any work, even that which was done in class, scribbled all over his test papers or drew pictures on them, wore a great big chain from his wallet to his belt loop that looked like it was from an anchor for an aircraft carrier. On top of this, Al was an angry little man, confrontational, racist, and misogynistic. When we called home, they blocked the school's phone number. When Al would get suspended for fighting or whatever, we had to call the grandma, who would then relay the message to the mom that she needed to come get Al.

It was parent-teacher time, and the team of teachers met in one room so that the parents could speak to all the teachers at once. The system used then was that parents could just show up and see the team on a first-come, first-served basis. They would just add their names to the list outside the door, and as we finished one conference and sent the family on their way, we would call another. It was at a lull in festivities that night, and we had run through our list of names and were just getting ready to lean back in our chairs and maybe run to the potty when Assistant Principal Good Ole Boy showed up and said that Al's mother was there, and she was angry about Al's grades since she'd never been notified (of course, there had been the phone calls, the messages left with Gramma, to certified letter sent home, but never mind). After we got over the shock of AP Good Ole Boy on the top floor at all, since he NEVER came to our classrooms since it involved climbing stairs, and that reminded him too much of exercise, it was suggested that I go run an errand while the rest of the team waited for Al's mom to come up, and AP Good Ole Boy decided he would stay. They decided to use my room.

Al's mom had come to the conference looking for blood, and boy, was she mad. But, there was one small detain the AP had neglected to warn everyone about.

Apparently, Al's mother belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronisms or something like it, because she came to the conference dressed in bright green tights, leather boots, a leather jerkin and a felt cap with a feather in it. She looked like a female, middle-aged, chain-smoking version of Friar Tuck.

She apparently came in loaded for bear, too, because two seconds hadn't passed before she accused everyone in the room of refusing to take her son's papers, of picking on him and refusing to help him. She was particularly mad at the math teacher on our team, who was a cross between an absent minded professor and a grandma.

After increasing the pitch of her yelling to somewhere in the hearing range of dogs, she suddenly let out a shriek and launched herself over the table at the math teacher and looked like she has going to strangle her. AP Good Ole Boy deflected the mom in midair, and basically held her under one arm like a furious medieval package while the teachers made their escape. He tried putting her down, but she tried to get at the teachers again, so GOB just corralled her down the stairs, calmly drawling, "Wayulllll, this conf'rence is OVER!" until he got her downstairs and escorted her from the building as she screamed curses and threats, impotently kicking her feet against the ground.

I got there just in time to see my colleagues scurry from the room and see him carrying the furious, hissing woman in that very interesting hold down the stairs, repeating that line over and over. I just stood in the hall with my mouth agape, trying to make some sense of the part of it I had seen, and then questioning my sanity: "Was she wearing a costume? Did I just see her underwear? What the hell just happened?" The conference table lay with a broken leg in the middle of my floor, papers were scattered from hell to breakfast, and my friends looked like a tornado had swept them up.

And I missed almost the entire thing.

So every time I get a crazed parent, I think of Al's mother. I tell myself it could be worse, and I move on.

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At 2/29/08, 11:09 PM, Blogger socalledauthor said...

I think it's noteworthy that the parents who denigrate the teachers/ schools/ education often have the kids who don't do well in school. Not exactly a startling revelation, but so many folks don't see it.

And, in my experience, it's not uncommon for kids to be mortified that their folks DO this sort of behavior.

I feel sorry for people with so few coping skills that they can only deal with tough emotions by lashing out at others. It's hard on them, and those around them, especially children.

And somedays, I'm glad that I'm in Alternative Ed where many of the parents have just washed their hands of "those kids". =P

At 3/1/08, 9:25 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

This astounds me. I know there are unbalanced people in the world -and a startling number of them, too - but I still fall back a few steps when I actually witness it.

Really, Mrs. C? All this is making me really, really glad that I'm not a public school teacher...

At 3/2/08, 6:49 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Really, Really REALLY.

I could never make up something that crazy. My imagination is not that good.

Then there was the mother who was angry at our school district because her kindergartner's principal wouldn't call the house each morning to wake up her five year old because she said she couldn't do it.... But she was FURIOUS at us.

At 3/2/08, 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TAG! You're it!


At 3/3/08, 6:00 PM, Blogger Mister Teacher said...

Great story, Ms. C. I now have that mental image stuck in my head. The mother did NOT sound like a Merry Man (to quote Lt. Worf)...

At 3/4/08, 2:52 PM, Anonymous Betty said...

Wow! That pretty much tops most of my stories. It's a good thing the AP was strong enough to haul her out of the room.

At 3/5/08, 11:24 AM, Blogger rebecca said...

That's wonderful. It would be worth the unpleasantness to have the opportunity to tell that story forever after. Unfortunately, my unpleasant parent stories are never that entertaining.


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