Mrs. Bees vs. Wonder Mother, Part II
Part I can be read here.
Third quarter progress reports went out. The following day we had an email from the twins’ mother – 1,289 words (that’s two pages single-spaced) of “questions” about Yin’s grade. By “questions” I mean, of course, barely concealed attempts to intimidate DR into changing his grade. She had some erroneous information gathered, apparently, from the boys’ friends, and was under the impression that I had given class instruction on the format of that essay on Thursday as well as a set of required guidelines. She had also been told that other students hadn’t been penalized for late work. Yin had evidently given her the impression that he was forced to miss additional class instruction in order to write his explanatory letter, and that his letter was in some way an argument for his grade rather than a requirement for ANY points. He also, apparently, neglected to mention that “turn it in by 5 for full credit” bit.
The email was sent to DR’s email account (which I check) and there were several thinly veiled comments about my integrity and teaching ability. Here’s one:
[Yin] is devastated by this grade and is extremely disappointed that his explanation provided in his letter that he wrote for Ms. Bees on Monday was not valued. Personally, I am curious about the due date policy that was applied for this assignment, since one entire section of the assignment was based on instruction that occured [sic] while the boys were out.
[DR], could you please check the accuracy of this with your student teacher and clarify the situation? I trust my sons in their honesty…
Her email was littered snide quotation marks around words, such as This grade is totally out of character for him, as are the sequences of events leading up to ‘earning’ this grade.
The kicker, however, was the email signature. It identified the author as Dr. Wonder Mother, Principal of a prestigious magnet school in the district.
DR was aggravated. I was mildly perturbed; after all, what person trying to get hired wants a principal coming down on them? However, I felt that this was a clear case of misunderstanding, so I carefully and calmly responded (making it clear that I was the teacher and that Wonder Mother could address her concerns with confidence to me).
Before sending the email, however, DR and I sat down with Yin and asked him about his grade. We asked if he was unsatisfied, and he acknowledged that he was disappointed. We asked if he felt his grade were unwarranted, or if there was anything he could say in his defense. [Note: This was an extremely laidback and non-confrontational conversation.] He told us that he guessed he deserved the penalty, that he understood that he’d actually gotten a good deal with his 50% vs. 0%. We offered him the opportunity to redo that last essay as if we really HAD just assigned it while he was gone, but he declined.
I sent the email.
I received a response the following day. The tone of this email – 601 words, this time – was rather different. WM thanked me for my thoughtful reply, acknowledged that she was still concerned, and then launched into Concerto for World’s Tiniest Violin. She told me how Yang had gotten to the computer first, how it was 2 AM before Yin was able to use it, and how Yin was such a perfectionist that he couldn’t bring himself to turn in an incomplete effort. She also told me – with evident pride – that it was unsurprising that Yin wouldn’t advocate for himself, as she had taught him never to “talk back” to his teachers.
The best part, at the end of the email, went like this:
Yin and Yang will both continue to do what they have always done as students and that is to enjoy learning, try to always do their best and to be respectful to their teachers. You will see them doing quality work for you and turning in assignments on time…. as they have always done except for this one occasion where circumstances made it impossible. You will not see any difference in either of them on that regard. The difference that resulted from this lesson is behind the scenes.
Yang told me that maybe he doesn’t want to be on the engineering team if it is going to be so difficult to get make-up work in on the first day back from when they return. He had already given up all of his extracurricular athletics this year, tennis, track and cross country, so that he could keep up with the homework load. Now he feels that he needs to drop the one thing that he does for fun when he isn’t focusing on pure academics. Yin isn’t sharing his feelings, but he has been sitting and going through his project repeatedly since getting home this afternoon.
So, perhaps Yin will pull his grade up again… and perhaps not….but truly the grade is the lesser concern now.
DR and I were taken aback by the blatant attempt to guilt me into changing the grade. The way WM ended the email made it seem that no response was necessary, so DR and I decided to do the sensible thing and let the matter drop. (It’s so much easier to do this in the age of email!)
About a week later, the third email arrived. It was about a thousand words long and dripping with venom and cold rage. She, or her sons, had apparently decided that I was lying about the Thursday instruction. Her email told me, in carefully worded terms, that I was either stupid or lying and that this had caused damage to both sons’ grades. She expressed her dismay that Yin and Yang felt that “all avenues of consideration had been closed to them.” It ended with her “kind” offer to come to CHS to discuss the issue and educate me as to the errors of my ways, followed by eight different assurances that she had NEVER felt the need to pursue something with a teacher before and that she was NOT a demanding parent, but that I had just simply pushed her too far.
Furious at this point, DR replied to this third email. In it she repeated my assertions that instruction had not taken place and that the boys had had enough information to complete the assignment thoroughly. She pointed out that neither Yin nor Yang had expressed their concerns to us and that it was important for them to learn, as accelerated high school students, to advocate for themselves. DR said that of course we would be happy to meet with them, but that their grades were earned according to long-standing class policy – actually a kinder version thereof – and that she feared Wonder Mother wasn’t getting the full story.
The next day, Wonder Mother responded. I have rarely had the opportunity to read such a cold email. It opened with “This reinforces to my husband and I that we must meet with you” and then went on to list a litany of complaints and “evidence” in wording that suggested that the judge had already made his – or rather, her – decision. Wonder Mother told us in no uncertain terms what had happened in our classroom on a day when neither she nor her sons had been present. The level of condescension was Arctic.
It was impressive. And it was scary – not in a “yikes, now I have to meet with an angry parent” sort of way, but in a “wow, I’m looking into the face of evil” sort of way. It was signed by both Wonder Mother and Wonder Father.
We set up an appointment with the parents, the counselor, and the VP for the following Monday. The counselors and VPs indicated to us that Wonder Mother had already been talking to them, campaigning for herself behind our backs. Fortunately, after hearing our side of the story and reading WM’s emails, the administration was firmly on our side.
to be continued…