Friday, March 16, 2012

Parents and Teachers

Paul and Will have left to go with a group from church to work at camp. They'll be back sometime tomorrow night. So it's just me and the younger boys tonight. We're going to eat tv dinners and some other fun stuff I picked up. Then tomorrow I need to run a few errands. We've decided to skip the St. Patty's Day parade this year. I was so thankful the boys were willing to do that. I'm not crazy about downtown Des Moines driving in the middle of the week - weekends might be enough to send me over the edge. Plus, the weather is going to be fantastic and it will be a Saturday. I've been less and less pleased with the crowds in recent years. They're just ruder and crowd clear out to the yellow line during the parade. My friend Gina told me that she heard that they are being prohibited from throwing out candy and beads this year, too. When the boys heard that they suddenly lost interest - to my relief!

Last Thursday I did end up going on a date with Paul. I know I had said in my blog that I was not because of Ben's play practice. But I got to thinking about that and decided that I would go. Ben would be fine at practice by himself and besides my priority has to be to my husband, not my kids. So we went to the city council meeting which was mercifully short and then ate at the Checkerboard. A waitress came up and started chatting with me like we were old friends. It took me a minute but I soon realized she thought I was someone else. This actually happens to me a lot. I think I have a universal face - super average in looks, not too pretty, not too ugly, relatively symmetrical features, nothing striking at all in my appearance. As soon as I leave the room, people forget me. Ever since I reached adulthood, I have had all kinds of people mistake me for others or ask if I had a sister who ________. Nope, no sisters for me!

So, after we got done eating we went over to the school 45 min. before the practice was scheduled to end. Well, I got out of the van and became immediately concerned because there were a couple of kids outside crying. Furthermore, I could not get into the building. I needed to know where Ben was right now! I questioned the kids and they told me that "Mrs. T is being mean!" Apparently, they had elected to leave practice because they were angry and Mrs. T warned them that if they went outside they would not be able to get back into the building. I guess the doors lock automatically, which makes sense. But that I meant I could not get in! I pounded and pounded - nothing. Finally, I began hitting the small glass windows and Mrs. T finally showed up. "What is going on?" I asked her. "Teenage drama!" she replied, rolling her eyes.

Well, the story was that a few of the kids had snuck their cell phones into the wings with them. The rule is that the kids have to put their phones in a box and they can collect them at the end of the evening. It seems very reasonable to me. If the kids are allowed to keep their phones, it's inevitable that they will use them and will not be focusing on studying their lines and being prepared for their cues. So, those kids got in trouble. Somehow, one managed to text her dad before turning in her phone. I guess he came storming into practice and started swearing at and yelling at the director. He then proceeded to call other parents, so by the time I got there, more and more mad parents were in the event center. Somebody called the principal and he showed up. Mrs. T was telling me under her breath that she just didn't see how they were still going to be able to put on the production. The kids weren't ready and now all these parents were getting their hackles up. The practice came to an end and the next thing I knew a mother was just ripping Mrs. T up one side and down the other. She was the mother of the two kids who had been outside the building when I arrived. She was complaining about her children being locked out, "in the cold!" (Never mind that it was in the 50s - hardly any danger of frostbite!) And never mind that her children chose to voluntarily leave because they couldn't accept authority or control their tempers. I was absolutely appalled. I have never before seen a parent talk to a teacher like this. Even if the parent had just reason to be upset, the worst thing they can do is to express that in front of their child. How on earth is their child, or the 40 others standing around, going to have a shred of respect left for that teacher? So that was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.

Then, on Monday night, I was working with the kids again and this dad came into the practice and asked me what the deal was with all the cell phones in a box. I explained to him that this was a school activity and thus, the kids were not allowed to keep their phones. "No, it's an after-school activity!" he shot back. "Well, actually, it is a school activity" I corrected him. He wasn't having any of that, so I just walked away. I guess I could have pointed out to him that his daughter chose to be in the musical and if the cell phone thing was that big of a concern, he might want to consider removing her from the production. But I didn't.

Then, on Tuesday night, 16 hours before the first performance, one of the main characters was threatening to quit because she couldn't get along with her partner in the play. I heard Mrs. T snap, "Well, that's real mature!" During the play on Wed. she actually did walk out. I was about to go after her, debating whether to try to coax her back or to shake her instead. I understand that she's only a 13 or 14 year old child, but I would hope that a person, no matter how young, would have some sense of honor. Grrr! Several of her female cast mates went after instead and managed to persuade her to come back and not ruin the show. I suspect she just wanted some attention, which is why my first inclination would be to slap her silly. It's probably a good thing I never became a teacher!

It's over, it's over - I'm happy!

We ran into a situation a week ago when Will came home from his class and told me that he had been assigned to read a story in his textbook. He had started to do so, but encountered some pretty vile things right off the bat. "I just can't read it, Mom" he said, "I won't." I skimmed through the story and definitely saw his objections. It had immorality in it and some very strong language. So, I debated about what to do. Since this is a college credit class I know the teacher has a little less freedom in what she can teach. But yet, Will is not a college student (age-wise). Should he pursue a writing career, he will encounter some nasty writing. There's really no way around that. But that should not happen until he's more mature and older. So I finally sent an email to the teacher. I was prepared to visit with the principal if she didn't respond favorably, but I was really hoping it would not come to that. A couple of days later she sent me an email and thanked me for my "polite and reasonable" note. She added, "I can see where Will gets his manners." Patting myself on the back here - evidently, not only am I a reasonable and polite adult, but I am a superior mother as well!... After what I witnessed on Thurs. night I wonder if that is more common than I'm aware and perhaps Will's teacher was relieved that I didn't swoop down upon her with my claws drawn.

She was more than willing to give Will something else to read. She said that the first story selection was, indeed, "distasteful." To me, that begs the question: why assign it in the first place? Sunday, Terry, our assistant pastor approached me at church. Paul had told him about the situation, and he wanted to hear about it. He used to be a principal at an area high school. He told me that he always strongly suggested to his teachers to avoid assigning reading that might be the slightest bit offensive. "Why put yourself in that position?" he said to me, referring to teachers, and went on to talk about all the other great pieces of literature that are out there. When there's so much recorded history and stories, why bother assigning trash? Terry said it's so they can feel "cool." I would have to agree. Anyway, Will came home this week with a book full of stories set during the Holocaust to read instead. He's finding it fascinating, as I do. While I have difficulty stomaching a lot of what I have read about that time, it's so important to know this stuff. Will related one of the stories to me and I found myself blinking back tears just from his verbal re-telling of it! So I'm glad that all worked out.

All right, I need to go do some ironing. I think I should be able to wrap up the last of my week in one more blog. And then I'll be good for another week or so!

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