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Monday, March 17, 2008

My crazy is crazier than your crazy

I just learned today that parent conference night is this Thursday. Of course, I'm sure it's been on the official school calendar all year long, but I'll admit right now, I very rarely look at that thing. So, I've allowed it to creep up on me...

I was about to write something else, when a really really nasty thought broke into my mind. It only at this very moment occurred to me that parent conference night on Thursday means I don't get to watch ANY basketball that day. I already knew I was going to be missing the early games because of the school day, but I was looking forward to going home and having an evening full of basketball, followed by an entire day of basketball, since we have Good Friday off. Now I'm going to miss ALL of Thursday!!!


Anyway, moving past that little detail (which really SUCKS!!), let's get back on the theme of conference night. And while we're at it, let's tie that into this week's


OK, here's this week's question: What is your worst parent conference? This could be during parent-teacher conference night, a conference over the phone, or just a random conference at any time with the parent.

If we're talking worst foot in the mouth moment ever, I'd probably have to go with the time that I asked a little girl's mother if she was her BROTHER. That certainly didn't earn me any brownie points.

But I had a phone conference last year that literally left me in tears. My hands were shaking, and my eyes were watering, because I was so angry after talking with this mother. I had called her after recess to tell her that her son was going to be suspended for cussing out on the playground. (The cussing was the last in a long line of transgressions.) Right off the bat, the mother asks me, "Well, did you tell him not to cuss?" Admirably, I bit back my first response of, "No, but I also never told him not to swallow a mountain goat whole, yet he seems to understand that he shouldn't do that."

Her next argument was, "Kids cuss at school all day long." I replied, "Not in my class, they don't." She immediately responded, "Well, was he IN your class, or was he on the playground?"

Later, when I told her that he was going to have to stay home for one day, she declared, "I really don't think it's going to teach him any kind of lesson if he just gets to stay home and watch cartoons and eat ice cream all day." Yeah, I think we can finally agree on something.


Anyway, now it's your turn. Tell me all about your worst conversation or actions with a parent. This is week three of the March Monday Madness Contest, so when you respond, you're entering yourself into the drawing for a great book or a fun T-shirt!


Unknown said...

Here's mine. It was several years ago, during my first year teaching, two days before report cards for the 5th six-weeks grading period. A parent called the office and had them send me a request for a progress report. I filled out the report, noting that the kid had completed none of his homework assignments, had failed a couple of tests, and was failing for the six weeks. Moments after sending the report to the office, the office buzzed my room & said a parent wanted to see me immediately after school. Boy, did I know I was in for it then.

I went to the office after school, and this particular parent, in the presence of a guidance counselor and the principal, proceeded to scream at me, at the top of her lungs for about 10 minutes: "YOU ARE A HORRIBLE TEACHER!! YOU DON'T HAVE CONTROL OF YOUR CLASS!! YOU AREN'T TEACHING MY SON ANYTHING!!! YOU HAVEN'T TAUGHT HIM ANYTHING ALL YEAR!!! YOU'RE JUST HORRIBLE!!!!" I never said a word -- sat there completely in shock. When she was finished, the principal said that I would allow the student to turn in all the late homework for full credit and allow him to re-take the tests he had failed. And he also said that neither of us was to talk about the incident at all outside the office.

Of course, that last bit wasn't necessary -- the entire school had heard her carrying on, and several colleagues expressed sympathy with me later, even though I never brought it up.

Mister Teacher said...

Are you kidding me?? Your principal backed that crap??? Sheesh.

Joel said...

Well, I had a series of conferences with a parent this year. It all began before the school year officially started, in fact. We were in summer band, and she shows up after rehearsal one day and asked me why I wasn't giving her son individual attention. I explained that he had not expressed any problems to me and that I would be sure to be more aware of it. I also recommended he get out his beginning band book because she told me he hadn't been playing all summer long.

She wasn't happy. A few days later, she came back up after rehearsal. She ended up calling both the high school band director and my principal and complaining. I told her the same information, that he should get his beginning band book and work on refreshing his memory of the notes some.

At the fourth meeting we had (and the second with the principal), she said he was still struggling. Her son and husband were also there. She said he was still feeling like he was behind. I explained that he was first chair and that he seemed to be doing all right.

I then asked how he had been doing working in the beginning book like we had previously discussed. She told me he didn't have it and that he hadn't been able to find it since last school year.

We didn't have any conferences after that.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Gosh, I wish I could remember word for word some of the crazy parent conferences we've had (we meet as a team), but so many of them are so off the wall, it's hard to even put them into coherent form.

However, we've had our share of nutballs. The one mother who brought a boombox to tape record every conversation was a good one. She met with teachers/principals on a nearly daily basis as she had two psychotic kids at school (one of which is now expelled - he lasted a week at the alternative school). She was certifiable. The Principal would always just tell us to leave and deal with her later.

Another favorite is the mother who got all over me and the AP for suspending her kid for stealing (for the umpteenth time) from my room. He got caught on film, so there was no denying it. However, she called stealing, "borrowing". Can't wait until he tries that with the local law enforcement in a few years.

HappyChyck said...

The worst? How do I choose? The worst conference I ever had was actually quite pleasant, except for the parent grilling me a little about how I gave her student a hard time for drawing inappropriate symbols on her assignment. I accepted the assignment, but I did feel the need to comment. Who wouldn't? Whatever. After the meeting, my colleague asked me if I'd had problems with the mother, and I said I hadn't. He thought it was quite strange because before I arrived the parent said all kinds of horrible things behind my back! I suppose they were things she wanted to say to my face, but she lost her nerve.

I gathered my nerve and went back into the principal's office and said, "I understand that before I arrived you had some things you wanted to say to me, but apparently you didn't have a chance during the meeting..." Of course it hit the fan! A half hour later what it really came down to is that the woman was projecting her hatred of HER high school English teacher onto me. And because she had been "helping" her daughter a little too much on her English work, when I gave feedback for her daughter to make changes, the mother took it personally. Sounds like a personal problem to me...

Edna Lee said...

I do not generally post a link to my own blog within another blogger's comments, so I ask that you please forgive my rudeness this one time, but this entry I recently posted sums up my worst parent experience. This parent is a nightmare, and my posting mentions only a few of her accusations. I felt so much better after writing this:

As for parent conferences, I had one mother who had a giant booger hanging out of her nose throughout our meeting. I tried to do the subtle "Nose Wipe" sign that most people interpret to mean, "Holy Crap! She's scratching her nose because I have something hanging out of mine!!!" It usually works. Not this time, I guess.

IMC Guy said...

I had the son of a principal in my district several years ago. At the conference, which started out fairly normal, the mom (the principal) started going off on me how I wasn't fostering her son's creativity and that the only homework I was sending home was worksheet based (not true). She continued to rip me and say I wasn't doing her son any good. I was in my third or fourth year of teaching at this point and got along with her son just fine. She even said her son would have been better prepared for fourth grade if he would have repeated second grade instead of being in my class.

Since then, I've felt very uncomfortable around her, but a few years ago, brought up the situation and she does not hold anything against me. We've had to work professionally on a few things and it's been okay.

Sorry to hear about Thursday - I can only imagine what that would be like. If I were you, I'd head straight to the nearest sports bar after conferences and enjoy the remaining games with a few adult beverages!

Mister Teacher said...

Mrs. Bluebird, love the "borrowing" comment. I had a lady last year yell at me for telling her that her son had lied to her. She said she preferred for me to say that he was "telling stories." OK, he's "telling stories" his @$$ off, lady!
HappyChyck, good for you for going back into the fire!!
Edna Lee -- HOW DARE YOU POST A LINK TO YOUR SITE ON MY -- wait, what's wrong with that? Just read your post, and it's a great one. I love when kids say I didn't let them go to the bathroom. Usually, it's true! It's because when we've JUST returned from the bathroom 10 minutes ago, I'm NOT going to let them leave the class just because they chose to spend 5 minutes playing instead of peeing!!! I have my standards!!
IMC, I hope the parents don't mind that I have the sports radio on during our conference, or that when they say Little Billy has had trouble with fractions, I jump up and yell, "YES!! HIT THE THREE!!!!"

Joel said...

Well, about the restroom, I figure by the time they get to middle school, they should know how to handle that. When I first started teaching, they would take advantage of it.

My third year was probably my most hardcore classroom management year, and so I virtually never let kids use the restroom unless it was a dire emergency.

We were in an after-school sectional, when I am generally more relaxed. We had restrooms in a hallway attached to the band hall. A 6th grader raises his hand, I notice the tell-tale signs of a boy who has soiled himself. He asks if he can go to the restroom.

I think both of us learned a lesson that day...

Unknown said...

"Are you kidding me?? Your principal backed that crap??? Sheesh."

Yeah -- that was the worst part. Not that I got screamed at by a parent -- I already knew she was a nut, but that the principal didn't stand up for me at all.

kath said...

If you think Thursday is bad, think of the high school teachers who had parent conferences last night.

Though it seems only the PTA showed up....

Worst parent conferences -- I think when I was teaching English for Math and my students were just off the plane.... "No English, Miss". Parents didn't know English either, and while knowing Spanish might have helped a few, the majority of my parents spoke an African dialect (and not the same one).

We just stared at each other, smiled, and I said "good". Have the time I wasn't even sure which parent belonged to which kid.

But at least they came.

Nunyaa said...

I'm a parent of a boy who was swearing in the most extreme in school. He was suspended for 5 days. He didn't spend his time watching television and eating icecream, he had work to do at home from his teacher and had to miss out on tv entirely plus few other privledges. I feel for teachers when parents seem to think it is ok for their kids to swear as if it was 2nd nature. You can only imagine what the mother in your story is like as well. My child swore and it was unacceptable behaviour he knew there would be consequences and I support the school.

abhaille said...

I would have to say my most painful conference occurred the first day I came back after a small "cardiac incident."

Report cards had gone home and I had failed a soccer player. His father called and said that his child couldn't play unless I changed his grade. I told him that his child was a senior and knew full well that he had done NO work at all the entire six weeks. I knew the kid was a soccer player and I counseled with him several times and told him that I couldn't "pay" him for no work.

The father argued with me and argued with me and told me that it wasn't like his child needed my class to graduate. I agreed, but I told him that the student DID have to pass the class if he wanted to play soccer. He maintained that his son had done all the required work for the class and that it was wonderful quality. I told him that if this student had done any work at all, he hadn't done it in class and he hadn't turned anything in.

Then the father went so far as to say that it wasn't like my class was important after all. I told him I was really sorry that his son made the choice to do absolutely nothing in a class he had to pass in order to be eligible.

I'm feeling my blood pressure go up as this half hour long conversation dragged on. I told dad that I wasn't about to change the student's grade.

Then the kid comes in and says "I want you to change my grade." I ask him to show me some work and he pulls out work that had been done by another student (no wonder Dad thought he'd done stuff) I said "Yeah, John did that. I meant work that YOU had done." Then they sic the principal on me who asks if we can work something out.

I explain that the kid did NOTHING other than disrupt class.

They finally left me alone, but it was a painful process.

Mrs. T said...

My strangest parent conference was one in which I was there to be an interpreter for the associate principal and the truant officer. The mom was all kinds of nutty- drawing welfare from 3 different states, kids always truant and in trouble. So things were getting kind of heated- the mom actually spoke English pretty well, but they had me just to cover all their bases. The ap and the officer were telling me things like "Tell her if her kids don't come to school, we're going to arrest her and take her down to the station." Um, yeah. Please don't kill the messenger.
When the mom had had enough and just wanted out of there, she pretended to vomit and ended up leaving the room. My ap thought it was MY job to go check on her. The mom thought it was HER job to get the hell out of there, so when I finally went to see how she was, she'd already ditched us.

W.R. Chandler said...

A couple years ago, I had a 7th grader who was just lazy. He did no work, he sat there like a lump in class and did nothing but disrupt. He also had quite the potty mouth, and was a pervert to boot.

One day while the class was lined up outside, this kid pointed at one of the pretty girls in the class who was wearing something a little too revealing. He made the "curvy" gesture with his hands and told his buddies, "Man, I'd like to tap that ass!" I sent him to the office. Keep in mind that after school that day, there was an SST scheduled with all his teachers and his enabling parents.

At the SST, I told the mother what her kid had done and said outside my classroom. The mother stiffened up, gave me this indignant look, and said - and I quote - "You are lying. My son would never speak like that."

OH! I'm sorry lady, that must have been some other kid who looks exactly like your son and was standing no more than 8 feet away from me while I watched him make the gesture and utter the comment about the girl.

The mother also told me that I should not be failing her son because I had not contacted her about his F. When I pulled out my phone log and showed her the five times I left a message on her voice mail, but never got a call back from her, she then changed her story and told me that I hadn't tried hard enough.

The parents defended this kid at every turn during that school year, but lasted until February. He was finally sent to the district alternative school.

Thinking of that kid and his mother still gives me nightmares.

W.R. Chandler said...

Oh man, how can I forget another mother, who came down to the VP's office to meet with the VP and me in order to defend her little hoodlum.

This mom had a gold toof, and a hip-hop t-shirt with some filthy gangsta lyrics on it along with an image of some rapper called Yuk Mouth. Again, her defense was that I never called her, and that this was the first she had heard about her son's behavior.

This time, I had, literally, fifteen phone calls in my log where I had left voice mails about her son's behavior. The mom's story changed, and her excuse was classic - again, I quote - "I'm a single mother and I got nine kids. I ain't got time to be returnin' no damn phone calls!"

The horror.

Joel said...

Evidently she don't got time to be birthin' no babies any more. Or maybe nine is a halfway point?

Dr Pezz said...

I had a parent sit down with me and his first words were, "Let me tell you why your grading system is s--t." It went downhill from there.

Anonymous said...

I'm retired now from teaching but remember vividly how "fun" conferences were. All time worst was when I conferenced with a couple who listened politely while I talked about their son's academics, and then proceeded to give me a wrapped present. I did not know if they wanted me to open it right there, so after the dad told me to open it, I did. It was a spiritual book on the Golden Rule. Apparently I was not treating their son the way they thought I would want to be treated (long story short: first week of school their son got in trouble with me for something they were convinced he did not do). Now I LOVE books, but that certain book tapped the metal garbage can as soon as they left my room!!

Anonymous said...

At the beginning of the year last year, I decided to call each and every parent of my 125 middle school students to say something nice about each kid. This was so time-consuming and such a logistical nightmare that I didn't try to repeat it this year. But here is my favorite conversation from that time.

I call up Johnny's mom. She answers the phone.

"Hi, this is Ms. Writing. Are you Johnny's mom?"

"JOHNNY!", mom screams, "Get your a-- in here right now! Your teacher is calling me already!"

"No!" I answer, "You misunderstand. I'm calling because---"

"JOHNNY! I told you I was going to beat your a--- if your teachers are calling me again!"

"Wait! I'm calling to tell you what a joy it has been to ---"

"Hold on! I'll get him over here. He knows he can't act that way. I told him. JOHNNY! GET YOUR A-- IN HERE!"

"No, please! Listen! I'm just calling to introduce myself and tell you that it's great to meet Johnny and I'm looking forward to--"

"So he ain't in trouble? Johnny are you in trouble?"

"No, no. He isn't in trouble at all."

"Then why the hell are you calling me?"

Oh dear...

Mister Teacher said...

Anonymous, that should certainly teach you where niceness will get you in life with some people...