I'd like to officially apologize to every teacher who, over the past four or five years, has complained to me about 'helicopter parents' or told wild stories about crazy student family members swooping in to make everything dramatic and difficult - often at great expense not only to the blood pressure of the involved teachers, but to the long-term well-being of the students themselves.
I was always sympathetic, and outraged in unity with thee. I was intellectually well-aware that there but for the grace of Horace Mann went I.
But on some level, deep down, in ways I'd never admit aloud, I'd often smile with thankfulness that I was somehow avoiding such problems. I was glad I was a bit more flexible with parents, or perhaps simply more personable. I was - dare I say - smug that when the students just loved me SO much, those sorts of issues tended to resolve themselves.
Oh what a fool. What a vain, idiotic, foolishly foolish fool I was. I'm so sorry.
Because Karma is a twisted and patient b*tch. It has waited all these years, letting me build confidence, and comfort, and a certain puffed-up brashness. Even as I fought on some level to overcome such buried thoughts with the knowledge that mostly I've just been lucky, Karma was not fooled. I was taking credit for how my students' parents and other looming parties-of-interest were and weren't behaving. I was letting pride come before a pretty substantial Fall (as it were).
In short, I was karmically asking for it.
Well, it's here.
Two and a half weeks of class, eight assignments in the grade book, every single one of them currently redoable, replaceable, or otherwise redeemable at no penalty, daily reminders, notes on the board, and a class website replete with copies of everything in two different places and reminders of everything worth reminding of, and OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING TO THEIR CHILDREN?!?
We're closer to a dozen parent emails so far than a hundred, and most are panicky and flustered more than actually angry - yet. But I've NEVER experienced this sort of frenetic concern, laced with just enough accusation and annoyance to give them edge. Of greater concern are the expressions of confusion - bewilderment - SHOCK - at why their children don't have better grades they need a better grade they've ALWAYS had better grades why am I making their children so confused and helpless and crushing their spirits WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?!?
It's tricky to explain without sounding frustrated or hostile that I am, actually, going to some length to begin nudging their child towards young adulthood - some early modicum of personal responsibility.
I am not, in fact, demaning flawless intellect or academic greatness, but rather, I am begging them to notice that between what's in the syllabus they signed, written on the board every day, what I say every day, and what's on the class website in at least two places, none of which changes quickly, there are things we try to do in class to make it, um... educational.
Whereas I'm asking their child to do at most ONE version of any given assignment, I'm creating in most cases at least THREE versions in hopes of reaching as many of them as possible, and offering as many redos as I can stomach before mandatory retirement in about 20 years.
I'm not sure what more to do short of nightly home visits or full body tattoos - perhaps done in reversed text so they can read them in the mirror before bathing.
I am not intentionally sarcastic when asked what their darling could do to improve their grade, and the only accurate response available is "their work?" Can they have extra credit? Well, no - not in the way you mean. By definition, in order to have 'extra credit', one must first have 'credit'. You would not order a pizza with NO CHEESE, but with EXTRA CHEESE - the net result would simply be 'cheese'. So no, they cannot NOT do the work, then do EXTRA work to make up for it. What they CAN do, though, is the WORK.
I should be more sympathetic. These poor parents who seem to have virtually unlimited time to email and call me repeatedly (on behalf of a child who has yet to speak to me willingly, even when I attempt to initiate) are clearly far too busy to read the syllabus they signed, look at the class website for which I've neglected my world-famous blog, or otherwise consider the possibility that the same kid they can't get to clean up their room, take out the trash, or provide any coherent reason WHY he or she remains bewildered or resentful of consistent, clear expectations at home, might not be the fearless academic angel portrayed - thwarted daily only by THAT ONE HISTORY TEACHER who stays in the profession to crush the future, hate children, and undercut the American Dream.
My friends, peers, and cohorts, forgive me. I never meant to judge you, but I fear that is exactly what I've done.
Don't worry, though - Karma is taking vengeance on your behalf. It's like she -
Sorry, have to cut this one short. I have some parent emails piling up, and my phone is ringing.
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