Angry Parent

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15 thoughts on “Angry Parent”

  1. Been there done that. Made me wanna quit. OMG. Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in this case, right? It never happens in this situation. It’s always the parent and the kid gets trapped in that ugliness.

    Love the second paragraph. That is, by the way, exactly how we teach languages in this particular century, or rather how we should be doing it. Mom there probably got an A in memorizing in high school and she has trained her daughter in those ways and you just don’t fit into their schema of what a teacher should be! So I have written a lot about such students in one category, in particular, called Pigs. You may want to check that out. Also the category on When Attacked.

    One thing to try to do is get at least one administrator on your side. They can speak to the issue with mom as well. You can also find valuable things in the Admin/Parent/Teacher re-education category.

    Also definitely choose from the list of “Primers” at the top of this page – they will be of HUGE help to you. Copy and paste and personalize and send and mom will be impressed. Bless her heart.

    The three suggestions above will really help. I will post your question as an article as well. It’s a theme that emerges often here. You are certainly not alone. We all get one of these parent/kid combos, with extra jalapenos and onions. It’s part of the deal. I’ve had about five of these in thirteen years. All kept me up at night to varying degrees.

    The last one, powerful white rich parents from the right part of town, challenged me in a meeting I will never forget. I got beat up bad. I wasn’t ready. But now we have these things mentioned above:

    Admin/Parent/Teacher Re-education
    When Attacked
    Primers (best for your response)

    Overall, the tone of what you wrote shows in my view that you will win this thing 47-0.

  2. Similar to what Ben has said. I you have an admin that loves what you do, then set up a conference with parent AND STUDENT with the admin present. The purpose of this conference is to help parent understand how language learning works. You cannot send home book work from last semester because that’s not how language learning works. Everything required for language learning happens in the classroom. If you have something like jRG rules on the wall, have a copy typed up for mom, student and admin. Hand it out. Tell mom that THIS is what you can give her. When daughter does these things, she will make wonderful progress in the language. When she does the opposite, not only will she not make progress, but she interferes with others making progress.

    Affirm clearly and enthusiastically (even if you throw up a little bit in your mouth) that you want student to be successful, but that this is how it happens.

    As for student’s own eccentricity (or is it rudeness), see if you can exploit that in class. I had one of these a few years ago. She ultimately became a devoted learner, but there was hell to pay in the meantime. One thing that worked was to pick up on something that she came in with some days and work that into the story or word pics or PQA. I often made her the focus of PQA. At first, she was very resistant. The more resistant she became the jollier (weirder) I became. The class loved it. Caveat: if you do this, make damn sure that you are treating her well and like the barometer student that she is and not picking on her or making fun of her in the class. That will backfire.

    My student’s mom was very supportive. I think that if you have an admin in your corner who can have this meeting to let mom know what it takes, that may get her on board. Right now, she’s asking for all of this back-shit (sorry) in order to try and manipulate you and show you that she’s in charge. Wow, that nut didn’t fall far from the tree, did she? The sad truth may be that that’s the only reason she got daughter put back in the class–to try and show you that she’s in charge.

    She’s not. You are the expert in the room, and it all happens in the room, baby! Best wishes.

    1. …the purpose of this conference is to help parent understand how language learning works. You cannot send home book work from last semester because that’s not how language learning works….

      This may seem easy but if we get defensive it’s nearly impossible. So we can’t get defensive. We start by re-educating the admins, hopefully finding one that honestly gets it. Then they help us with the parent. Chain of command – makes parents believe things a lot faster than going it alone.

  3. I had a parent issue last school year and it’s described here: There are some very helpful comments under the post, too.

    One thing about these situations is that they have the potential to benefit us in several ways:
    – Helps us clearly, concisely articulate why and how we teach
    – Allows great opportunity to educate administrators – my administrators heard and read what I told these parents beforehand
    – Empowers us to be firm in convictions that matter, ex: that languages are acquired unconsciously through focus on meaning

    I really came away from my ugly parent experience feeling stronger and more confident about my role and my classes. May this situation do that for you, Potter.

        1. I can totally see this as the “norm,” however, last year my biggest issues were with boys…from families with very clear patriarchal authority, no respect for women, and strong views/ patterns around memorizing their way to success. Obviously this was how they “controlled” their situations. But many many complaints and claims that “we didn’t learn anything last year.” Oh and one of them has anger management issues. So happy not to deal with them this year and I know the feeling is mutual on their parts.

          1. Guess what, boys are always my bigger problems. So 3 male teachers say it’s girls, and 2 female teachers say it’s boys… could be a pattern.

    1. Michael Nagelkerke

      For me, It is always girls that give me issues. Almost every time I have a class with mostly girls, like I do right now, I have problems. In my case, I teach middle school and at this stage, the girls just want to talk to each other. They would be most happy if I’d just give them a worksheet in which they could just gab away while they mindlessly filled in blanks. But, alas, I care about them aquiring Spanish and they have to listen to me talk. Glad to hear I’m not alone!

  4. Yup. They are girls. And then they reel the boys into their snarky party! I have ONE more day with my little angels and then finals! I am so glad to see them go because just two senior girls have turned my one class very toxic! One of them has told me several times that she really cant learn this way since i’ve “jumped on this (tprs) train”….i stopped listening to her right then and there because she was basically calling it a fad with those snide remarks. She just cant handle it because she cant keep her attention focused long enough to acquire anything.
    Potter , i agree with Diane…..this will make u stronger. But…there are alternatives for those who dont/cant/refuse to play the game. It is called worksheets. Show the mother what your assessments look like, tell her you will give her daughter textbook work and worksheets, but those things will not prepare her for the new 21at century standards based assessments.

  5. I can only echo what everyone else has said here. Blaine used to write up a contract with kids who didn’t want to learn with TPRS. It was, in typical Blaine fashion, ridiculously simple: the student had to do a certain number of pages from the textbook per day. I remember at the time wondering what he meant by “do” the pages. Write out the answers to all of the exercises, I imagine.

    Anyways,in my first year of doing TPRS I had a lawyer’s kid (a boy!) who got snarky and aggressive on me. It was intimidating because I really didn’t know what I was doing, and this was back when this PLC was still a gleam in Ben’s eye. I remembered what Blaine said about the textbook and gave it to the kid, along with the workbook, and just photocopied the tests and quizzes that came with the textbook series. He was a smart kid and so was able to do okay on the tests and quizzes. I had him go to the library or study hall during class and would meet with him after school for his quizzes. The time spent was well worth getting his ugly mug out of my class. He got his B, and I got to teach the way I wanted to.

    Another thing I’ve done, when in a department where not everyone uses TPRS, is to suggest that the student take another language with a different teacher.

    My instinct tells me that you can provide this student and parent with all of the evidence on why this way of learning is most effective, you can even get your administrator on your side, but the best thing for you and the rest of your students would be to get the kid out of the room. Unlike Blaine, I do not believe in making the alternate path prohibitively difficult or onerous. On the contrary. I would offer him, as they say in German, a “golden bridge.” That one child is not more important than you and the rest of the class. This is no time to stand on principle, in my opinion.

  6. …the best thing for you and the rest of your students would be to get the kid out of the room….

    This point, this option, hasn’t been mentioned here enough over the years. It seems that everyone who has posted and commented on this topic – and that is a lot of posts and comments – has always been sadly resigned to having the kid in the room for the year. We all know it’s because of counseling, and because of intractable administrators and to the stinking thought in school buildings that we, not the child, must change what we are doing to reach the kid and that the kid bears no social responsibility to the group. Really, think about that. That’s what jGR/IPSR is all about. Languages are reciprocal and participatory in nature. But, in the failure of the child to show up in the human way for class, the school instead plays the differentiation card on us and the kid is free to be a jerk just at the precise moment in her life when she has a chance to learn a skill, the skill of being civil in a civilized society, that would do her a lot of good. The term differentiation in situations like the one Potter finds herself in is merely a euphemism for “the kid’s problem is your problem”. We are the modern American high school and we can do anything and the kids need do nothing but memorize and become, each day, more and more robot like. This stinking thought has ruined many TPRS classrooms. But what if we could find enough counseling and admin support that the culture in the building re: kids like this was to provide, as Anne says, a “golden bridge” out of the room into a room where the teacher and the student would get along. In fact, I think that in twenty years when this change has become more complete, we need to keep an old grammar teacher around in some back room somewhere in the building for kids like this to go to, for those kids and parents who are currently driving Potter crazy. That would be cool. I like this idea Anne. However, now our shoulders carry even more weight. We have to convince those in the building about what we are doing. Best way to do that? Do Matava stories and fun PQA and just keep on keeping on. Like Bernard said:

    …it is sometimes disheartening, but we have to keep believing….

  7. My reticent students last year stressed me out majorly for two reasons, 1) because I was not confident in teaching CI, and 2) because my admin was a fire-breathing dragon. This year is completely different. Much more joy and much less stress. I am better at teaching CI and my admin is super-supportive. The wife of my dean, who handles discipline, teaches TPRS and has presented at conferences with Blaine Ray. So, if I have a problem with a student, the dean always has my back.

    I bet this combative parent gives the admin a headache too. Ultimately, admin has to stand up to the parent as well. I would hope that admin has a backbone to do so. Anything that you can do to help admin stand steadfast to insist that the child must be held accountable for their learning behaviors I’m sure would be greatly appreciated. Then again, many of us are in schools where everyone is being stretched thin. Perhaps admin would just like the parent out of their hair.

    I hope you are able to brainstorm with your admin about this one. It makes such a difference if even just one of the admin is on your side.

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