Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

One thing that I've noticed as a teacher is that most parents don't exactly see eye to eye when it comes to their child's education. It seems that oftentimes one of the parents is a little more squishy about things while the other one is demanding results. You've got the parent who believes the cherub when she says she's done all her work (and doesn't bother to check) and then you've got the other parent who's demanding to see everything, checking the agenda, and is signing in to PowerSchool on an daily basis.

When they're living together - and communicating - everything usually works itself out.

However, when they aren't living together - and aren't communicating - it can be a nightmare.

This year, it seems, we have more parents who need parenting classes and family counseling than I've ever seen before. These people are not agreeing on how to raise their child and are doing their darndest to get us in the middle.

Two sets of parents come to mind - Cool Dude's parents, and Spoiled Princess's parents.

Cool Dude has one overriding goal in life and that is to be the hippest, coolest, hottest dude in the seventh grade. This kid has the hottest clothes, the trendiest hair cut, he is so cool he can freeze a six-pack of Diet Coke. He is also one of the laziest kids I've ever seen - he's absolutely perfectly capable of passing seventh grade, should he get over himself long enough to turn in work.

Cool Dude lives during the week with Cool Dad. Cool Dad does not really stress, as far as we can tell, academics. No one checks Cool Dude's agenda, no one checks to see if he's done his work, no one is harping on him to study for his tests (even though Cool Dad and Cool Mom are both getting our weekly emails and both have access to PowerSchool.) As far as I can tell Cool Dude and Cool Dad are just hanging out and chillin' all week long together. On the weekend Cool Dude goes and lives with Mom and it really hits the fan. She gets on to PowerSchool, checks his grades, sees all the missing assignments and fires off email after email to us about "What can we do to help him pass seventh grade?"

Cool Mom is a recent education graduate and has done some subbing recently for a special ed class. She has decided that Cool Dude must be special ed (after all, he's failing) and has demanded he be tested. Now keep in mind, Cool Dude has been tested - and he reads at a 12th grade level. He has Proficient and Advanced Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test Scores. He has, on multiple times, admitted to all of us (but obviously not to Cool Mom) that he's just lazy and he can do the work if he feels like it. However, we are having to jump through the hoops with progress monitoring, and data collection just to make sure all our ducks are in a row when we tell her that no, under the state and federal guidelines, your kid is not going to qualify for special ed. Last time we looked being cool and lazy was not a learning disability. (On a side note, when our special ed secretary called Cool Dad to invite him to a meeting, his comment was, "There's a problem at school?")

What I really want to tell Cool Mom is to get a change of custody so that she has Cool Dude during the week and can hammer him every night about his school work, and she can turn him over to Cool Dad and they can waste their weekends away together being, oh, cool.

We have never met Spoiled Princess Girl's mother. We have, however, met dad (many times) and Nana (although we're not sure how Nana is related, if she's a Great Aunt, a grandmother, a stranger down the block, no one has bothered to explain this to us.) Dad likes to drop in whenever he's in the mood, for impromptu meetings. Often times when we're in the middle of something like, say, teaching our classes.

The last meeting was interesting. Dad is harping on SPG about how she's not working hard enough (and waving a box of shoes at her that he's taken away and is returning to the store), Nana is saying he's too soft and She Wouldn't Have Bought Those Shoes as SPG Shouldn't Be Rewarded For What She's Supposed to Be Doing in The First Place, and we're sitting there watching the three of them squabble for what seems like hours with absolutely no result.

"Uhm, is there any way we could perhaps get SPG's mom in for a meeting?" we finally ask in the middle of the squabble.

"Oh, that woman, she won't come," Nana says. Nana crosses her arms and looks sour.

"She won't come," says Dad. "She says SPG is doing her hardest and that's all she's expected to do, and I know she can do better."

"And you know SPG is always gonna do what her mother says because it's the easy way out," says Nana.

We finally suggested perhaps SPG's Dad set up a meeting with the guidance counselor and see if SPG's mom could come and they could do some family counseling.

Which of course SPG's mom apparently refused to do.

Which leaves us...nowhere....


Sneaker Teacher said...

I see parent issues on the total other end of the spectrum at my international school. I am not a classroom teacher but my friends who are get hounded with emails from parents all the time questioning everything they do! It seems awful to me. I am glad the parents are really interested in their kids' educations, but it just seems like too much! I honestly don't know which is worse! The parents who just let you do your job and don't really want anything to do with school or the parents who want to monitor your every move to make sure how you run your classroom is up to their standards for their child. Ah, parents.....

Trying to Make a Difference said...

Great post.
The bottom line is that teachers need to do their job and the parents need to do theirs. I teach sixth grade and have many parents ask me what should they do at home? How about be the parent and monitor your child's homework and studying. And, oh yeah, discipline them when they don't do what they are capable of!
Most parents are not involved at all. I just sent home report cards and lengthly comments for each student. Only two parents wanted to speak to me about their child's grades. Mind you there are only two students (out of 19) that have grades that are A's and B's. Everyone else earned C, D, E.
Priorities are not what the should be at home.
In RI, our department of education is going to start holding students' standardized test scores against teachers (about 50% of the evaluation), along with other teacher observations.
We need everyone to be helping the students. If parents don't value an education, why would the students?

W.R. Chandler said...

In my case, even when parents show some initiative, it is misplaced. We also have PowerSchool, and just about every parent has access. When quarter grades go out, I will get a phone call a couple weeks later from an irate parent wondering why their angel has a D, even though they might have a B or A by then. All the parent had to do was check PowerSchool, but instead, they relied on the two-week old grade they got in the mail.