“How long have you been doing it like this?”

“Years and years.”

“And you’ve never had a problem before?”


I don’t know about you, but this is my 21st year of teaching and my 18th year at the same school, and I have been having the above conversation more in the last couple of years than all my previous years combined. The term that is currently in vogue is “helicopter parenting.”

It always begins with kicking out my servants. My servants work during my prep, and that’s when the principal comes for me.

“Could I talk to Mr. Coward for a minute?”

D’oh! What have I done (or more likely in my case, not done) now?

“Well, I got an email.”

I used to hate seeing that red light on my phone that meant I had voice mail. As I have said many times before, I hate talking on the phone, so I was stoked when the light stopped working. But these days, most people jump straight to email. And they like to try to jump straight to the top of the chain of command.

Here are a few snippets of what comes next…

“They don’t like how you have advertising on your website.” (Sorry. It pays the hosting bills. Now I have to put an interim page with a disclaimer between the link on the school website and my real seventh grade web page. Grumble.)

“They think you’re mocking Jesus.” (Have them come talk to me after 12 years of Catholic school. This is the pic they were talking about. Grumble.)

“Do you really carry a stick around?” (Yes. And I can twirl it like House.)

“Did you tell a student to quit being a baby?” (Which one?)

“Did you throw away homework a student was doing in the cafeteria?” (Long story short: It looked to me like she was copying from her friend. When I confronted her, the face she made could have been on the wall at Cal Lightman’s (from Lie to Me)  place as an example of…well let’s be polite and call it dissembling. I got a letter in my folder. Grumble.)

“Did you say hell in class?” (Yes. I said, “If you don’t get out of this school having learned to read and write well, then high school will be four years of HELL. For you and your parents.”  I give the same speech to the parents at Back-to-School night, but obviously this parent wasn’t there. Grumble.)

Grade whining, excuse making, exemption asking, extra credit begging, can-we-have-the-work-a-week-in-advance-so-we-can-skip-school-for-a-week-on-one-day-notice asking, can’t-she-make-this-up demanding…These are the parents I’m seeing more and more of.  So you can’t really blame the kids all that much sometimes, though God knows that’s difficult. If I were a kid now with parents like that, I would ride that pony until it dropped: “But I thought… Mr. Coward said…I didn’t get that handout…  If I knew Mom would make excuses for me…Jeez Louise…I shiver at the thought.

What brought this whole rant on was the cartoon that one of my servants found online. She was working on a mini version of my seventh grade page, with just the homework and classwork and an email link. I’m going to link to it from the school site so I can get rid of the interim link I mentioned above. Obviously the mrcoward.com url will still work for the rest of us.

Anyway, I asked her to jazz it up with a couple of pics and so she searched Google images for “homework cartoon.” After a minute, she called me over.

“How’s this one?”

“Perfect. Absolutely perfect.”