Mrs. Bees vs. Wonder Mother, Part I
The past week has been wrought with drama, thanks to a particularly nasty and extended altercation with an aggressive parent. My mentor says that she’s never encountered anything quite like it. I’m sharing this story because I’d like to commit it to virtual memory, because some of you may find it entertaining, and because some of you may find it helpful.
Did you read that article in Time that talked about the parents that drive teachers crazy? It was called “Parents Behaving Badly” (Feb. 21, 2005). Well, “Wonder Mother” is a pretty nice illustration of the “public defender” parent. I’ll share some illustrative quotes from that article here:
By the time children turn 18, they have spent only 13% of their waking lives in the classroom. Their habits of mind, motivation and muscles have much more to do with that other 87%. But try telling that to an Ivy-educated mom and dad whose kids aren’t doing well. It can’t be the genes, Mom and Dad conclude, so it must be the school.
At the most disturbing extreme are the parents who like to talk about values but routinely undermine them.
Student-teacher disputes can quickly escalate into legal challenges or the threat of them. The fear of litigation that has given rise to the practice of defensive medicine prompts educators to practice defensive teaching.
Without further ado, I begin my saga. And yes, it’s a long one…
I teach, among others, three sets of twins. This story concerns the pair of fraternal twins, who – despite being both males of Caucasian descent – shall be called Yin and Yang on this blog. This will help differentiate between Yin – the melancholy, silent, passive, ignorable boy who never speaks – and Yang, who is cheerful, noisy, and active. Both boys are bright, hardworking, and more along the lines of “future engineers” than “future scholars of literature.” They carry comfortable As in accelerated sophomore English.
The month of February was devoted to a major project, worth 250 points of their 3rd quarter grade. One week before the due date (a Monday), Yin and Yang came up to me to tell me that they would be absent Thursday and Friday to compete in an engineering competition. I asked them how their projects were coming, and they assured me that they’d been getting a lot of work done and were feeling confident. I told them that Thursday and Friday were library/computer lab days, so they’d have to complete any work left unfinished without the benefit of the library and lab.
On Thursday, while my students were finishing up their projects, I realized that there were a few recurring questions about one portion, an essay worth about 10% of the final grade. Taking the opportunity to flex my “creating helpful graphic organizer” muscles that I’d developed in my certification program, I threw together a worksheet that provided some generic questions they should answer. I printed it off, took it to the library, and told my kids that if they would like the handout it was available. Most, but not all, of them picked up a copy. Most, but not all, of them stuck it in the back of their binder and never looked at it again.
Second period Monday, Yang submitted his final project. It was pretty good, although it had some small issues that collaboratively dropped his project grade to a B. One such problem was that 10% essay, which he wrote as a bullet list.
Fourth period, Yin failed to turn in his project.
Now, my mentor teacher, DR, has a STRICT late work policy for the accelerated classes. Late work is not accepted. We provide “slowpoke” certificates so that smaller assignments can be turned in late – one per quarter – but they can’t be used on major projects or tests. By fourth period, however, I’d had a small number of (good) students arrive emptyhanded and brokenhearted. I spoke with DR and told her that I wanted to give half credit for students if they could get their projects in the following day. While the other students peer-reviewed one anothers’ projects, I had those without projects write me letters explaining their lateness. I also told them that if they could submit their project by the end of the day – meaning about 5 PM – that I would accept it as on time.
Yin’s project was submitted the following day, and was very good. He received a 248 out of 250 before the 50% penalty. The note I left him on his project indicated how disappointing it was for me to have to give such a low mark to such a good project, and that I hoped he would manage his time better in the future.
I’m sure he was disappointed, but he didn’t say anything and the semester went on.
to be continued…