Friday, September 22, 2006

Dude looks like a teacher

Last night I had Parent/Teacher conferences at the kids' school. I had an appointment in 2nd grade at 6:15 and an appointment in 4th grade at 6:30. Up until Abby hit 3rd grade, PT Conferences have always been pleasant, parental skill-confirming experiences, but now, not so much. I dread them. Well, at least for Abby. For now, Sam is still sweet, innocent and sans attitude and his conferences still go well - but he's only a year away from 3rd grade, so my time is more than likely limited. I hope I'm wrong.

I stood outside the 2nd grade door and waited until Ms. 2nd Grade called me in, biding my time by talking with another set of parents also waiting their turn. She called me in and I took a seat in a very squeaky chair on wheels and took the progress report she handed me. All A's. No surprise there. We discussed his attitude toward school and school work. I asked if his drive to succeed was an okay thing in 2nd grade. She assured me that for now it was working to his advantage. He's a good kid, a smart kid and she had no real concerns.

Sam reminds me a lot of me - his absolute need to succeed and be the best overpowers him sometimes. It worked to my advantage as well, until I went to college and it kicked my butt and I quit school. I really have issues with success, obviously. I admire my son's determination, but I know that eventually he's going to get knocked on his rear and it's going to hurt. But for now, he's a few months away from eight, he's one of the top students in his class and he's taking 2nd grade by storm. Nothing wrong with that. It's hard to watch your child do the same things you did as a kid, though, and stand by, watching, while they refuse to listen to your words of wisdom that it's okay to make less than an A+ kind of in the same way you ignored your own parents.

Parenting is hard.

The kids' classrooms are directly across from each other, but you have to walk through the teacher's lounge to make a straight line. I excused myself through a group of chatting teachers and heard a male voice say, "I'll be there in a minute. Go on in." Mr. 4th Grade was chatting with Ms. 4th Grade and I must say that just from his voice saying those few words I knew that the conference wasn't going to go all that well. Call it my mother's intuition, call it fear, call it a sixth sense regrading my success as a parent.

I went into the classroom and took a seat on the other side of his desk and waited. I tried to push away the dread, I pulled out Sam's grade sheet and tried to focus on that happiness, I checked out the seating arrangement in the room, I wanted a cigarette. Mr. 4th Grade nearly scared the snot out of me when he came in the room and shut the door behind him. After releasing my grip from the ceiling tiles because I shot straight up out of my chair, I giggled and said, "Oh great, you shut the door. That is never, ever good." He smiled and said that he teaches with the door shut and that he just feels that what goes on in his classroom is to stay in the classroom. I giggled again and said, "Just like Vegas! What happens here, stays here?" He kind of stopped fiddling with his computer and said, "Well, yes . . . I guess." Crap. I was instantly seven years old again and felt like I was sitting in the principal's office.

He folded his hands on the big calendar planner that covered most of his desk, a big gigantic calendar planner like I've always wanted for reasons I really can't explain, and said, "Now. Is there anything you'd like to address before we get started?" I really didn't have any concerns - Ab's grades are so much better than they were last year, and even though she drowns in homework most nights, she seems to be handling it well and isn't drinking Zantac like it's kool-ade and chewing Maalox like they're Sweetarts. No, 4th grade was going pretty well, actually. I told him as much and he told me that she's a good student, a bit chatty, but a good kid. He's had to move her a couple of times due to talking, which frankly surprised me, but the magnitude of my surprises was yet to be realized.

He printed out a progress report, which was a little different from the one she brought me earlier in the week. Instead of one C, she now had two. The C in English was simply because she's not doing her journal. I considered suggesting that maybe she has writer’s block, because I am sometimes plagued with that, but decided that I wasn't going to justify my daughter's laziness with writer’s block and instead said that we'd address that. The other C is in Math; not surprising really. Her mind works like her mother's - she's more comfortable with words and letters and sentence structure than she will probably ever be with numbers, integers, values and that whole adding letters to numbers thing. He stated that she struggles in Math, a fact I knew and agreed with. She has a 98% in Social Studies - the class she had D's and F's in last year. She scored a 96% on her 50 States test - something I didn't accomplish my entire 7th grade year when Mr. McGee tested us weekly until we got all 50 states correct. Other than those two C's, the rest of her grades were solid A's and B's. Yay, Abby! I was beaming!

He and I discussed the monthly orthodontist appointments and he asked that I not schedule them on Mondays anymore, which I'm not sure can be done because I'm not sure Dr. K does orthodontic appointments on other days, gotta check on that. He told me that they are to wear their Halloween costumes to the Fall Follies and then asked why I had such a strange look on my face. He looked directly at me and asked with a grin, "Okay. What is she going to be for Halloween?" I couldn't make eye contact when I told him that she was dressing Goth for Halloween this year, a fact that makes my mother cringe at the mere mention, by the way. He didn't seem amused either when he said, "Hmh. Well, you might want to make her a princess or something instead." Yeah right. That'll go over like a lead balloon. I doubt many 4th graders will be princesses this year. She’d die of mortification.

Then with all of the business and niceties done he then folded his hands together on his gigantic planner that I was so envious of and said, "Now, I need to tell you that I was really not happy with your daughter today." I could tell by his voice and his body language that this was not going to be good. Here was the little rain cloud that was threatening to rain on my sparkly, happy, sunny, rainbow-y evening of conferences. I mustered up some voice and said, "Oh no. What happened." There was no question to it, just a flat statement acknowledging the fact that I was about to hear something so very not good. Millions of thoughts were racing through my head. Had she held hands with *Chance* on the playground? Had she gotten into a yelling match with her former best friend? Had she started a food fight in the cafeteria? All of those things I was certain that I'd have been called over, but there had been no call from the principal that day. I was perplexed and filled with dread.

"She came up to my desk today and called me Dude." My hand instantly went to my mouth before I could stop it. She called her teacher Dude? Oh holy night. He explained that he had told her that wasn't acceptable, that it was disrespectful and that he had never called her by anything but her own name and only expected the same thing from her and I sat there dumbly with my hand over my mouth, listening in horror and trying not to giggle. Oh, but that wasn't the best part. When he finished telling her that Dude was not something we call our teachers she shrugged and said, "Okay, Jones." My hand was instantly vacuumed to my face when I sucked in my breath. My face instantly flushed - partly from utter embarrassment and horror at my eldest child's lack of respect and partly because I was so angry that I was seriously wondering if stringing her up by her toes would be an appropriate punishment. And I was still trying not to giggle -amidst my horror.

My precious, shy, sweet, good-natured days-away-from-being-a-ten-year-old called her teacher by his last name only. I wanted to rewind the entire day to the part right before she walked out the door to get on the bus and as soon as I hit play I would say, "Hey, Abby, have a good day and please make sure you include 'Mr.' in front of your teacher's name today, okay? I love you!" That would've made it all better. But as it was, my time travel machine was well, nonexistent and I was now sitting in front of a very angry teacher's desk wanting to fall into that proverbial nearest hole in the ground.

I've discussed here before the fact that we do allow our children a few liberties in the slang department. And I've stated that we've made it amply clear the places they can and can't say those words and if they say them in the wrong place, they pay the consequences. Well, I guess I forgot to include the fact that calling a teacher "dude" is way, way wrong. And that shrugging away his reprimand with a snotty "Okay, Jones" is even way wronger. (Yes, horrific grammar, sue me.)

This parent thing just keeps getting harder.

When my ability to speak returned, I assured her teacher that disrespect like that is simply not tolerated at home and that I had no clue where she got that clever little idea. I'm sure every parent when caught in a situation like that will assure the teacher/principal/judge/parole officer that they "have no idea where she got that," but I really don't have any idea! Here at home we insist that they say "yes" and not "yeah," that they say "no" instead of "nope" or "nuh uh," and they more often than not say "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir." I just assumed that they were that respectful at school, too. That assuming thing gets me every time.

I called Paul on the way home and when he said hello I said, "Is our oldest daughter doing anything fun at this very moment?" He said he wasn't sure and I replied with, "Well, go check and see if she is. And if she is - STOP HER FROM DOING IT because she is in OH so very much trouble!" By the time I had gotten home she'd already been given the heads up and was curled up on her bunk bed, sulking and reading. I guess she had tried to lie to her daddy about the whole incident when he called her on it, so double trouble now. Poor kid, she just didn't get it. She swears she didn't realize that dude was all that disrespectful. There were tears, there were reprimands, there were threats, there was grounding.

Have I mentioned that this parent thing keeps getting harder?

I called Tater to tell her, and other than gasping in sheer disbelief and repeating that she couldn't believe it, she didn't say anything harsh to me. My mother, however, wasn't so easy on me. She is now convinced that I'm raising a delinquent - a disrespectful juvenile delinquent (and from what I hear, those are the ones that start the prison riots.) If the Goth Halloween costume didn't convince her, the incident with the dude that teaches her 4th grade skillz did.

This parent thing........oh, you know.


Anonymous said...

The whole respect for elders I get, but I think Abby's teacher totally overreacted. Somedays kids just can't help themselves, and even though she had a second chance and blew it by calling him by his last name, I still think he sounds like an ass! My mom taught fifth grade for 29 years, and she would never have treated you or your daughter like that. I think you are a great parent.

Hillbilly Mom said...

At least she didn't slap the librarian's ass. That's what my youngest boy did last year. It was after school, in the teacher workroom, as she was digging her mail out of the mailbox. She thought it was hilarious. I did not. He was 7 then. You might want to include THAT warning as Sam walks out the door.

Shannon akaMonty said...

Dude, you have NO idea. :)

I would've felt the same way as you...but I also think the teacher MAY have overreacted just a tad. But I think he was definitely right to bring it to your attention, even though he sounds sort of like he has a stick up his ass anyways. :D

And OH MY LORD IN HEAVEN I swear my head is going to explode over fifth grade math. I mean it.
My girl just doesn't get it. I can't make her get it. Hell, I don't even get it sometimes.

Let's pack 'em off to boarding school, like Hogwarts or something cool like that.
If it's Hogwarts, I want to go. We'll leave the kids at home. :)

Carmel said...

OK, maybe because it wasn't my child. Or maybe because my children are grown and we've survived oh so much worse things that we now include as part of stories to tell about the kids to embarass them. But I laughed. And, I'm not sure I wouldn't have laughed when Mr. Fourth grade told me about it. Really. He overreacted. Now laugh. You are so right to get on to your daughter, but in private you can think about it and laugh. It really will be funny in a few years. Really.

Kellyology said...

OK...maybe I'm too young fashioned, but I have to admit that I laughed over your daughter’s “Jones” comment. I commend her quick wit. As an ex-H.S. teacher who dealt with far more serious issues other than an occasional disrespectful “dude,” I also have to say that really, unless she’s showing a pattern of disrespect towards authority figures, I wouldn’t have even brought this subject up during the conference. Of course, you were talking to the teacher who didn’t laugh at your “Vegas” joke. I’m always suspicious of people who don’t laugh at my jokes, and you are far funnier than I am.

Melessa Gregg said...

I just might meet you tomorrow, but I want to say tonight that while what she did should be addressed, her teacher does seem to be overreacting not to mention seriously lacking a sense of humor.

Cazzie!!! said...

Oh man...he needs to lighten up a bit. Sure, Abbey may have crossed a dreaded line there, but, I bet, at her age, she is just seeing how far she can stretch things..and, she now knows the limits. I bet she never forgets it too!!
At our PT interviews, the children are required to be present. It is nerve wracking for both the kid and the parent then (sighs).
Nick the 7yr old went very well half year , Tom, needs to keep up with his reading and putting in the homework he does, when he has completed it..apart from that, me being a non-smoker and all..I feel like a ciggy after a PT interview too!!!

MamaKBear said...

I hope that with all the drama over her "dude" faux paux, that you remembered to at least praise her for bringing up her grades so much. THAT was quite an accomplishment! :)

Mrs. E said...

This guy must be new at this, right? I can imagine being really bent out of shape when I was younger. Now, I just call them on their lack of respect and threaten to tear an arm off and beat them with the bloody end or to whack them up the side of the head. That respect thing comes back really quickly. The LOOK and humor go so much farther than the ranting I used to do. Please keep on praising the child over her improved grades and don't over react. I'm sure she got the message loud and clear. With you as her parent, she will get the respect thing down in no time. They don't give out manuals when you become a parent. Trial and error plus a lot of prayer seem to be the only things available to us. Keep up the good work. At least you go to PT conferences.

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