Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parents as Partners

Last year, it was a usual thing for me to come home from work so exhausted that I literally could've fallen asleep in my dinner. Much of this was, of course, emotional exhaustion from an abusive classroom situation and some of it was physical exhaustion from just being overworked.

This year that hasn't really been an issue which is such a nice change. Today, however, I did come home so mentally and physically exhausted that I fear I have been kind of a crab (sorry hunny!). The most obnoxious student I have has been exhibiting worse and worse behavior since we returned from break: mouthing off to the lunch aides, swearing at me under his breath when he thinks I can't hear and so on. Monday he mouthed off to two of the lunch ladies who are volunteers, they don't even get paid, and I'd had it. I put a call in to dad and after school today he came in.

Times like that make me hate being a teacher. The upside was, this father definitely realized that I was not the problem. I have had many experiences where it was my fault for whatever the child had done wrong. Dad was floored that I had called because of the two notes I'd sent home telling him how great his son's behavior was. My mouth nearly hit the floor and I said I hadn't sent home any notes. I'm sure by the astonished look on my face, dad knew I wasn't lying about that. The longer we were there, the more I was glad I wasn't going home in that young man's shoes. I would have never had the balls to fake a good note home from my teacher at that age.

The father was really supportive (we've definitely met like this before) and said that until the child turns around his behavior, he isn't doing any extracurricular. I felt kind of bad for him at first, but then I had to stop myself and think about how much crap I have put up with from that child that I haven't even burdened dad with because I can handle my classroom. It's just when it gets to the point that I want to kick this kid's behind that I have to get dad behind me. I hate making those kind of calls and things but man...I know this kid is going to be screwed in middle school. They won't put up with a smidgen of what I do and I think his dad realizes that.

I told this child that one of my professors in college told me that I was one of the only white people he had ever met who was truly color-blind. I don't look at people and see their skin color -- I see their personality and the worth they put out there for the world. I also said that one of the main reasons that I work in our district is because I love that diversity and I know those kids need me. I did something I have never done before. I gave this father my home and cell numbers in case he needed to get in touch with me about anything. Dad turned to the son at that point and said "don't you EVER say that Mrs. Sunny doesn't care about you or doesn't like you -- if she didn't, we wouldn't be standing here. She's just let you fail. She wouldn't be giving me her phone numbers so I can bother her on HER time."

It was a pretty powerful conversation. I meant everything I said. I don't like much of what our district does but I'm there for the kids -- even the ones like this young man who drive me up the wall on a continual basis. I'm just glad that this dad was supportive and on my side with it. I've had way too much experience with parents whose children are perfect saints in their eyes and couldn't have ever possibly done anything wrong.


  1. So glad the parent backed you up and now you are a team! It is so helpful to be able to work as a team. It helps everybody win!

  2. What a great moment in your career, and in that young man's life. As someone with a severe phone phobia, making that kind of call is truly terrifying. It would be evaded as long as possible! To give out your personal number - wow! Thank you for sharing this story.

  3. Good for you! Way to stand up for yourself and really show how much you care about your kids!

  4. I so enjoyed reading this story! I can tell how much you care about this child, and am sure it will pay off for both of you soon!

  5. How awesome..I love it when things work out like that.

    I have had a parent this year hint around the fact that I was racist towards her and her son. The county that I teach in is known for being racist, so I sort of don't blame her for being cautious. But at the time I was furious. I was trying to get her son the extra help he needed and she tried to turn it around on me. That was several tearful days! I am blessed with supportive peers and administrators, and it worked out OK, but it was a very stressful time!