Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All Things Considered: The Resurrection Parents

Truthfully, I know I shouldn’t pass judgment on parents when I myself have never experienced the pain, trouble and work that go along with raising a teenager, but sometimes, parents drive me crazy. I’d like to think I was a pretty good teenager, and I am sure my parents might agree or disagree, depending on how they were feeling about me at that particular moment or whether or not I had pissed them off that day. I think teaching middle school is one of the most difficult yet rewarding grade levels to teach – of course I am fully aware that teaching middle school is my ONLY teaching experience, but hey, I have coached high school volleyball for 8 years, so that counts for something, right? But the end of the year stress for myself (and others, I might add) may not actually be the children in my classroom. It’s the parents of those children that tend to drive me insane.

Why is it that parents who hadn’t been involved ALL school year (or were involved at first, but then drop off the face of the Earth) now suddenly decide to parent and email the teachers demanding to know why their child is not earning an “A” in their classrooms? They are like those resurrection ferns you see while hiking in Myakka that look like they're dead in the heat of the summer, all dried up and brittle. But the moment it rains, they wake up out of dormancy and come back to life. I know it’s never too late to get involved, but I just love it when parents freak out with only 12 days of school left once they’ve realized their child hasn’t turned crap in all quarter and ask why we can’t make a special exception for their child because little Johnny just doesn’t have the self esteem to earn another zero.

I especially enjoy it when parents ask us why we grade the way we do and try to provide suggestions, like giving a grade based on effort. “But little Johnny would have handed it into you if you had told him that it was due.” You’re right lady, I make sure your kid is beyond earshot or in the bathroom shitting his brains out and THEN I tell the rest of the class that the assignment is due the next day. Not to mention that information is written on the frickin’ board in the same freakin’ spot everyday. But hey, it’s never little Johnny’s fault, is it? It’s because I’m a rotten teacher.

I also really enjoy meeting with parents, coming up with ideas and strategies to help their child, and then the parent never following through on any of them. Then when you call them on it, it’s like they never agreed to do any of that anyway. NO WONDER your child has an 80 IQ, for the love of God!

Truthfully, I feel sorry for the children of these parents, because their parents are not consistently involved in their education. And kids know when adults aren’t being genuine. I think this parental behavior is a source of empowerment for the students, because if they aren’t receiving enough attention at home and notice that their parents appear to give a crap when their grades slip, then they put 2 and 2 together. They begin to let their grades slip on purpose, JUST so they can get the attention they crave, and more importantly, need from their parents.

I know for every neglected child I have in my class, there are 75 kids who are blessed and lucky enough to have parents who care and who are willing to do whatever it takes to help their child succeed on their own. For all you good parents out there – thank you for being supportive and involved. Keep up the good work. Your child will thank you someday.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

18 days, but who's counting?

The end of the school year always seems to be rush by you like a blur. Remember when you were a kid, sitting in the back seat of the conversion van (complete with “Disney World or Bust!” handwritten sign that you made the day before left), counting the minutes until you finally can be more than 5 feet away from your younger and annoying sibling, and watching the numerous motorists speed by your window? Depending on the angle at which you are looking, that car could just look like a colored brush stroke that is there for a fraction of a second, and then it’s gone. That’s how quickly the end of the year is for me. This will be my 4th experience with “end of the year” activities, end of the year stress and end of the year excitement. I always mention this, but I feel that you knowing how many years experience I have greatly influences not only my perspective, but it also provides you with a background on my somewhat limited teaching experience.

The kids are working on a fantastic collaborative project called “The 20th Century: The American Experience”. The name is schweet – I made it up myself. As you know, if you are an avid reader of this blog, I absolutely adore integrated units. My mentor, Debbie Shults, showed me what a true collaborative unit should look, smell and feel like for student and for a teacher. I just can’t get enough of those darn units! They take an immense amount of work and time for each teacher on the team, and sometimes there are disagreements, but we put our egos aside and do what’s best for children.

So thankfully we have that unit to keep the kids busy and to keep us preoccupied with actually teaching. Seriously, I am just as anxious for school to be out as the kids are, and it’s not because I hate my job, but it’s because I just need the break! As I age in years with this profession, I begin to see what my retired teacher parents have said for years – breaks are not for the students as much as they are for teachers. But then again, why should I have ever taken anything my father said seriously, especially when he would tell me that flies would come out of the ceiling fan in the bathroom and eat your hair if you didn’t wash it? My dad, by the way, has no hair on the top of his head. He would use his baldness to scare my brother and I into cleaning ourselves well, hair included, because apparently the bugs and flies ate his hair at some point in his life.

My dad also said that the 3 best things about teaching are June, July and August.

If you would have asked me 2nd quarter what I thought the 3 best things about teaching were, I probably wouldn’t have answered the same way my father did. I probably would have deliberated on it for awhile and would have tried to say something honest and profound.

Right now though, I’d say June, July and August are starting to sound like a rather intelligent response.