March 13, 2009

Such Audacity

I am still stewing about a parent conference last night, and as I wait for today's parents to arrive, I feel the need to vent about what happened...

I've met this child's mom on several occasions. She is as nice as can be - very soft spoken, very understanding - she seems to be on the same page as her son's teachers as far as behavioral and academic expectations are concerned.

I cannot, however, say the same for the father, whom upon meeting myself and one of my teammates at the conferences instantly began belittling us, our policies and education as a whole. He is convinced that we are doing his son a disservice by requiring that he turn in assignments in a timely fashion and that he work to his ability. This man flat-out told us that his son is too smart for us and that we aren't challenging him enough. (This man's son is in the honors classes, but he certainly doesn't stand out among those groups - and that is exactly why we requested a conference. We want to see him use his potential! )

Certainly, though, "You wouldn't understand what the real world is like," he told us in his best condescending tone as he stared us down, "You don't know what it's like to write a 50 page thesis the day that it's due and still earn an A, but that's how smart my son is. And I know because I did it!" As you can imagine, the tension in the room could have been cut with a knife, but I'm not sure if it was worse between him and us or him and his wife.

It's true that three of the four people on my team are very young. It is also true that three of the four people on my team are women (this man's demeanor changed dramatically when our male teammate walked into the conference). But it is also true that three of the four of the people on my team have master's degrees and have worked in Corporate America. We, as a collective whole, have a very good understanding of how the real world works, and we happen to know that we are teaching our students lessons and habits that they will need in the future.

But how do you convince a twelve year-old that you get out of something what you put into it? How do you convince him that he is building habits today that are going to affect him in the future? And most importantly, how do you convince him of these things when his father is sending him crystal clear messages about how his teachers know nothing and that school is a waste of time?

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