Friday, October 07, 2005

Day 29

I love Fridays.

I used to get lots of work done on Friday afternoons. The kids make themselves scarce much more quickly than during the rest of the week, and most teachers cut out as soon as they can. My room is quiet, I can get work done, and the copy machine in the office is available (no student teacher making 60 stapled packets of nine, two-sided papers).

However, ever since I got a dog, I feel guilty staying at work much later than 5:00. Sure, I could run home and bring him back with me; sometimes I do that on the weekends. No, if I go home, I really don't want to go back to school.

Progress reports got home yesterday, and I had five emails and four phone messages today. They won't be the last. I teach three "Honors" level classes, which really just means the students in that level have parents that make them do their work. What else it means is that I have some overbearing parents to deal with much of the time.

"Dear Ms. X,
I'd like to know why you left the academic grade area on CJ's progress report blank. Is that normal?"

Well sir, yes it is. This is a mid-quarter, progress report. I only send them home if a student is doing poorly, or has citizenship problems. Which, if you didn't notice, your son has. Why does he continually interrupt others? Why does he keep speaking, just more loudly, when it's clearly another student's turn? It's as if he doesn't realize, that when I'm leaning over and helping someone with his or her work, I am focusing on that particular student. He will constantly repeat himself, "Ms. X, I have a question. Ms. X? Ms. X, I need your help. Ms. X? Ms. X?"

Has he never learned to wait his turn at home? Do you and the Mrs. answer his every request?

Okay, so that was all on the inside. I am known at school as someone who has good "parent-communication skills." That means I'm talented at sucking it up, and giving the most polite reply at all times. I may be exploding at times, but I'm polite.

I did remind Mr. CJ's dad that I post the grades on line every week; so he is able to view them at any time he would like.

Every year, our principal gives us more required things to do. He calls them the "Unnamed School Agreements" and touts them at all times. What he always leaves out is that no one at our school ever agreed to them. He decided what they would be, talked to us about it, acted like he listened, and then adopted them as gospel.

This year it was requiring all teachers to post grades on line. Last year, it was to make our emails accessible to all parents. Neither one of these is a bad idea, nor does either take a huge amount of time, but he was the only one who "agreed" to them.

Email. It's convenient, but can be very impersonal. There's no human voice and intonations to hear what the other person is saying. I've been ordered to do several things by email (ex: "Ms. X, Notify me immediately if CZ's grade is anything but a straight A. CZ's Mom").

Really, no salutation, no closing, just the order. As if I really have time to notify her that her son has an A- instead of an A. It's as if I'm a huge corporation, and people use their "business writing skills" to write to me.

Another parent, last year, would email me 2-3 times a week and ask me to email her son's work to her. He wasn't sick or absent, he just never did his work. This was an Honor's class, remember? He would actually refuse to do work in class with everyone else. I never could prove it, but I was sure his mother was doing it for him at home. Now, I realize she was trying to help him, but a 14-year old boy needs to start taking some responsibility for himself.

And there's the problem. These kids are 13-14 years old. They aren't old enough to make responsible choices all the time. They are old enough to make them some of the time.

I don't have an answer. I'm not a parent, just a teacher. Yes, these students are with me all day, but at the end of nine months, I give them back. Most I never see again. How do I know when to hold them up, chase them around with their work until they do it, or when to let them flounder, and figure it out on their own?

1 comment:

Teacher said...

I have some pupils like that one of yours: disrupt, disrupt and then say, "I was only asking a question." or "Teachers are supposed to answer your questions."
I would hate it if parents had my email and phone number. I would refuse to hand it out and there would be riots at school if it were suggesed. "Honours" (it has a U in my kind of English :-)) classes for pupils (as I still call them since I am old-fashioned and old enough to think that students are those people who go to university) whose parents make them work. And "honours" are what go on the end of a good degree. Talk about language inflation! Actually, our pupils are officially called students but I rarely use the word. Lastly, no matter what anyone says, if it goes pear-shaped in class it is the kids fault. There are no problems in education which could not be solved by having 30 children in front of you in class with the right attitude: i.e. and thirst for learning and good behaviour.