I remember the days when a student misbehaved and you reprimanded him or her. Maybe you made a phone call home. You might’ve even made an example out of the student and kicked him or her out of class. Lessons were learned. Respect was commanded through action. Insubordination and disruption were quelled. And that was that.
Teachers pretty much can’t talk in a stern voice or give detention to a wayward kid. They’re not allowed to demand a student stay on task when working on a laptop or stop disrespecting a classmate they’re trying to talk over because I guess their point is that much more profound and important – trust me, it’s likely not.
That’s obviously a bit played up, but I recently heard an obtuse account of a parent’s complaint pretty much about me because nothing is ever direct from the source where I work. Anyway, what I gathered from it was that this woman felt her son was being bullied by his insensitive teachers.
So now we call being kicked out of class bullied.
Why was he excused exactly?
Oh, because he disrespected a classmate in the midst of an explanation by interrupting him and proceeding to talk until the other student stopped. When called out on this overtly rude behavior, the boy laughed.
That’s when another student looked at him and said, “You’re dead,” as I told him to get out in no uncertain terms. Forget about disrespecting me, which I neither accept nor take lightly, but there’s no place for that lack of concern for peers in a positive learning community.
I figured he’d think about what he had done, maybe our headmaster would dispense some wisdom to him, I would follow up at home, and the student would learn from what he had done and grow up.
But no, that couldn’t happen; that would’ve been too easy.
Instead, there was an explanation: his intention wasn’t to be rude; it was simply a reaction. So is farting after a big lunch. But that doesn’t mean I’m doing it in public settings – or if I am, I’m at least pointing the finger at a student.
In all honesty, I’m empathetic to all my students’ needs and the MANY MORE some of their parents have, but what good comes out of this blind defending of a child? All this does is reinforce the belief that Johnny so and so has his mommy as his security blanket to hide under when confronted with any kind of adversity.
Now, mind you, I’m not a parent and I don’t pretend to know what it feels like to be one. What’s certainly not lost on me is that parents want to do what’s best for their children; they want to see them excel and give them every means to do so. I commend parents for wanting this for their progeny – who wouldn’t – but there comes a limit. There has to so the child can eventually become autonomous and survive.
This isn’t a new subject for me. I’ve written about it in “Tomorrow’s Gone: The Student Who Will Not Get It” where I railed against excuses and how detrimental they are to a child’s maturation. I prefaced that piece by writing the following:
I don’t give up on students; they give up on themselves because they’re allowed to and sometimes even enabled. Parents are vital cogs in a child’s educational coming-of-age, but too often than not nowadays they function more as impediments than impetuses in helping their child realize his/her fullest potential.
What has changed so drastically in between when I started teaching full time almost nine years ago and now? The answer’s still the same: Accountability.
When it comes to their kids, for some parents it’s everyone else’s fault. I’ve had parents come in and tell me they forgot to print out their child’s work or the kid thought the notes in class were optional so that’s why he didn’t copy it down. There’s the one where she didn’t understand the assignment because she didn’t pay attention or write it down in class so I should reteach it to her on my prep period. One of my personal favorites was can I provide notes and assignments for all the days my child was absent. Sure, and I’ll take the quizzes and tests he/she missed too. Here’s a lesson I learned in eighth and ninth grade: school’s a hell of a lot easier if you go to it.
While I still refuse to settle for mediocrity and I try to instill a sense of pride in my students that will mitigate their urge to settle for below average, I’ve softened over the years.
My former students have called me out on it, reminding me how I used to have a zero tolerance policy when it came to late homework, how I used to give more challenging quizzes and tests or even how I used to tell them the blunt reality of their skills. They respected my candor and worked hard to realize my expectations, which eventually became their own.
Now, my adult discussions and teachable moments have been replaced by childish discussions with parents – there’s a sentence that’s oozing with irony.
Funny how all the parents with the excuses have the kids with the excuses. Just like people who don’t do their jobs well have an excuse for that too when, in reality, they probably just suck at it.
But those are simply coincidences.