Thursday, June 24, 2010

No Excuse to Fail

No Excuse to Fail

In one of my first, real, math teaching assignments, I had a student whose mother was not thrilled with the grade on her son’s first test. She came in on parent-teacher night to discuss this.

Mrs. Parent reassured me that she did not believe this was my fault. She was not blaming me. She was sure that I was intelligent and that some day I would make a fine teacher. However, as I was new, perhaps I had not yet acquired the skills necessary to teach her little Cherub.

Well, I explained to Mrs. Parent, the first test of the year is a review of what the students’ remember from last year. That way I can determine what I need to cover before we can move on. I reassured Mrs. Parent that the first two or three questions were easy questions, to help the students build confidence. To help the students overcome any math anxiety.

Now comes the part where God was with me. (I can say that because this was a Parochial school.) Mrs. Parent came with Mrs. Friend who had Miss Daughter with her. (They went to the daughter’s class first. Either that or Mrs. Parent brought Mrs. Friend with her to be a witness.

I turned to Miss Daughter. I asked, “What grade are you in?”

“Sixth,” she replied.

I put the first question of the test on the board, handed her the chalk, and asked her to solve the problem. She did.

I turned to Mrs. Parent and said, “Now, your friend’s daughter solved that problem and she is only in the sixth grade. In addition, this is the beginning of the year, so they did not get to that material yet; which means she learned it in the fifth grade; and, your friend’s daughter did not know there was going to be a test tonight, so she did not have a chance to study. There is no excuse for your son getting that problem wrong.”

Mrs. Parent thanked me, took the test, folded it up, and they all left. Mrs. Friend and Miss Daughter went out the door, Mrs. Parent, under the woodwork.

I did not humiliate Mrs. Parent. Miss Daughter did not humiliate Mrs. Parent; the little Cherub did not humiliate his mother. Mrs. Parent humiliated herself when she came into my classroom and began the meeting with an empowerment and dignity festival to reassure me she was not blaming me, and proceeded to explain her son’s performance by fabricating a lack of ability to teach on my part.

I have often said, “It is the teacher’s job to teach; but that is all the teacher can do. Learning is the student’s responsibility.”

The following morning Little Cherub wanted to know what I had said to his mother. I started to tell him. He was not listening.

“My parents had me up till three o’clock in the morning. My parents were all over my case. My parents didn’t cut me no slack. (“Any slack”—he wasn’t listening.) My parents didn’t cut me no slack.”


This student turned out to be, let us say, one of my top three students. The embarrassment his mother was subjected to (REMEMBER WHAT I HAD SAID ABOUT PEER PRESSURE? IT APPLIES TO PARENTS AS WELL.) was all Mrs. Parent needed to hold her son responsible for his grades. Moreover, he not only met the challenge, he exceeded it.



PS. I am not Paul Harvey.  Still, I am open to becoming a paid blogger, columnist, or commentator.

In the meantime, if anyone finds the monographs on my blog to be especially helpful, please do not hesitate to send me on of those tricked out laptops and few dollars tucked into the envelope with the thank you note.



Copyright (c) 2011 Slim Fairview

(On a personal note: If you have any doubts about raising children, contact John Rosemond, the professional He knows what he’s talking about.)

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