Parents of the Week: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


A boy in an honors class mocked an assignment on Tuesday with his partner, then decided to declare to everyone that “this class is pointless.”  I called him on it, and he wasn’t the least bit ashamed or penitent. 

I called his mother and she was mortified.  She apologized profusely and asked to come in to see me and have him apologize, even asking if she could sit in class with him next time.  We met before school Thursday and she read him the riot act.  I showed her his work from that day, which was by far the shortest, sloppiest paper from the class.  I said I’d like him to do it over, and she assured me it would be done over the weekend, adding that any future work that was of substandard quality would also be revised to my liking. 

After this had all been explained, I asked him if he understood.  He sat silently until his mother told him to answer with, “Yes, sir.”  He sullenly said, “Yes.”  She told him again to be more respectful, threatening to smack him if he didn’t.  He again responded with attitude, so she reached around and slapped him on the back of the head.  This time he said, “Yes, sir.” 

She thanked me for my effort and assured me again that he would perform better, in academics and behavior.  I have no doubt that he will. 



I got an email from a parent on Wednesday wanting to know why her son got a D for first quarter, saying that she doesn’t think a child who comes to school every day should get a D.  She said that it wasn’t fair that he was being punished for not turning in a large assignment that he’d told her was what brought the grade down. 

I wrote back that his D wasn’t based on attendance, but the quality and quantity of his work.  I also noted that he had seven missing assignments for the quarter, as well as three failed tests, most of which had happened in September, so there was no surprise drop at the end of the quarter.  I also explained that the assignment her son had told her about was part of the current, second quarter grade, not the first quarter at all, and therefore had no influence on the D.  Finally, I added that his current grade was a low C because of new, further missing assignments and a test that he got a zero on last week because it was identical to the paper of the boy next to him. 

She hasn’t written back yet.



Last week a girl came in before school to yell at me for “losing” two of her papers, which she swore she’d turned in and which still hadn’t been graded.  I told her that I couldn’t give a grade to papers that I hadn’t seen, and that she should check her own locker and folders for the papers, or do them over if they were missing.  She stormed out and started telling her friends right outside the door how “pissed” she was at me.  I went out to tell her to knock off the disrespect; her response was to confront me and insist that I had screwed up. 

She’s normally a very decent kid, so I cooled off before doing anything and decided to let this one go.  Besides, after that, she acted just fine in class. 

But yesterday a note was left in the counseling office from her father, saying that I was an “inefficient” teacher and that he wanted his daughter out of my class.  The counselor gave me the note to handle and, shocked by the presumption of this man who had never even spoken to me, I called him this morning.  I had plenty of ammo prepared: if I had a nickel for every time a kid swore up and down that they’d turned something in, but it was in their backpack or had no name on it, I could retire.  The two assignments in question are both tiny and are not hurting her grade much–a far bigger problem would be the quiz last week that she slept through, or the one this week that she failed.  I gave her a chance to make up the missing work.  These two “lost” assignments also don’t explain why she’s failing the rest of her classes.

“I saw the note that was left in the office yesterday, and I’d like an explanation,” I said when the father answered the phone. 

“What note?” he asked.

“The one you left on the counselor’s door yesterday saying that you had a problem with my class and wanted her out.  It had your signature on it.”

Long pause.

“That dang kid stole my signature stamp!” 

So we decided to schedule a meeting with everybody so she could come in and account for this desperate deception.  This ought to be fun.



10 comments on “Parents of the Week: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. There are two of us teaching Seminary in this ward. I’m the newbie and was just called this year. I was called late and did not receive training, just a box of materials.

    Last week I was chewed out by a sister because her daughter won’t be graduating from Seminary if I don’t do something about it. She’s supposed to be doing homestudy. There are several factors that led to my believing that homestudy was not my assignment, including that I was assigned the half of the ward without any homestudy students in it and that I was never trained on nor informed about the homestudy program (or daily seminary for that matter).

    Well,I guess I should have called to her attention that two and a half months were already up in the year and that she probably should have said something before now. Or that her daughter has missed the last three Sunday classes (We meet Sunday through Wednesday and Friday. This gives the kids the day after YM/YW to sleep in.) That’s 67% attendance. Can’t graduate with that. Or that when her daugher attends, all she does is sit in the back and talk. Frankly, the class is more enjoyable for all when she doesn’t attend.

    But this is church, so I’m not supposed to offend anyone. Even though I get the feeling that some people in the ward count on that and think that they can say anything they want and I’m not allowed to take offense. They’re just being “honest”. Then again, I wasn’t allowed to get a word in edgewise.

    Thank you for the opportunity to vent my spleen.

  2. Floyd, I’ve known many good seminary teachers ovet the years, and I don’t envy them. They have a far greater impact on their students than I do on mine, but the stakes are much higher–parents who are given to being combative will come down especially hard if they percieve some kind of spiritual slight. Some awful things have been said and done to seminary teachers, usually (in my biased opinion) by parents who are not exactly valiant in the spiritual nurture of their children in the first place.

    “No good deed goes unpunished” :)

  3. Well, for one, I don’t like the kind of parents, who always say, “my little Johnny surely couldn’t have done that!”

    OTOH, we’ve had a kid bullied by a teacher.

    Still, I don’t believe you can really beat respect into kids. Pres. Hinckley was very vocal about that, wasn’t he?

  4. Velska, I attended a gang training once for teachers, run by a police detective, who said that the best thing anyone could do to prevent the kind of violence he sees in his work is to beat their kids. He was serious–he said that if we ever got in trouble with the law, to call him and he’d take care of it.

    Now, that’s a bit extreme. But I absolutely think that there are times–sparingly–when a child has to be dealth with by physical force to be reminded that outrageous behavior can have serious and immediate consequences–that they have to face the results of their cdhoices, and that they do not operate in some bubble in life where nothing can get to them. Belive me, that’s exactly how many teenagers think–they have no concept of authority.

    Should someone be beaten regularly and quickly to direct behavior? No, of course not. That’s what anyone would condemn. But letting a kid get away with wildly anti-social behavior without giving them a taste of what real life will do to them if they don’t learn control–no loving parent should be so weak.

  5. I agree that some restraints — physical ones, and against a kid’s will — should be used.

    Also, there should be real consequences early for doing something that you’ve been explicitly told not to.

    With my five kids (who are adults now) it’s been like once or twice they’ve had to suffer something unpleasant — not really beating; it’s amazing what a little slap on the wrist can do, when done in the right spirit.

    Too many kids are just beaten; many don’t know why they’re getting the beating, and it’s very inconsistent. And when you start off like that, something like gang hierarchy can seem “safe” when you basically know what you can and can’t do.

    It’s not so much in the physical acts as building kids’ self image and self worth/confidence.

  6. I’ve seen 25-yo young adults who’ve gotten in debt way over their head, and all of a sudden you can’t just beg forgiveness and promise to be good.

    We should definitely let kids encounter the consequences of their acts.

  7. Velska, thank you for all of your thoughtful comments–I’m very pleased to have readers with so much to say that’s so worthwhile.

    Floyd, you seem to have a competitor for most frequent commentor… :)

  8. I’m not always so sure that what I have to say is worthwhile, I just feel like saying it. Thanks for the compliment; I take it as such, and I’ll be sure to follow your blog…

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