What Were They Thinking? Parents #3

Just Plain Crazy

I wrote about parents who are powerless with their children (Parents #1). I wrote about parents (and teachers) who seemed to be doing everything right and still their kids turned out evil (Parents #2). But what about the parents who seem to be just plain crazy?

[Disclaimer: Yeah. I know there are plenty of crazy teachers out there too and I wrote about one in What Happened To David but here we are talking about parents so keep an open mind and go with me a bit.]

Now I always try to keep an open mind when dealing with kids and their parents. You know my philosophy Watson, I believe that a teaching or parenting method that works for one might not work for someone else – that’s why I frequently recommend lots of different tools in the teacher’s toolbox. So, while it may be more than a bit judgmental and harsh to call someone crazy… there are times when I just had to shake my head in frustration and ask, “What were they thinking?”

The Insolence of Office

It was another ‘Back to School Night’ and Billy showed up with both of his parents [It was uncommon for our students have two parents show up on ‘Back to School Night’.]. Billy was another one of those puzzling students who could be successful but chose to not work and was therefore receiving failing grades. It was/is hard to look parents in the eye and give them bad news. Then Billy added a new dimension to my confusion and pain.

His father sat silently by. His mother turned to him and asked him why he wasn’t working and Billy said, “What do you care? Why don’t you just shut up?” And she took it! She looked sad but said nothing.

I couldn’t let it go and I said, “I don’t know what you get away with outside of school, but in my room you had better not speak so disrespectfully to your mother.”  To which he responded, “I don’t care what you think.”

His parents said nothing. They took his disrespect toward them and they allowed him to disrespect me. I felt sorry for all three of them but I couldn’t help wondering, ‘What were they thinking?’

The Image Award

Every ‘Back to School Night’ has its highlights and lowlights. T-shirts frequently show up displaying everything from ‘Go Dodger Blue’ to ‘Pinks on La Brea’. As I’ve said before, I try to keep an open mind. I know that with different cultures misunderstandings of message will occur. That’s why I didn’t comment when, at my local mini-mart, I noticed that the Korean grandmother behind the counter was wearing a t-shirt that shouted, ‘Mustache Rides 5¢’.

Now some parents really do try to put their best foot forward on ‘Back to School Night’ – others, not so much. So I wasn’t sure how to interpret the message from Ruby’s mom. Ruby’s mom was young, attractive and you could say her look was pulled together and stylish. So maybe you can understand why I was confused by her t-shirt which had ‘Somebody has to be the Bitch!’ written across her chest.

Unlike the Korean grandmother who was offering mustache rides due to cultural misunderstanding, Ruby’s mom’s had to know what her t-shirt was saying. Because around her neck was a pretty gold chain with the words ‘Little Bitch’ written in gold hanging from the chain.

I was at a loss. All I could do was silently ask myself, ‘What was she thinking?’

Why spare the rod?

All the fun doesn’t just happen on ‘Back to School Night’. That’s one of the great perks of teaching. Comedic entertainment (as well as gut wrenching tragedy or terror) can happen any time.

It was my conference period (when I didn’t have any pupils in my room) and I went to the main office to check my mail and drop off some documents. There I saw Big Johnny. I walked over to him to say high and the little woman standing next to him introduced herself as his mother. After introducing herself she asked, “How’s he doing?”

I wish she hadn’t asked. Johnny was basically a good kid and although he was big in size he was not particularly big in intellect or academic achievement. Add to that he was also just a little bit lazy. So it was hard to come up with something nice to say on the spur of the moment. I don’t like giving negative evaluations in the office in front of God and everybody. What happens in the office never stays in the office. It travels the campus. So I hesitated and toed the ground while I thought.

Johnny’s mom picked up on my hesitation. She said, “Oh I get it. He’s not doing so hot.”

I stammered, “Uh, well…”

She said, “That’s okay. I get it. You know what his problem is?” then she vigorously slapped him upside his head and loudly proclaimed, “He’s an asshole!”

Wow mom! What were you thinking?


No wonder there is a shortage of people wanting to become teachers.

If you liked this blog post, I’m sure you’ll like my book

What Happened to David

Paperback now available at Vroman’s Bookstore

and on PayPal and Amazon

eBook available on Kindle, iBook, Nook and most eBook retailers

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