Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Parents

I wanted to tell him that I was happy to see him, but also to ask him where he has been the rest of the year. The student had failed every quarter with the minimum grade of a 50, and failed every progress report before that. I have tried calling home multiple times. I have requested a parent conference on every progress report and report card. The young man does absolutely no homework and only about half the classwork. And now, in late February, I am meeting the father for the first time, with an unannounced drop-by after school yesterday.

I didn't, of course. But I just don't understand uninvolved parents. To be blessed with kids, and then not do anything regarding their education. It's just unfathomable to me. I tire of excuses about this.

So far, this slightest bit of effort to show some interest in his education has worked. The kid, one of my favorites, stayed after school pretty late writing his essay after his dad stopped by. It worked already, at least a little bit. It was the most earnest and hardest working I'd ever seen him.

The other parent who visited this week knocked on my door in the middle of class, showing me the fake report card her son had made for her a couple of months ago. Our report cards, which are not mailed home, but rather sent with the students or provided for pickup at conferences for the parents, are printed on regular paper using Courier New font. They are printed on regular printer paper, though sometimes the paper color is color. In other words, they are very easy to duplicate. This young man had created a report card for himself that gave him all 70s and 80s for the first quarter.

I've spoken with the parent numerous times before, but this was my first time meeting her. My pointed disappointment in what this kid had done was no match for hers; she had tears in her eyes. She couldn't believe that this young man would do this. I really couldn't either. In reality, the kid received six grades in the 60s and one grade in the 50s. Even though the mom was involved via calls to teachers, she didn't know until she visited the school and had the report card pulled.

To make matters worse, the mother had a heart attack this quarter, and the step-father headed under the knife for open-heart surgery yesterday. The kid is under a lot of pressure, and he might have felt like he didn't want to add to the stress of the house by bringing home a bad report card. Still, you don't lie like that.

He's certainly one of the kids I've connected with the most this year. We knocked on doors together for hours down in Virginia for Barack Obama in October. We talk baseball nearly every day and he's going to try out this year. But he's got a lot of growing up to do. I'm going to try to help him do that the best I can.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

it is for moments like the one you describe that you teach. as painful and heartbreaking as those moments are. at the end of the year you have the amazing feeling of knowing you helped someone's life. that has to be the most rewarding thing of all.

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Kate said...

This is a really touching post, and a good reminder to parents like me how much difference we can make in our kids' school success. Yet, you've also reflected accurately how hard it is sometimes even for interested parents to get the full story of what's happening at school. Thanks for sharing your perspective.