Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Handling Teachers...

For the most part, my girls have had good teachers throughout their education. They liked some more than others, who doesn’t. But I always told them that they have to “feel” each teacher out at the beginning and figure out what they are looking for. You can’t always have teachers you love. On the other hand, sometimes teachers and schools can be unreasonable and my girls weren’t the kind that were going to open their mouths and say anything. That’s a mother’s job and I did my job.

My older daughter was in a prestigious public high school. She graduated valedictorian of her middle school and was in a high school full of valedictorians. It was very difficult to say the least. She worked hard and would do homework up until 10 or later each night and her weekends were for studying and working on projects. She got a damn good education, but it came at a very high, anxiety producing cost. But she selected the school and she lived with her decision. 

One day she submitted a paper on the trade routes between Japan and China back in the 800’s to 1100’s.  In any case, there was virtually no information on this topic. We went to several libraries and were lucky to find a page here or there in some old books. She gathered all her information and wrote a decent paper. She got an “F” as did several other students, for not properly citing her sources. The problem was that the students had never been taught how to cite sources, but no one wanted to hear any excuses. An “F” was devastating, to put it mildly. My daughter came home in tears. She worked so hard on the paper and would have done it properly if taught. I was livid! I couldn’t bear to see her so distraught, so I suggested she talk to the teacher. She flatly refused and began to explain why. She had an English teacher who had assigned a paper, but failed to return them in a timely fashion. A student complained about it and the teacher retaliated by giving the whole class a boatload of extra work. Word had gotten around the school about the incident. So my daughter was afraid to speak to her history teacher for fear of retaliation. I said, fine, (as steamed poured out of my ears), I will call the school and speak to the principal. She almost died, telling me I couldn’t do that. I said I won’t give my name. She told me they might trace the phone number back to her! I didn’t know what to do frankly, but I wasn’t going to take this lying down. Finally, I suggested that I would call using a phone card that they couldn’t trace. She agreed that I could try it. 

 I get my phone card and proceed to call the principal, who is not in.  I call again and ask for the assistant principal. This woman aggravated me to no end. I explained to her I was a parent of a student, but could not give my name because my daughter was afraid of retaliation. I explained how upset my daughter was and how concerned I was and needed to talk to someone. She refused to speak to me, because without a name, I could be some nut on the street! I was frustrated to no end. This is a school with the cream of the crop of students, always saying that they are concerned about them and now there is a problem and I am getting nowhere. I move down the chain to the guidance counselor. 

The guidance counselor also wants my name. I tell her I cannot give it, my daughter is scared to death. I said let me tell you what the problem is. I proceed to tell her all about the “F” and how the kids were never taught to cite sources. She says she can’t help me without a name. She says my daughter should talk to the teacher about it.  I tell her she is too afraid and that I even had to use a phone card to call for fear this would be traced back to her!  The guidance counselor says that she has no reason to be afraid, all the teachers are out for the well being and education of the children. I sigh and take in a deep breath. Then I tell her, yes, that is what you all say, but my daughter is here is tears and afraid. Do you know the story abut her teacher Ms. Kahn? The English teacher who didn’t return the papers fast enough and a student complained so she retaliated against the whole class giving them extra work?  Silence on the other end. So I say, so you have heard of it?  That’s why she is afraid and now I can’t get anyone to help her. Finally she says she will talk to the teacher about it. The issue was resolved the next day when the teacher told the class that they could correct their papers with added citations and get a “C.” It was better than nothing. The whole incident still makes me furious. 

Maybe I will come up with other “school” related stories this week. As mothers we have to be advocates for our children. Even when they are at school, and their well being is supposed to be a priority, it’s not. Children don’t always have a voice or use it. Sometimes we have to step in and speak for them. I learned this from my mother, who never hesitated to protect and speak up for my brother and I when the situation called for it.

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