…let me repeat that; Do NOT go there.
So, it’s ‘progress’ report time, and I put progress in quotation marks because only one or two made any actual progress; the rest either held steady or lost (sometimes significant) ground. The end result is that, last week, the entire CHS community lost its collective shit. Teachers were jumping up and down, goading, pleading, and threatening kids to get their work in, while the kids were in full-on panic mode because they were coming up hard against an actual deadline. It was not pretty.
While I’m perfectly okay with this periodic dumbness (as Falcon so rightly pointed out over on the Blue Door, I DID choose this profession of my own free will), what I’m decidedly NOT okay with is when I go above-and-beyond, around-the-bend to make sure that my students have everything they need to succeed but they STILL try to blame me when they don’t.
Case in point? I’ve got this kid; let’s call her Maggie. Maggie is a freshman and she’s a great kid; she’s smart, she’s personable, she’s even funny in her own little quirky way. It became very clear in the first few days of class that, with the right kind of guidance on our parts and some serious application of focus on hers, she could kick proverbial ass in my class; she’s shown me some really impressive (though fleeting) glimpses of the kind of thinking she’s capable of, and I have tried to keep a close eye on her to make sure that she’s got all that she needs to foster that skill.
Maggie is failing our English class, however (and I suspect that she’s tanking in a lot of other courses, as well) because she either can’t – or won’t – get herself down to business. Every day – every single day – I have to tell Maggie to put her computer away. Also every day, I have to remind Maggie that some comments are best kept INSIDE one’s head; while she’s very funny sometimes, she also presents an incredible distraction to the students around her, and those distractions are rude and disrespectful to everyone in the class.
The short(ish) version of a very long story is that Maggie had some trouble grasping a very specific thing that I asked her class to do. When she turned in an assignment (5 days late) that didn’t meet the requirements I had issued, I sent her a note telling her so and offering her an opportunity to revise that work so it met the standards.
She resubmitted the exact same piece of work. Oh, and she missed the deadline for the revision, as well.
At that point, I asked her to come and see me so I could explain to her exactly why the assignment was unacceptable as she’d done it. She did that; we talked, she assured me she ‘got’ it, and I expected that would be the end of it. I gave the students – all the students, not just the freshmen – two weeks’ notice that I was suspending my ‘no late work’ policy and would accept any missing or incomplete work for full credit for this grading period. That work was due this Wednesday.
Yesterday, I got an email from Maggie’s mother. It seems that Mags had written a note to her parents warning them that she is failing English classes and then, get this, blaming the tech ed teacher for that failure. Check this out:
I’ll say the English thing now. If you check the web, I have a 1.9, not a good grade. It is because I asked for help and Mr. J. never got back to me. The help I asked for was for the portfolio, I recently figured it out on my own, it was difficult because it is our web system, the stupidest thing in the world. And I would have established it in time but I just wasn’t helped by the Tech teacher who is supposed to help us on this kind of thing.
(the emphasis is hers; I edited the comment to obscure identifying information)
So, Mom sends me an email complaining that her daughter should not be penalized for – and I quote – confusing expectations with inflexible consequences. Her letter makes clear that she’s under the impression that her child was not given the information or support she needed to do what was expected of her.
Um…. I don’t THINK so.
I was able to stuff my outrage long enough to compose a detailed and professional letter (which I sent to my boss first, just to be sure) in which I informed Mom that Maggie’s problem was NOT that the computer wasn’t cooperating. In fact, the portfolio isn’t even a part of her grade for English class. The problem that Maggie is experiencing in English class is that she simply wasn’t following directions, and that she was unable to follow directions after having those directions transmitted over several weeks and in three different media.
Also, and not for nothing, I know that Mr. J did get back to this kid because I brought this issue up to him weeks ago and IN OUR CLASS (he had stopped by to tell me something).
I am hoping to Shakespeare that this family does not request a meeting; it will be devastating for this child. I will ask her to explain precisely how she’s failing English because of an assignment in a different class. I will ask her to explain the assignment she never got right, and then I’ll ask her to show me the handout – with examples! – that I gave the class (which I fully expect she won’t be able to produce). Then I’ll ask her to show me how, exactly, her (late) assignment met the requirements I set out. It will be an embarrassing meeting for the child, and an incredibly frustrating one for me (especially if the mother holds her “confusing and inflexible” line) and I’d just as soon avoid the whole horror show altogether, thank you very much.