Monday, March 22, 2010

Bad Interaction with a Parent

I honestly meant to write while I was on Spring Break. Really. I promise that was the intention. I just didn't do it. I did pretty much nothing, which was fantastic. There were lots of things I meant to do (grading, catch up on second drafts of lesson plans, fix the play that the fourth graders are working on) but mostly I sat around and knitted on a blanket I've been trying to finish for awhile after taking it apart and starting over.

There are lots of things that I need to catch the blog world up on. But for now, since I have 15 minutes before walking up to meet The Boy with the dog, I'll write up the most recent.

Over the past year it has come to my attention that the most dangerous and scary part of my day is when the kids are let out after school. Some kids are headed for after school program in the cafeteria, but don't want to go because their friends are waiting for their parents. Other kids peel across the school driveway at break neck speed for their parents' cars that don't follow the one way rule of the school parking lot. Those that are left begin swinging on the gazebo and throwing rocks. We don't use buses, so though we are a small school of about 120, that's 120 children running EVERYWHERE. Enough to put even the sanest of teachers into a pretty serious panic.

At the beginning of the year, I made a suggestion that all teachers walk their students out and line them up along the sort-of-basketball-court and as parents drive by children can get in to cars in a safe and organized fashion. This idea was not looked on favorably. Why? Who knows?
Goodness forbid we all do a little extra work at the end of the day in order to keep the children safe. (Though I gotta say our kindergarten teacher does a great job of keeping her kids corralled and accounted for.)

For the most part, I can keep track of whatever class I'm in charge of during the afternoon (3rd or 4th) during dismissal and speak to the parents I need to speak to. The last few weeks have proven difficult and the weather has improved and children have begun using dismissal as recess in earnest. The gazebo is between the "field" (read: rectangle covered with dirt, rocks, used heroine needles and broken glass) and the driveway. This makes it difficult for me to speak to the parents I need to speak too and keep Juanito from throwing rocks at Paulito.

Having had enough of that I decided that I would line up my students anyway. That way I could at least keep a good eye on the students that I am most responsible for. I started this afternoon. Once we got outside, I sent the students that go to after school program to after school program inside the cafeteria. I sent off the students whose parents were already parked and I lined up the rest.

Matt, a fourth grader has been having a lot of trouble following directions and getting his work done lately. He's labeled as gifted and in many ways he is ahead of the game. Today, however seemed to be particularly difficult for him as he refused to do work for Ms. Jenson this morning or for me this afternoon. And so after a few reminders, I caught myself almost begging him to do work. At this point I sent him to Ms. Hernandez so he could do his work in there. Later Mr. Dido took him for the last half an hour of the day as part of his gifted services. He came out a few minutes after the rest of my class with Mr. Dido. I sent him to after school program. He didn't want to go. (Well, he hadn't followed any other direction today, what would make that simple one any different?)

Gilbert is another of my fourth grade students. His father was waiting for him and so he was one of the students I sent off straight away. After Matt refused to follow the direction of going to after school program, Gilbert came up to him and asked for his phone number. I stopped the conversation and sent Gilbert back to his car, after explaining that Matt had a direction to follow and that this wasn't the best time to be asking anyway. I repeated my direction to Matt and he slouched off to cafeteria after shooting me his best sneer.

A minute later, Gilbert's father came strutting up to me. The following was our conversation while he was keeping cars from continuing through the correct one way:

Him: What was that with Gilbert and Matt?
Me: I'm sorry?
Him: (Angry voice) All Gilbert wanted was Matt's phone number.
Me: (Very respectfully) I understand, it's just been difficult lately to keep all the kids safe after school and since you were already here I sent Gilbert back to you.
Him: (Even angrier voice) IT'S AFTER SCHOOL!
Me: You're right! Well done, that's why you're picking your son up after all! Yes, sir.
Him: (Even angrier voice) You always seem to be annoyed about something! (Then he turned his back and walked away.)
Me: (To his back) I'm sorry you feel that way, Sir.

(I can't remember if it was annoyed or another word exactly, but it was something like that.)

Now, if I had been allowed to continue the conversation in a civilized way, I would have suggested that he and Gilbert walk into the cafeteria together to talk to Matt, or that he could, but I wasn't.

Now, Gilbert also has bouts of not following directions and fooling around in class. I talk to his parents about this. I also mention positive things during these conversations. So in no way am I always annoyed when speaking to him.

I felt a little guilty after this interaction, so I walked myself into the cafeteria and asked Matt for his phone number. He couldn't remember it! He gave me nine numbers and then when I said that couldn't be right, he gave me five. I went outside to pass on this information to find that they had already left.

I was surprised by this interaction because this is one of the families I know the best. I was their daughter Loo Loo's teacher when she was in fourth grade. I tutored her on my own time and was not compensated by them. (The school got a grant from the city.) I drove Gilbert and Loo Loo home a few times this year while their father was in the hospital, so their mother could stay with him or run some errands. (They are right on the way to my house.) And earlier this year Gilbert broke his glasses and on my own time (they even called me over Christmas Break) I helped them get glasses for cheap over the internet.

Now, I did those things as a pay-it-forward-sort-of-thing. My good deed for the day or whatever. But after all this I was hurt to be treated this way by this father. Thankfully, I kept my voice down and was respectful. (Mum taught me well and Sophia taught me how to stand up for myself in front of parents.)

The cool thing was that I was one of the first classes out for dismissal this afternoon. Other teacher saw what I was doing and copied it! So we had grades 1 - 6 lined up on the-sort-of-basketball-court.

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