I don't really have anything new to talk about today, so I thought I'd post another sample chapter from my novel, Learn Me Good. This chapter talks about my very first parent-teacher conference night, and what a joy it was. If you're a teacher, like me, then I'm sure you just can't wait to start the next school year so that you can have all those wonderful interactions with concerned parents like the one in this chapter...
Date: Thursday, October 16, 2003
To: Fred Bommerson
From: Jack Woodson
Subject: I gots mad parenting skillz
Just FYI, certain visitors to the classroom are acceptable – students’ parents, visiting administrators, weird ladies hawking sensuous spectacles – and some are definitely NOT welcome. Tell Larry that he may not drop by and sleep off a hangover in the La-Z-Boy at the back of my room. That’s what the space under his desk is for!
Speaking of sleep, I am ready to crash. Not due to alcohol, though. Today was one of the longest days ever! I had morning duty (watching over the kids on the playground before school starts) and then we had parent-teacher conferences tonight, so I was at the school from 7:00 AM until 8:30 PM!!
From what I’ve heard from other teachers, conference night usually follows a pattern – the parents that you really want (or need!) to talk to DON’T show up, while the good kids’ folks DO show up. And our night lived up to that for the most part. As partners, Mrs. Swanson and I conferenced together, and we had scheduled conferences with the parents of Esteban, Sa’tun, Nathan, and Jessica, none of whom showed up. It was certainly nice to see Ariel, Christy, and Juan and their parents (all 3 unscheduled), but Kelly and I really have no issues with those kids, they are great. We had plenty of nice things to say about them. We also spoke with Sandra’s mom and Sofia’s mother, mainly emphasizing the importance of reading whenever they can for practice. They are both struggling academically, but both are good kids and pose no behavior problems.
Speaking of behavior problems, Marvin’s mom DID show up, and that was good. Kelly and I had a nice long chat with her. I showed her Marvin’s forged signature from last week and, as was expected, she confirmed that she had never seen that paper. She is very supportive, but kind of at her wit’s end over what to do with Marvin. I know the feeling. Marvin is supposedly on medication for the ADHD, but I don’t remember what his mom said he is taking. Whatever it is – Adderall, Ritalin, Percocet, Cheez-wiz, or Pepto Bismol – it ain’t workin’!
The highlight of the night, however, was when Chassity’s mother arrived. Chassity is a new student to 3E, she joined the class about two weeks ago. She’s not really bad, but she doesn’t put much effort into class work, and already her grades are really poor, especially in reading.
When her mom first walked into my portable, my initial thought was that she was a student. She couldn’t have been five feet tall, kind of squat like a fire-plug, and she was wearing a navy sweater and a plaid skirt –it looked like a school uniform.
We started the conference by telling her that we were concerned about Chassity because her reading level is way behind, she rarely does her homework, and she plays in class. Immediately, it became obvious that this lady was not really paying attention to what we were saying; everything she told us was designed to impress us with her parenting skills. She started telling us how important reading is to her and how she has always tried to instill that value in her children. At one point, she made this statement, and I quote: “I reads all the time! I reads while I drives!” Yeah, that’s not really something I needed to know, thank you kindly! I can just picture her driving down I-75, Herman Melville in one hand, steering wheel in the other (hopefully!), yelling “Calls me Ishmaels!!”
Before she left, she made one other mind-numbing proclamation. Earlier that day, in Mrs. Swanson’s class, Chassity had been caught writing a note to one of the other girls. The gist of the note was basically “You’re a witch. Who’s a witch? You are, you witch.” And on, and on. Only she didn’t use the word “witch,” instead preferring a more socially unacceptable rhyming word. Kelly and I had joked about the fact that nearly all of the words in the note were misspelled EXCEPT for that one word.
Well, when her mother saw the note tonight, she stared at it for a few moments before finally declaring, “Oh, so she wants to be cussing now. Well, I can tell you one thing. If she wants to be using this word, I will make darn sure she knows how to SPELL this word. I’ll have her write this word over and over till she gets sick of it.”
And the whole rest of the conference with Chassity’s mother is a blur. I just couldn’t concentrate due to one overwhelming question that kept running through my mind – Lady, how exactly do YOU spell the B-word???’