Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parents Say the Darndest Things

Perhaps we look stupid, but you wouldn't believe the crap parents throw at teachers sometimes. I mean, we spend eight hours a day with your kid...remember us? Hi, we're not morons. While I am all for the school of thought which believes that parents know their children best...I just think that sometimes, parents need to admit what they really know instead of giving us some bullshit Jekyll and Hyde story. If I hear "Oh my, he never does that at hooooome....(insert doe-eyed expression here)" one more time, I may just give up.

Do you think we are out to get your kids? To make up vicious lies that hold them back in life? Because that's not why I got into teaching....however, I also did not choose this profession to deal with the denial of parents and the ridiculous b.s. that they seem to sling at us with increasing regularity.

Some examples....

I approached a parent earlier in the year about her son's reading level. I am very concerned because he is reading almost an entire year below grade level. While he is making progress, and hopefully he will continue to, boyfriend would need to make TWO YEARS worth of progress to truly be ready for the next grade.

Me: So, we need to talk about reading...
Parent: Don't even start that with me again this year.
Me: You've heard this before from another teacher?
Parent: Yea, but AT HOME, he's reading Harry Potter books by himself.
Me: Well, it's great that you have books at home for him to enjoy, but here at school, it appears that he's only ready for books with eight to ten words of text on a I'm not sure Harry Potter is the best choice.
Parent: Well he reads it.
Me: All right, but then maybe you can see why I am confused that here at school, he really struggles with more complicated text...
Parent: That's your problem, not mine.

Ahhhh, well played, my friend, played. I have nothing to say to that, because it is just totally stupid. Stupid. She might as well have a neon sign over her head saying "Closed for the evening" because nothing I'm going to say is going to get through.

Another example....

One child in my class has been biting other children at recess. BITING. I know, ridiculous, right? Even though I am not present at recess (and a big halleluja for that because recess duty might just push me over the edge...), I need to deal because I am a grown up. Unfortunatley, all of us do not share that same philosophy because when I approached the parent to discuss this issue, she responded with, "Well, what did YOU do to provoke him to bite?"

Um, what? It's MY fault that YOUR child is biting OTHER CHILDREN at recess when I'm not even there?!?!? You're not even going to try to blame the other children? You're going to go straight to blaming me....dude. I can only imagine how you value my opinions on other issues. It's all I can do to not look right back at her and say, "'re right. It must be me. How silly of me to even waste your time. I apologize. GOOD LUCK WHEN HE'S 15, YOU IDIOT! Have a lovely day."

Unfortunately, sometimes our little friends end up not getting help when they need it the most because of the issues their parents have with asking for help in the first place.

My Super Colleague has a student in her class who never speaks. Never. Not even to say his name. He responds with grunts and nods or whatever, but no talking. And although silence can be golden in the classroom, clearly something is wrong.

We are in my classroom one day after school when the parent of this child walks by. My Super Colleague has been trying to talk to her for WEEKS.

Super Colleague: I'm really worried about our friend. He isn't talking in class. Have you noticed any thing at home?
Parent: What? Really? No...I don't think so.
Super Colleague: Well, he as other children ask for him when he needs to use the bathroom, and hasn't truly spoken to anyone this year that I know of.
Parent: I don't know what you're talking about. At home, he's a chatterbox. Last night we were debating about politics. He likes Obama.

Um, what? You want us to believe that your child, who has never uttered a word in school, is suddenly debating about who has the better foreign policy? Riiiiiight.

As my former social studies teacher used to say, "Denial isn't only river in Egypt." I'm not saying it's easy to admit when your child has a problem, large or small, but when a kid needs help, it's time to be the grownup and deal. One of the biggest lessons I try to teach my students is that it is OK to not be good at something and even downright BRILLIANT to know when to ask for help.

Maybe I should invite the parents to sit in on our little talks too.


Arielle said...

Oh my lord. I would punch them all in the face on Day 1 and then my teaching career would have lasted less than 24 hours.

Beth Byers said...

Thanks for the laugh this morning... I've heard ALL those same things come out of parents' mouths at one time or another during the last 20 years of teaching. The "best" one yet, though, was a mom I approached about not opening her child's folder to check notices, homework, etc. (I kid you not, it had been weeks!). She looked at me and replied, "I can't always get to it. I'M a WORKING parent" When the smoke from my ears subsided, I welcomed her to the club. Some people should come with filters (or, perhaps, muzzles):-)

East Coast Teacher said...

Oh, the stories I could tell about the parents at my school.

I work in a small (somewhat affluent) district, which means that there are parents. all. over. the. place!

Subbing, volunteering, eating lunch with teachers in the lounge...

Drives me nuts that they think their kids are perfect angels and can do no wrong, that it's all OUR fault!

I'd been working as a one-to-one aide and my student's parent always blamed me if he forgot to put a notebook/binder in his bag to complete homework.

Her child is 11 years old. He wrote it down in his planner. He's perfectly capable of looking in said planner to see what materials he needs before leaving school.

Yet, it's MY fault if he forgets?!

Ugh! So glad I'm out of that situation now...

unmitigated me said...

Dollars to donuts says these kids don't have older siblings. Parents (including me) take it as a personal affront when their baby has an issue or makes mistakes. It took me awhile to get over that, and THAT helps me help them. Also, I get the impression you work in a private school. 8 hours? Holy Crap! I am with kids 6.5 hours every day. And Dracula Junior? Would have been suspended where I work! We keep suggesting a job board for the moms who have too much time on their hands and fret about stupid things, like imagining their child has a disability!

The Bus Driver said...

Parents make excuse after excuse for their child. It drives me nuts as a bus driver, I can only imagine how it makes you feel as a teacher. We could have VIDEO evidence of their child doing wrong and it could be playing on the television and parents will still deny their child has done any wrong doing even with clear evidence. Hugs.

A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela Watson said...

One thing I like to do to alleviate this problem is have student-led conferences, in which the CHILD explains what's going on. (Here's a link that explains what to do: conf questions.doc). That prevents the teacher from having to be the bad guy and defend herself. Also, parents are less likely to lie when the kid is sitting right there ("I don't read Harry Potter, mom! You never took me to the library!". Asking a series of questions (instead of listing a series of problems) will usually cause parents to come to the correct conclusion themselves. Usually. Some parents just aren't going to get it, even if you bang them over the head with their child's twenty-three inch thick cumulative records.

Rebecca said...

When parents say "he doesn't do that at home" I always say, "Great! Tell me some of the strategies that work for you so we can apply them here at school!"

I also tell parents that the demands at school are far different than the demands at school, so we would likely see different behaviors in both. Then we get off the "no he doesn't" "yes he does" debate.

That doesn't always work...One time, a principal showed a parent a VIDEO TAPE of a kid tearing up the classroom and choking himself and the parent still rated the kid as "average" in all areas of social-emotional functioning. I think in that case, the parent was afraid the child would be removed from the home if they disclosed problems. It's tough.

GOOD LUCK!!! You have tremendous patience!

Rachel said...

Oh, lord, do I hear you on this! The reading and biting especially. The biting I can walk away from with a quick "I wasn't THERE", but the reading? I want to throw Harry Potters at those parents. (And yes, I'm pretty sure I'd be in an asylum if I had recess duty.)

That being said, the not-talking thing could be legitimate. We've had a few in our lower grades. Selective mutism - the counselors or psychologists should know more about it. It may not be true, but it's not unlikely either.

jonathan said...

Sometimes a parent thinks that a problem with their child means that they have done something wrong. I know, I know, it makes no sense, but it may explain some of the reactions. They may think they are being blamed for problems, when they don't know how to explain what's going on (or not going on, in the case of the grunter).

Also, there's this whole us against them thing, and in some schools/neighborhoods, the 'them' is us (teachers). Why are you talking about problems with their kids? Do you want to shove them into special ed? Make other problems for them? That layer of suspicion might be really, really thick.

Hey, I think their reactions are totally totally wrong, and you are absolutely right, but it would be great to find a way to get past that, and getting a handle on what makes them tick might help. Good luck with that, though!

No more open id, huh? Didn't you used to have it? (let me link my name automatically to wordpress)

jd2718, Jonathan

Not Quite Grown Up... said...

I have my first conferences this coming week. Let's see what stories my parents come up with.

Also, I have to second btrp on the possibility of selective mutism in your mute student.

DishClothGal said...

I teach high school. It doesn't get any better or easier. Sorry to let you down...

ChiTown Girl said...

Thanks for the laughs. I should have been writing down all the brilliant things I've heard from parents in the past 20 years. I could write a best seller, make a million, and retire! Oh, who am I kidding? I would miss the crazy!

koreen (aka: winn) said...

You hang in there. I hope you'll (or someone like you) will be my son's teacher someday (he's only 2 now!) and keep me honest. ;)

Anonymous said...

---Sometimes a parent thinks that a problem with their child means that they have done something wrong. I know, I know, it makes no sense, but it may explain some of the reactions.

wha??? of COURSE it makes sense! Because in LOTS of cases, it IS a problem caused by bad parenting or at least, a problem that bad parenting left untreated.

I actually disagree with you that these children must behave the same way at home as at school. I spoke often at home and said nothing --NOTHING-- in school. because school was terrifying, and because home would have been more terrifying if I said nothing. Children know what they can get away with. if dad would strike them for biting, they won't bite where he'll care, but if school biting leads to nothing, they will etc.

I agree that an interested parent would have at least said "really? markedly different behaviors?? how odd. let's get to the bottom of it" instead of this flat uncuriousness. still i think you should assume that children adapt different coping skills for different environments, and if SOP at home is denial and ignorance, the child can learn to fake whatever behaviors keep their parents blissfully unaware because they need home life undisrupted.

17 (really 15) more years said...

What's really so sad about all this is that I know not one word is an exaggeration.

It reminds me of two students I had several years ago. They were large, overweight twins (one more so than the other), and their mother was of similar girth. They were terrors- they would throw smaller kids into the walls just for the sport of it- and the principal was constantly on the phone with her.

After one extremely heinous incident, the mother was in the office crying. "You always pick on my boys, they are such good boys, such wonderful boys- you just don't like them because they're fet (read: fat)".

Hang tough Mimi!!

Ashley Anderson said...

Well I am going to school right now to be an elementary teacher! yay me! Thanks for letting me know what I have to look forward to as a teacher!I sure hope all parents are not like this! What do you do to deal with parents like this?

Mrs. Such and Such said...

OMG... girl, you know we are in a crazy profession. I had one of my little friends pick their nose and wipe it on their neighbor's food at lunch once, and the parent's response was focused on what the other kid did to them first. As a friend of mine said, "Did she light him on fire? Because unless she did that, the wipe was not warranted!" Really, people? REALLY????? A little truth, a little personal responsibility... just a little! We're beggin' here. :)

LaughterHappens said...

Hahaha, wait, can I add mine to the list?

(I teach preschool)

Me: Hi Mom, I'm calling to let you know your daughter threw a phone at another child today and the other child ended up with a knot on his head. I think you should talk to her about not throwing toys.

Mom: Good for her. I've been telling her she needs to stand up for herself. When the other kids push her, I've been teaching her (my FOUR YEAR OLD) to push them back.

Me: Um, we teach the children to either tell an adult or use their words to solve problems, because.... violence is never the answer.

Mom: I don't care, no one's pushing my daughter around, she needs to fight back.

Etc., etc., for 15 min screaming in my ear about her poor little baby.

Birth of a bully? Just shoot me already.

veta said...

oh no, i thought i was, am, will the only one experiencing the things u experienced. sometimes parents are annoying.;-(

Barb Smith said...

We've thought about having tshirts sold here at my school as a fundraiser. The parents' shirt would say, "He's never had any problem before..." and the teachers' shirt would say, "Been there, heard that!"

Dawn said...

"Ahhhh, well played, my friend, played. I have nothing to say to that, because it is just totally stupid. Stupid. She might as well have a neon sign over her head saying "Closed for the evening" because nothing I'm going to say is going to get through."

Nothing she said got through to you. She's telling you he reads novels at home. Obviously to her the problem is related to school. That leaves the ball in your court to offer some ideas about why his performance suffers at school and what she might do at home to help you but instead you simply repeat that he's not doing well at school. Honestly, what are you offering her that would stop her from simply deciding that YOU'RE not listening to HER?

When I fail to get through to someone I'm talking to I almost always take a look at how I'm handling my end of the conversation, what assumptions I go in with and how I handle the tone of what I say. There's almost always a way to get through if you're willing to be critical of youself and really examine how you come across. Once you start doing that it's funny how fast those useless conversations that don't go anywhere start to disappear.

jonathan said...

All of us who've taught have similar stories. Sometimes it is willful on the parent's part, sometimes not. But it's the behavior that matters, not the blame. I see commenters on both "sides" missing this.

We should do our best to understand why parents answer as they do, not to assess their responsibility, but to do our best to deal with the problematic behavior.

Erica Thomas said...

Ahh, I'm teaching at the high school level (also in NYC). It's really eye-opening when a parent shows up at parent night and after a short conversation all of your questions are "answered".

Crimson Wife said...

Selective Mutism is a legitimate disorder that's a type of anxiety disorder. It can be successfully treated with medication in conjunction with psychotherapy.

I know someone whose child had Selective Mutism. This little boy was perfectly chatty at home and around other trusted individuals but wouldn't speak a word at school or other public places. It's like he had an extreme case of "stage fright". Fortunately, he responded well to treatment and now is perfectly normal (though still a bit on the shy side).

vrgnamgnta said...

My son has Asperger's. When he started school, he wouldn't talk to people he didn't know for at least 6 months. The teacher was frustrated, so we did a parent-teacher-resource meeting...but it was completely true that he would talk a LOT at home and not in the presence of people he didn't know really well. He's still not great at it (middle school), but I've trained him to talk to teachers...because I AM one. Haven't had to do a parent-teacher meeting since then.

I have those same parents in my mom just hugged her Disaster Boy and said "he's my baby...I just let him do whatever he wants." AAAAAHHHH.

Samantha said...

Yes that is ridiculous. I think parents should be more concerned about their child's education. They should make every effort to see to it that their child is doing the best that they can do, with the abilities that they have. But, I know there will always be those parents who could care less just as long as their child is making a little progress, whether at school or at home. Many don't realize the importance of education and I guess that's because half of them probably were notwell educated when they were younger. It seems like that would motivate them to push their child to strive for the best.

March Hare said...

Hi Mimi,

Just a mom, but wanted to pass on a reading tip that opened my eyes as to my daughter's true reading ability (and that I wish I known for the older ones).

Her 5th Grade teacher encouraged us parents to listen to our children read for at least 15 minutes each night. We could do it while getting dinner ready or in the car, but by listening to our child read we could tell if they were really reading or if they were just moving their eyes across the page.

What I discovered is there were many words my daughter didn't recognize in printed form and she often didn't understand what she was reading. Once I helped her pronounce them, though, it was like a light bulb went off in her head. Her reading comprehension improved dramatically--and she was already considered a "good" reader.

Chances are your student isn't "reading" Harry Potter--mom just thinks he is because he's flipping the pages. If he reads out loud to her, she may understand that he has a problem.

Jennifer said...

Well, I can't believe no one has chimed in with this just yet. Don't worry, Mimi, I've got your back...

Parents just don't understand.

Miss Case said...

As a student teacher, this is one thing that I am truly dreading about my future career...dealing with ridiculous parents! It makes me so frustrated that they can turn something so simple and clear around to make it anyone's fault but their child's...or create ridiculous lies to go along with all that denial. I understand loving & protecting your kids, but if they really want the best for them shouldn't they at least listen to what their kid's teacher has to say?? I commend you for your tremendous patience! Good luck! ;)

PrincessMissy said...

It makes me crazy when I hear these parents say these things! OMG! Are they kidding me?

I can't tell you how many times I have heard this.....blah!blah!blah!

Is it possible that they think we are that dumb? WE all know that when these kids go home they don't become Einsteins when they walk into their homes.

Is it possible that some parents walk around with rose colored glasses?

Jules said...

sometimes grown ups are the worst part of teaching kids. sigh.

Unknown said...

I am about to intern in January. We hear constantly in all my classes that parents are by far the hardest part about teaching. I hope to be as patient as you when I am teaching. Keep up the good work.

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