You don't even know how to give proper grades! My son says everybody in his class has very low grades!'
Well, Someone Certainly Has Some Explaining To Do
“There was a mom who insisted that I was being biased towards her kid. She brought up a recent essay as an example and complained about the grade her kid received on it. I had given the essay a C- and the mom was saying that it was obviously an A essay. I assured her that I was not biased and pointed out numerous issues with the essay that prevented it from scoring higher (it had content-related issues as well as numerous basic grammatical errors).
The mom then revealed that she had written the essay, not her kid. She said, ‘So it looks like you’ve got some explaining to do!’ and then sat back with a smug grin on her face.
Yeah, it’s me who’s got the explaining to do.”
When They Just Won’t Take No For An Answer
“I was senior management at a private school and we had some insane helicopter parents who insisted their 4-year-old daughter was a genius. They wanted her fast-tracked THREE grades ahead. Nobody could reason with them and they carried this big binder of ‘tests’ they’d paid for to prove their case. Now, she was a sweet kid but very shy and seriously afraid of failure. Huge red flags to be honest. They were at the point of suing us and I drew the short straw for the responsibility of talking them off the ledge. It was last day of the school year, my own kids were waiting for us to start the holidays (they went to the same school), and I was stuck for two hours with these parents, trying to persuade that them that they were damaging their child and that moving an already nervous little kid away from the few playmates she had would be catastrophic. I went through every test paper, used every tactic I could think of, and eventually called the meeting to a close on an ‘agree to disagree’ basis—still refusing to move her higher up.
The next day, the first day of the holidays, my director got an entire transcript of the conversation, which they’d secretly recorded, and a demand to have me fired. They must have stayed up all night as it was before auto-transcribe tech was available.
My director called in the lawyers and I had to forward all the slanderous emails they kept sending me in case of court action. We had an internal tribunal with them when the school opened after the holidays and they lost their case. We never saw them again as they moved out of the area. I often think about that little girl and hope she’s doing ok.”
Lost In Translation
“We had a meeting because this 8th-grade student was throwing gum at another student who was a paraplegic. His father only spoke Spanish, and the district translator was a no-show, so the math teacher said Portuguese was close enough to Spanish and will step in to translate.
I briefly explain what I witnessed and the math teacher translated. Dad looked upset. Dad said something back and the math teacher translated it as, ‘He says you are very honorable and…’
Then the offending student interrupted, ‘That’s not what he said. He called you a liar!’
I looked at Dad, who was furious! He stood up, flipped the small table we were sitting around, screamed at me, and stormed out of the room. That was my first parent-teacher conference as a teacher.”
Talk About Projection
“My girlfriend was a 6th-grade math teacher
She had been working very closely with a severely autistic boy on a graphing project. After about a full week of grinding through it with him, he was able to do pretty much every problem on his own. The next week they had parent-teacher conferences, and this boy’s mother complaining in hot, complaining about the graphing assignment.
‘He just doesn’t get this. He can’t do it. I don’t know what to do.’
The next day in class, the boy told her that his mom was trying to help him with his homework and couldn’t understand it. Any time he would explain to his mom that he could do it on his own, she would say that she didn’t trust that he was telling the truth. She wouldn’t listen to him and was getting upset that SHE couldn’t figure it out.
I met this lady when I volunteered to chaperone on a field trip. She was not pleasant.”
The Parents Stunted Her Educational Growth
“I once had a parent-teacher conference with two parents and their daughter. She had been achieving a steady B average in my course through her own efforts and hard work. She had long been a ‘classified’ student, with a number of small issues that had caused her to struggle academically—until she matured and found ways of better managing her issues. I had her as a junior and she was doing well in my challenging course—and she seemed proud of it.
Then came the meeting. Her parents clearly had used the system as a way of providing their daughter with every academic advantage they could. They would bully school staff along the way to create an academic plan that made it nearly impossible for the girl to not score a 95% or better in all her courses. I have never seen a plan so designed for academic success, with no intention whatsoever of helping the student develop the skills needed to survive in the world outside of school. I tried to make clear to them that she was doing very well in the course without the various supports in place and that she was quite pleased with her accomplishments, but they could not care less. All they could focus on was the final grade being below their 95% expectation. We went back and forth for a while; they were very angry and tried to intimidate me with veiled threats. I refused to back down and the parents finally had her removed from my course. Luckily, my administration backed me—even complimenting on my willingness to stand against them as many had not before. The girl ended up taking the course over the summer in a far easier setting.
It was very disturbing to see parents so bent on their version of success that they ignored the real progress she had made. They viewed the district as an enemy—an obstacle to navigate instead of an opportunity. I can only hope that the girl found her own path as she became an adult, but I can assure you that her parents hindered her growth and failed to give her the future they imagined for her.”
A Teacher Who Truly Cared
“A friend of mine had just completed her first school year as a full-time teacher. She was a substitute for the district for a couple years first. One time she met with the parents of a kid because he had some hygiene issues, and when she brought it up, she found out the parents couldn’t afford their water bill, and it was shut off. It turns out the only meal he was getting day to day was the school lunch, so she started making meals to bring to school that he could bring home to eat for dinner, and she paid for his breakfast every day at school. I’d always heard of kids only getting that one meal a day, but I’d never actually seen it, and I never thought it would be happening in my area.
Luckily in my area, the school provides lunches to any kid under the age of 16 throughout the summer at local parks so he’ll still be able to get that through the summer. I just hope next year he’ll have another teacher that cares enough to make sure the kid is able to eat.”
There’s Only So Much You Can Do
“My wife’s first teaching job was at a rural high school. Most of the parents couldn’t be located or contacted, so it was a miracle when they would show up for parent/teacher conferences.
One student, the oldest of 6, had not turned in any work and had failed every test. It took several attempts, but his parents were finally able to come in. My wife met with them and her principal joined her, as I guess this family had a history in the town.
My wife expressed her concern for the kid’s future and his goals beyond school. The parents screamed at her and the principal, saying they were successful without a high school diploma and didn’t believe their kid needed to be here. They were only making him go because CPS had threatened to take him away from them otherwise.”
“I’m not a teacher anymore, but I used to teach year four (8/9-year-olds) in London. There’s a lot of immigrant families in the area I taught at and it made for a very interesting classroom. Unfortunately, due to the British curriculum, I had to teach a foreign language to my class and the school had chosen French as the language. Good for me, I speak it reasonably well and definitely well enough to teach 8-year-olds how to say where they live and what they do on the weekend, but not well enough to do parent-teacher meetings in French to all the Congolese parents from my class. Several of the children went home and told their parents how I spoke French. One dad, in particular, decided that he would only speak French to me, and I had to try and tell him why his daughter wasn’t doing as well as he expected in a language I don’t speak fluently.”
She Learned To Document Everything
“I used to teach senior English for ten years. It was pretty much the only class anyone had to absolutely take senior year, unless they were behind in their math or science courses. The course was specifically British Literature and I tried to make it as interesting as possible for students. I tried to challenge students and prepare them for college-level work, but I also allowed students to turn in late assignments for points off. (My district also unofficially required us to accept late work, as failed students=less funding.)
I posted all assignments on the class website for all students to access in the event of an absence, held tutorial once a week, updated my online grades weekly, and contacted parents when students were failing. I did all of this because if a student fails, you have to provide supporting documentation that you tried to help them.
Every year, I had two or three male students (I don’t know why it was usually guys) who wouldn’t complete any assignments. These kids usually had overbearing mothers who would constantly harass me and would find every excuse in the book to present some fault of mine to my principal as the reasoning for why their son shouldn’t be failing. These parents’ usual excuse was that they ‘didn’t know’ their kid was failing, despite the access to online grades, my phone calls, letters home, etc.
On one such occasion, I was called into a meeting with a mother a month prior to graduation. Her son had failed the first semester and I was a bit surprised to see her since she had been fairly nonchalant in our previous phone calls, saying things like, ‘If he fails, that’s on him.’ Well, this lady pulled out everything for this Hail Mary meeting.
She first claimed that I never called her and that she didn’t know her son was failing. I presented my documentation of our phone calls and quoted what she had said to me, word for word. She then stated that I was too tough on students and wanted to fail her son. I reminded her that I hold a weekly tutorial for students, post all assignments online AND give students time to work on assignments in class.
Then, she complained about not knowing that her son had failed the first semester until it was ‘too late’ because his report card was sent to the wrong address. My principal pulled up their information and read back the address. She replied, ‘Yeah, that’s my sister’s house.’
My principal asked her for her current address, and she gave it. He paused, then said, ‘Ma’am, your address is outside of our attendance zone.’
Realizing the mistake she made, the lady got quiet for a moment then snapped, ‘(My son) will make up all of the work he owes for your class and attend every tutorial for the remainder of the year,’ and he did.”