Posted on December 6, 2010Filed Under homework, parents | 13 Comments

“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 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.”


13 Responses to “Grumble…Grumble…Grumble…”

  1. Mrs. M~ on December 7th, 2010 11:45 am

    Oh yes, parents are much more willing and likely to get involved now due to the ease and “anonymity” of email. I get things in emails from parents that they would NEVER have the guts to say on the phone or to my face.

    Add that to the fact that I have to post all of my assignments for the week online where parents can see them, and parents can access our gradebooks online and see every single grade the students get. The kids don’t have to do a thing. The parents and I are the ones doing all the work while the kids sit back and laugh.

  2. Janay on December 7th, 2010 6:13 pm

    We have a copy of that cartoon up in our lounge. That says it better than words.

    My latest parent run-in was today. I got a “while you were out” message from the office in my box. A mom was mad I threw away the box tops her daughter gave me in front of her daughter. And the secretary so nicely quoted exactly what the mom said, “The school is,after all, collecting them.”

    HA! I didn’t know the school collects them. I’ve never heard a single thing about them. I told the student I didn’t know what to do with them and she wouldn’t take them back.

    Oh, and all this happened way back in September and I’m just hearing about it now. Seriously?

  3. Meg on December 7th, 2010 6:17 pm

    Preach it, and AMEN!

    My favorite is when the helicopter moms are complaining about something that I show in class and give me the line: “Until you have your own children, you just won’t understand”. While there might be a smidgen of truth (sort of) in that, it’s still a very illogical, annoying, and insulting comment.

  4. mrC on December 8th, 2010 8:34 pm

    @Meg: There is absolutely no truth to that. I taught for almost ten years before my boy was born. The kids used to ask me why I didn’t have any kids, and my pat answer was , “I already got 150 of you, what do I need any more for?” But in the past 11 years, I don’t think my attitude has changed. In fact, I think I’m even more annoyed at the meddling parenting, because I see the harm that it does. This is not to say I haven’t “thrown my weight around” as they say, and called/emailed/met with my boy’s teachers, but I’d like to think these times were about legitimate gripes and that the wife handled them tactfully. (You like how I have a more diplomatic representative handle my “negotiations”?) Also I have found that often we teachers actually understand their kids better than they do. While our time with them is much shorter, we get to see them in their natural habitat.

  5. mrC on December 8th, 2010 8:39 pm

    @Janay: I “love” the old grudge message. It’s like they hold it in reserve for whenever they’re feeling sporty or wronged. And I also love how parents think their child is devastated about something you did (or didn’t do), but the kid doesn’t even know what you’re talking about half the time.

  6. mrC on December 8th, 2010 8:42 pm

    @Mrs. M: If I had grown up today, between the ‘net and the indulgent parenting, ZOMG… I’d be a some sort of cyberhobo or something.

  7. Suzanne on December 10th, 2010 2:30 pm

    I just found your blog via an Outsiders search and I’m loving it. Thanks for sharing so much. I am laughing at your Grumbles because I’ve said them all. It’s the same out here two states away. I told my friend today that perhaps we are ready for a respite. Winter break, don’t fail me now!

    Anyway, I’m enjoying your blog even more because I’m betting you had my half-sister, the most polite, grateful, under-parented, compliant, and smart young person I know (NOT!!!). LOL.

    I’ve spent some great times in SLO. I drive past your middle school every time I go to my father’s house. Wish I were there…

    Best of holidays to you, sir!

  8. mrC on December 11th, 2010 12:27 am

    Thanks for the kind words. SLO IS a paradise. Better than Disneyland. Next time you give us a drive-by, stop in and say hey. I always welcome visitors, announced or otherwise. Half-sister, eh? Mebbe you could send me an email with a name for confirmation? Ask her if she knows from KBAR.

  9. Christine on December 13th, 2010 3:54 pm

    Holy moly. This was such a necessary post to read. I say hell in the classroom all the time AND I teach in Catholic school… these parents are so ridiculous, and I’m so happy to hear I am not alone.

    Last week, I assigned a group “project” in which the kids only work on it in the classroom using my computers. They are doing a commercial. One mom nagged and said, “Ugh, they only have until Tuesday?” I felt like telling her, “Oh, now that you aren’t able to do the entire thing for your child, I guess it’s too bad for you. What are we going to do with all that time on our hands now? Possibly have a life?”

    ‘Tis the season.

    I love your blog. With a glass of wine and my computer, reading your “shtuff” is heaven, not HELL!

  10. Christine on December 13th, 2010 3:55 pm

    P.S…. What’s worse than the parents? Admins who humor every thing they say and then question you about it. Sheez.

  11. mrC on December 13th, 2010 9:20 pm

    Teaching in a Catholic school. OMG you are a glutton for punishment. 😉 Will they let you carry a stick? You’re right about those kind of admins. I had one a few years ago. I just kept telling him that if they had a beef, they need to come see me, or I would ignore them. Most of the time coming to see me was too much work and they gave up, or started bugging the counselor. Thanks loads for the very kind words. I hope you have a Hell of a vacation.

  12. Sarah on January 16th, 2011 7:39 am

    You are HYSTERICAL! You have me laughing so hard that tears are in my eyes and the dog is looking at me with concern! You mean it’s not just my classroom… it’s not just my students and their over-indulgent parents? YOU ARE SO FUNNY AND SUCH A GENIUS! Thank you for offering awesome insight and fabulous resources! INCREDIBLE.

  13. mrC on January 17th, 2011 1:00 pm

    Thank you kindly. You made my weekend! Thanks for tuning in, and I’m glad to be of service.

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