Sunday, August 14, 2005

"He coulda been a bartender."

I was remembering something that happened in 1999, not long after Columbine, in my classroom back in my former school. . . .

8th grade.

I had a student who was really a pretty nice kid; he might have done fairly well if his mother could have left him alone and let the school do its job. He was ADHD but with the help of his medication and some patience on both our parts and a little trying on his part, he might have done well. I gave him extra time on all of his assignments, and a peaceful corner of the room in which he could retreat and work with fewer distractions, when he needed such. It was his choice whether or not to move there.

Unfortunately, it was also his choice to NOT do most of his assignments at all. It was his choice to watch tv at home, and play video games, rather than do his homework. His mother came in to talk about it, oh, maybe a hundred or so times. Maybe a thousand. Talk. She wouldn't turn off the tv or unplug the video game system, but she did love to come to school and talk to all her son's teachers about how hard he worked and how unfair it was to require things of him, and how she could never limit his tv watching because that would punish the whole family, etc.

I told her that not doing his homework was a choice he was certainly allowed to make, but that if he made that choice, he should be prepared to take the consequences.

Momzilla did not believe he should have the same consequences as the other students. He was sensitive. And besides, homework was infringing on their family time, which was basically sitting in front of the tv for five or six hours every night.

Whoops, that was a judgement on my part. Sorry. How utterly UN-PC of me.

I also mentioned to her that perhaps if he arrived at school on time, instead of fifteen to twenty minutes tardy every morning, he might not feel so rushed in my classroom.

She went off like a volcano. It was NOT his fault that he was late every morning, it was HERS. She didn't want him riding the bus because of all the mean kids that teased him, so she drove him to school every day. But she had trouble hearing her alarm clock because she liked to stay up late so most of the time she overslept and he was tardy to school.

I suggested an alarm clock for her son. She told me that as his mother, it was her responsibility to wake her children in the morning. She told me that I should be ashamed of myself for marking him tardy every morning because it wasn't his fault. She told me that if I HAD to mark someone tardy, I should mark HER tardy since she was the one responsible for the chronic lateness. I told her that I had no choice but to mark her son tardy; it was out of my hands. And I told her that I could not mark HER tardy since she was not enrolled in my class.

She said, "Well, we'll see about that one," and went downstairs.

I was told to cut the boy some slack about the lateness. It wasn't his fault.


The boy was failing anyway. I gave him every chance in the world but he set everything to the side and said he'd 'finish it at home.' Even tests, and when I went to the office to ask what to do, I was told to let him take the tests home.


I let him, but I didn't like it. And, I let him with the stipulation that he bring them back the next day or not at all. I made him sign a contract. I mailed the contract home and had Momzilla sign it. They signed.

He still didn't turn anything in. At midterm, he was failing.

Then one memorable day, Momzilla came to school again. It was the middle of Period One, and the front doors were all locked tight against a possible Columbine scenario. However, the downstairs elementary teachers had propped open a side door, and after trying all the doors she found the open one, and slipped inside the school and up the back stairs to my classroom.

She walked into the classroom without knocking and loudly tried to give me about a dozen of her son's papers, most of which had been due two or more weeks ago. Most of which had been filled out in her handwriting. I told her it was too late, and that I would not accept the papers, and that any papers done in handwriting other than her son's would not be accepted at any time.

She went berserk. She didn't exactly hit me, but she pushed me into the corner of the classroom with her finger, repeatedly "tapping" me in the chest and screaming. My students were terrified; they ran to the back of the room and crammed up against the wall with each other. The call button was on the other side of the room. I was trapped; they were paralyzed with fright, she was screaming and 'tapping' me with her finger. . . .

And then the secretary came on the loudspeaker in my room and asked me where my attendance slip was. I said, 'Send help NOW,' and a few minutes later the principal came running.

He sent me to the lounge so I could cry and stop shaking in private, and he took the mother down to the office. Another teacher took my class for the remaining few minutes of the period.

After I had calmed down, I went back and finished out the day. It was a Friday.

Saturday morning, I noticed that Momzilla had left a huge bruise on my chest with her persistently tapping, accusing finger.

Monday morning, I showed that bruise to the principal, and told him that I had been advised by friends and other teachers to press charges against Momzilla. He told me not to do so, because the school was going to take care of the issue for me. I agreed, and thanked him.

The next morning, Momzilla was back in the office, grading papers and xeroxing coloring book pages for the elementary teachers.

I asked the principal about that. He told me that she said she was sorry.


I had a classroom of traumatized 13-year-olds, and a bruise the size of a baseball on my chest, but it was now okay because she was SORRY?

That's right. Nothing else was ever done.

She was a fixture in the school all the rest of the year.

I had another teacher grade and record all his work for the remainder of the year, lest she accuse me of cheating him out of points. He failed the class. In fact, he failed everything. Of course, he went on to high school anyway, but don't even get me started on that policy.

On Honor Day, the principal gave Momzilla an award because she had been so helpful.

Public school.

This is only one of many memorable happenings. When I think about it, I'm not sure why I loved and protected and made allowances for so many things when I was there.

I don't think I've mentioned recently how much I love my current job?

I ADORE my job.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:54 PM | |


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