. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Watch Out! She’s Gonna Blow!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Watch Out! She’s Gonna Blow!

Warning: If you're not too interested in hearing me feel sorry for myself, please feel free to forgo this posting. I won't hold it against you. I promise.

I like to focus on the funny here at The Bits. I like to laugh at the silly things and revel in the lighter side of this job I have chosen; but not today.

Today, I am frustrated.

This year has been rife with parent challenges. I started the school year with a third/fourth combination class. Of the 7 parents that showed up at back to school night, 5 came to complain about their child's placement in a combo.

Three months later, the principal dissolved my combo due to increased enrollment. My fourteen third graders went to a new class and I received 14 fourth graders from other teachers. Despite the fact that parents had to agree to have their children moved to my room and could have denied their consent, many remained bitter about the change. None of the parents of my new students came to meet me. I heard from many of them though. Anything that I did differently from their child's previous teacher was deemed unacceptable. I understood how difficult the transition was for both children and parents, so I made every effort to be accommodating and understanding of their needs.

My weekly progress reports have been a source of great trouble this year. Every week I send home a progress report, called a mailbag, which contains all the graded work for the week and a message telling about something wonderful their child did that week. I also let them know if their child had any problems. I guess that's where I went wrong…

Every week I receive an angry message from at least one parent.

I want to know WHY you moved MY child's seat for talking too much. Shouldn't all the students' seats be moved if there is too much talking?

Why must the students line up in alphabetical order? My child is always in the same spot in line and I don't think that's fair.

I don't understand why Billy was in detention. I read the school rules and it doesn't SAY that throwing wet paper towels on the ceiling in the restroom is against the rules. Besides, he was only doing it because Timmy told him to.

I have done these progress reports for eleven years. They are time-consuming, but worth it if I am to maintain an open communication with parents and give my kids some much needed positive feedback. I also understand if parents have questions and concerns about my messages, but this year has been unique. I want an open dialogue, but it feels more like target practice.

I have a feeling this week's mailbag might be my last.

I suppose my greatest source of frustration lies with my parents' inclination to jump on me for every story their child tells them, no matter how unlikely the story may seem. I truly understand a parent's desire to protect their children and believe they should act as their child's strongest advocate.

But do they really think I would:

-tell a sick child to "just sit down and quit whining. I'll have the rest of the class take it easy on you if you're really sick."

- deny restroom breaks, "no matter what"?

- encourage children to bully others?

- withhold lunch from a student as punishment for incomplete homework?

- tempt child to destroy school property?

Those are just a few. Each followed on the heels of a poor progress report grade. Each a result of fabricated stories told by scared children in an effort to avoid getting in trouble at home.

Each making my college job as a waitress look more attractive every day.

My latest hurdle results from a food fight eight of my students had last week at lunch. Because I was not there, I had each student in my class write me a note explaining what they saw happen. Eight students were named in the notes, and all eight were given the opportunity to explain their side of the story. Because kids are terrible liars, each eventually had to admit their participation and was given consequences. To my shock, this group even included Linda; the quietest, shyest girl in my class.

Linda's custodial aunt did not believe that her child would do this. Why did she not believe it? Because Linda told her she did not. Never mind that Linda had written in her own words that she had thrown food. The next day, I explained this to her aunt, but she still did not believe it. When Linda told her aunt she did indeed do it, her aunt still wanted to stick to her guns and refuses to accept that her child should have consequences.

I do get it. Food WAS thrown at her first, and that would tick me off if I was Linda. (And the bullies did receive harsher consequences because of that.) She NEVER gets in trouble so this IS shocking. She IS a sweet girl who never has harmed a fly. I am heartsick that I have to give her detention, but we have avenues for kids who are being bullied and she did not choose one. She chose to throw food, and there is a consequence for that. Parents of the other students who threw food would be furious to find that I had given consequences to some and not others.

But instead, I am again the bad guy.

I have not had one parent volunteer in my room. No parents have attended any of our field trips. Few showed up for parent conferences. I have never had a year like this and I am beginning to worry it might be me. We got off to a rocky start, but despite my efforts it has never smoothed out.

Where have I gone wrong?

I'm tired. I feel a lot better though! Thanks for listening. I promise not to make this a regular bitch session. I am happy to report that I only 2 more weeks until I have a month off!


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you Edna. I know how much we (teachers) get blamed for all the things our students do. It seems that you are going above and beyond for your students by giving them weekly progress reports and the parents simply are appreciating the time you're putting into their children's education and well-being. However, don't let it get you down because I can tell you are amazing at what you do and the KIDS do appreciate you, despite their ridiculous behavior sometimes. - Stella

Edna Lee said...

Thank you, Stella!