I had recently sold my insurance company and returned to the classroom, and it was the first day of school back as a teacher.
I stood in the office as a lady who I didn’t know threaten me regarding actions she could – and would – take in the event things didn’t go her way with one of my students.
“I will call Montgomery,” she exclaimed. “I’ll call Washington!”
I listened patiently as she pointed at the student and expounded both his rights and her rights. “You’d better treat him right,” she warned me.
My eyes followed her hands, and on cue I looked toward the child and then back at her. My principal was standing at the ready only a few feet away, I assumed to take charge of the situation. But my principal wouldn’t be needed.
Once the lady was done, or better yet, once I had heard all I wanted to hear, I shared my piece.
“Madam, I have read this young man’s file. It does not paint a flattering picture. If I am to teach my students the objectives they need and the objectives I am required to teach, then I must have order in my class.
“As I reviewed this student’s file I didn’t see order; I see the lack of order. If he does any of the things in my class that he has done in the past, there will be consequences. So I would suggest you get on that phone and call Washington, Montgomery and anyone else you deem necessary, because I will not tolerate him acting up in my class. Perhaps you should request a different teacher.”
Eyes widened, the office phone stopped ringing and the office clock stopped ticking. Somewhere in the walls, a family of mice abandoned its plans to raid the cafeteria. On the playground, kickballs deflated. Everyone stood still as if frozen in place like we were playing the adult version of Red Light-Green Light. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw some tumbleweed rolling down the hall. Only eyes moved as individuals looked from one person to another.
Finally, the silence was broken with her reply, only this time she didn’t speak to me, instead she spoke to my student. For the first time he actually became an active part of the conversation.
“This is Mr. Williams,” she said, not as introduction but as a point of fact. “You’d better do as he says in his class or you will get into trouble.”
The young student looked at me and then back at her and said, “Yes, madam.” The clock on the wall started ticking again and the entire room went back to normal.
That is the way it should be – parents and teachers working together, presenting a united front in our effort to how children accountable. I for one will not have parents holding me to a higher standard then they hold themselves. How can you point at the toothpick in my eye when you have a parental log in your eye?
To borrow a quote from Eric Lavender, “Parenting is hard work!” You have to read to your child and teach them how to act and react. It starts with teaching them the word ‘no’ as a baby, and it continues as you add words like ‘hot’ and ‘stop.’ You must teach them not to talk to strangers and help them develop a sense of good and bad. Parents must teach their children that ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘may I’ are required words. These are lifelong lessons that are taught over and over until they stick.
I can recall my parents saying, “You don’t have to be smart to get a good conduct mark.” And they were correct. Jim Bogle’s dad wouldn’t allow him to have ADD. It just wasn’t an option.
What we have now is malpractice parenting. There are parents who never see a report card and don’t know their child isn’t graduating until their name isn’t called on graduation night. If we are to turn things around, it must begin at home. If you want a true picture of the state of our society, we need to find a way to hold parents accountable. Perhaps the next time I am confronted like that, I will call Washington or Montgomery.
David Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.