Saturday, June 9, 2012

at what cost?

As a high school science teacher 99% of the time I love my job.  I love teaching about the world around us and how it works and getting kids excited about learning.  I love having fun and mostly I love laughing.  That's the best part.  I laugh every single day when I'm at work.  Mostly I laugh at the kids and the silly things they say and do and sometimes I laugh with them at me and the things I say and do.

But the 1% of the time I hate my job often takes over 99% of my thoughts and emotions.

This has been a very rough year for me.  At the very beginning of the year, I got sick and had my appendix out.  I was out of school for over a week.  That was hard, making lesson plans, wanting to be there to start the year off right and knowing that I was losing control of the classroom.  Parents weren't happy with me for being gone (yes, they get mad when you get sick) and I came back to lots of work to catch up on.

I came back and got things settled down ok.  Then I got a student who was emotionally disturbed.  She was put into one of my best classes and took it hostage.  I couldn't teach, but had to keep her from going over the edge for 53 minutes.  I fought with administration, the school psychologist and anyone who would listen to get her the help she needed.  Because she came from out of state and because they hadn't done everything they needed to do, California law says she needed to sit in a mainstream classroom and prove that she could fail.  Not only that, but prove she could disrupt that classroom enough to be placed in the right classroom where she and the rest of the students could succeed.  That lasted about 4 months.  I thought I was going to die.  Literally.  I had a migraine almost every day.  Looking back I understand why.

Once she was placed in the right classroom, things settled down a bit.  Then, I was verbally attacked by a couple of parents.  One called me racist because her child got a C.  "Don't you know it is hard enough in this world for black people without you giving them bad grades?" was something her mother wrote in the email.  Last time I checked, I don't give grades, I just report what students earn.  Another parent got mad because he wouldn't give his child medicine for ADHD and his child was failing because he couldn't sit in his seat.  The dad said he just screamed at his son until he did what he was supposed to.  OH, I'm sure that would work in my classroom.

Both parents were appeased until school was over, then the attacks began again.  Again, it is my fault one failed because I don't care and the other isn't getting points she earned.  The mother speaks as though she was in the classroom, standing next to the child as she worked.  I only wish that was true.  I wish parents would come in and watch their children so they could speak with authority both for their children and to their children.

"My son would never disrespect anyone." (except when you aren't around!)
"My daughter turned that in." (but it didn't have her name on it and I have 150 students and I asked and even she couldn't recognize her handwriting)

At what cost do we defend our children these days?  I'm all for protecting them and guiding them and helping them grow up, but it seems to me that parents today feel there are no limits.  I've been called names and accused of things by people who do not know me.  They have never stepped foot in my classroom.  They believe a single side to a story before hearing the whole thing. 

I have 4 kids.  One day my son came home with a bad grade on a project.  He has always been a straight A student and I couldn't believe that he would get a bad grade on something.  Surely the teacher had made a mistake.  I was mad.  I was ready to go in and defend him.  SO, I sat him down and told him that I would fight to the death for his honor, but if he made a fool of me, someone else was going to die that day.  He sat quiet for a little while and then the truth came out.  It seems like the project didn't get done.  There were video games to be played and TV to watch.  That teacher got a letter of apology from my son and I can tell you it never happened again.  He knows that I will fight for him, but will also fight against him.  I know there are two sides to every story and the one to not tell the truth is the one who has the most to lose.  Most of the time the teacher has nothing to lose by telling the truth so why would the teacher make up a story about a student?

Teachers are not in the business to hurt, degrade, dehumanize, or give students bad grades.  I would love it if every one of my students did all of their work and earned all A's.

On a daily basis I encourage, and hope to enspire my students to strive for their best, whatever that may be.  I get tired fighting these battles.

That's why there is summer break.


Nancy said...

I can relate to EVERYTHING you said in this post. I taught language arts for 33 years (now retired) and had my share of battles with parents who blindly believed everything their child told them and administrators who would not listen to my side of the story. Oh yeah, I know why you had migraines every day for four months because I've been there, too. Fighting the system and wanting to do what's best for children, who have no boundaries at home is exhausting. God Bless you! Have a restful summer.

Deb said...

AMEN...and this is why I will not teach anymore.
I raised 6 to be responsible adults and not by defending them w/o cause!

Anyway, here is a link I found to the Boston Block. I am not much into the "over" piecing thing to cut them down. Hope this helps:

Happy, Happy Summer

LJ said...

I just read your blog a few minutes ago. I am so sorry that you (good teachers) have to deal with this type of harrassment. You were so "on" when you told your story about your son. Parents are too quick to blame the teacher and too quick to think their child has no flaws. Get the facts first and deal with problems in a personal (face-to-face) way. It is sooo easy to spout off in the impersonal world of email, texting, and even phoning; the eyes and the inflections in words and voice are lost. Getting to KNOW your child's teacher has become a lost art; if your child is important, then so is his/her teacher!