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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

That's why it's called a grade point AVERAGE.

Like my new haircut?

I got it from the whirling blades of the latest helicopter parents to hover over my head now that the semester is inexorably subsiding like a California mudslide into the onslaught of finality which is known as "end of semester" time.

The question before us, ladies and gentlemen, is if it possible for Sugarplum to increase his semester average 8 percentage points in the next six school days. Never mind that Sugarplum has never come within sniffing distance of the grade that this parent has suddenly just plucked out of the ether as their "dream grade."

Sugarplum has come to after school help sessions 4 times over the entire year. I speak to Sugarplum every single day after class for at least five minutes-- or for as long as I can take his whining about how something is "not fair!" or his wheedling for me to increase his grade on the latest assignment because he "tried really hard"-- as I have my planning period and Sugarplum has lunch. Never mind that I have to repeat every single thing I say to Sugarplum, and yet he still tells his mom that I never told him about deadlines. I actually like Sugarplum, since if you haven't gotten to the point that you can tolerate this behavior, you would go batty as a teacher. But liking Sugarplum and buying the crock he's selling are two different things.

Then mom carped that I hadn't entered two ten point assignments and a paragraph grade. I dropped everything and put them in-- and two other grades, one of them a test and one of them an essay, that Sugarplum bombed (Lady, if you want every single grade in, that's what you're going to get, not to mention that if members of your family wouldn't eat up huge portions of my precious grading time they would have been entered already). I will not fill my remaining time with Sugarplum's class creating extra credit opportunities to drive myself insane-- I have loads of things to do besides answer your sudden blizzard of emails and forty-five minute phone calls. I am wondering if Sugarplum isn't making your life hell at home with that whining and carping and wheedling, but there is nothing I can do about that, either. You poured the bath; now you get to sit in it, even if you've developed a sudden allergy to the bubble bath.

One problem is that Sugarplum is too involved with extracurricular fluff and the Cult That is Marching Band. Another is that his strategy for studying for tests is to come in five minutes before the test and ask me to define and/or explain half the material. No joke. But the claim is that "he tries so hard!"

Sadly, even if I had seen any evidence that this is true in this particular instance, trying hard just sometimes isn't enough. But beyond that, Sugarplum's number one problem is that he has parents who are the Baskin-Robins of excuse purveyors for their child. It's always something, just like Roseanne Roseannadanna so pithily put it.

So, since the semester is already 17 weeks old, the chances of magically raising one's grade to unheard of heights for someone with a 52% test average, is, um, about as likely as my becoming a member of the Swedish Bikini Team (and imagine Jabba the Hutt instead of Princess Leia in that bikini, and you'll be in about the right neighborhood). There are 17 weeks' worth of anchor (and about forty-two grades of varying point values) holding Sugarplum's grade where it is, Ma'am, and if Sugarplum would really have liked to have had his dream grade, perhaps he should have studied more and stopped engaging in conspiracy theories about how the universe was aligned against him. And grow up a bit.

Or invent a time machine and go back in time to start over the semester afresh. Grades are not magic numbers that mysteriously evaluate your child. They are not a judgment of your child as a person. They DO represent the amount of understanding your child has demonstrated. And Sugarplum has not demonstrated the knowledge representative of that dream grade. Unfortunately, it's time to wake up. He'll be fine. You'll be fine. Your kid is not you.

But if you want something, try earning it.

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At 5/15/08, 9:17 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

Oh my, thank you for this rant! It made my evening. I, too, have a Sugarplum. Precious Snowflake didn't want to take an exam (because she forgot about it) and ran crying up to special ed about it -- special ed. actually supported her claim and thought I was a big meanie when I pointed out that "forgetting to study" isn't on the IEP. This led to a phone conversation in which I was accused of not valuing said Precious Snowflake as an Individual (this apparently stemming from my unmitigated gall in not excepting Precious Snowflake from the usual class policies). This led to a call to my principal in which the Mother of All Precious Snowflakes claimed I had... "evil in my heart" toward said PS. Well, obviously. I'm a high school teacher. One must have evil in one's heart in order to even get into ed school.

The drama has continued with much accusations that I do not like PS and foot stomping, whining, etc. Said PS yelled that I'm rude to her in the hall yesterday (I wasn't -- I was mightily tempted). The kicker is that I've been making all kinds of accommodations for this kid all year -- without a word of thanks. Will I make it to May 30th???

I will pray for you.

At 5/15/08, 9:34 PM, Blogger Mr. C said...

I used that same "invent a time machine and go back to the beginning of the semester" line many times myself. Why should we have to go out of our way to create extra credit assignments for students who chose not to do the regular assignments?
Unfortunately, when you put the grade Sugarplum actually earned on his report card, you'll wind up having to spend even more of your precious time explaining to the parents again, this time in front of an assistant principal, why he got what he got.

At 5/15/08, 9:39 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

One of my former collegues, one of the BEST teachers I have ever encountered, had this to say to such parents: "Sir/Madam, I am a public school teacher. You are the *public.* Since I *work* for you, please tell me the grade you wish for me to enter onto the report card for your child and it will be done. I WANT you to be happy."

Apparently, this completely silenced 99% of these whining, complaining, 'blame the teacher', et. al. parents.

It gets to a point where it is not worth the harassment/arguing/whining, etc...from such ignorant, blind parents.

At 5/15/08, 10:17 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Oh, no, Polski, these people would RUN with that.

Mr. C, I am, as you probably have surmised, just cussed enough to want to take that chance. I have documentation that I have bent over backwards fro Sugarplum. Make my day, punk.

LS, we shall suffer nobly together. This kid doesn't have any special ed excuse. I love it when that layer is added on. I will pray for you, too.

At 5/16/08, 2:03 PM, Anonymous bev said...

"One must have evil in one's heart in order to even get into ed school."

Word. I went in as a graduate student and "evil in one's heart" was a check off on the transcript evaluation. I had to have a B or better in evil or I had to take it again.

Some days it feels good to be a specialist. (Yeah, until Sugarplum turns out to be a creative, artistic genius whom I uninspire twice weekly.)

At 5/16/08, 7:09 PM, Blogger M-Dawg said...

Amen sister!

I have a senior that needs my class to graduate in two weeks that has done nothing all semester. I've called and emailed the parents, spoke with the counselor to let them the kid is not passing my class, and had a parent conference. The parent and guidance counselor would like me to "cut the kid a break."

That is soooooooo not going to happen! Stick to your morals! :-)

At 5/17/08, 6:44 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

Sadly, this isn't just limited to public schools. I teach in a community college, and I've got kids like this, too - one in particular this term. Sigh...

At 5/17/08, 5:51 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

It's not the parents who harass me about grades, but the kids: "You gave me an F."

No, my dear, I'm sorry, but you EARNED that F by what you failed to do in my class.

And they walk away with a look of bewilderment on their sweet faces...

At 5/17/08, 5:51 PM, Blogger Friar said...

"One must have evil in one's heart in order to even get into ed school."

Drat! Twenty-six years after I finish my public education one of you finally admits it!

Ms. Cornelius, part of me almost wants you to go ahead and pass the little darling so he and his parents can have their heads chewed off by some misanthropic college professor whose tenured position allows him or her to set phrases to kill when responding to a similar complaint...

At 5/19/08, 9:11 AM, Blogger The Bus Driver said...

We have lots of "special flowers" on our school buses. For every ONE of your special flowers in the classroom, theres at least 5 to 10 on each school bus. More often than not, i get cussed out for writing a kid up for not following the rules. All because his/her parents want to make a huge fuss about it. Most of the time the parents go to MY superior claiming that i am "targeting" their child and that i am being unfair to their precious angel. Its those days i am glad that there are cameras on the bus. You would be surprised the number of parents who STILL deny their kid did any wrong doing even AFTER viewing the tape!! its unreal!

At 5/19/08, 11:53 AM, Blogger Fred said...

I had a parent call me after the AP course was completed asking if his little darlin' could do anything to increase her grade.

Great parenting skills.

At 5/21/08, 11:08 AM, Blogger TeachMoore said...

Certainly, there are problems on all sides of this puzzle. Students who won't do what they're asked, then lie about it. Unethical, unprofessional teachers who grade based on emotions, family history, or the moon phase. I actually reported one former colleague who sat down with coffee in the faculty lounge and went through his empty gradebook at the end of the semester making up grades for each student. (Principal's response: "Oh well, he's about to retire anyway.")
And what can you do with parents like the one who showed up at my house one July evening having JUST learned that her son had failed 10th grade English, and begging me to change his final grade because "he really wants to be in the 11th grade with his friends."

At 5/21/08, 7:21 PM, Blogger Darren said...

Maybe it's easier for men to say no and be done with it. I find I'm challenged much less on grades than my women co-workers. Maybe I'm just more emphatic with my "no" than they are.

At 5/22/08, 6:25 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Gee, thanks. Of course, it's because I have breasts. Why didn't I think of that?

Maybe it's because they have had great success previously with our MALE principals catering to their every whim....

At 5/27/08, 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3/2/09, 5:55 AM, Blogger sexy said...

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