There’s No Academy Award for Outstanding Performance at an Open House

Open House is a funny thing. Exactly 17 of my students were represented. Each parent who came along ended up coloring what I thought of their kid.

My best sophomore had a parent who spoke only Hmong, and who at least feigned surprise that her daughter was doing so well. The mother was kidding. I think.

Another sophomore, who was failing several of his classes including mine, had two English-speaking parents. The dad, dressed in dress shirt and tie, decided to grill his student on why he was failing this class in front of both myself and my master teacher. The kid was noticeably embarrassed.

One above-average student had a mom who understood some English. It was enough so that she could yell at him in Spanish while I explained that while he did his work often better than anyone else, he talked too much and ended up distracting his classmates. I picked up that teachers said he was pretty much the same in the rest of his classes.

I had to rely on my master teacher’s broken Spanish on this one; the student didn’t bother translating much of what his mother said. Ouch.

The best time we had, though, was when my biggest trouble student came in with her parents.

I won’t bother to transcribe the meeting, but suffice it to say that she managed a single tear running down her cheek as she explained, sobbing, how unfair it was that I would give her only a day to finish an assignment the rest of the class had a three-day weekend to work on.

She neglected to mention to her parents, of course, how her haughty attitude and unpleasant tone of voice assumed she was entitled to the same amount of time, or that she was in the bad habit of addressing me with the same tone of voice, or that I had already called her on it several times.

She implied it was a personal conflict issue that only arose between me and her. She forgot about how she had her same bad attitude even last semseter; it isn’t a new thing with me. Even during the reign of my master teacher, she’s been a frequenter of coming in late from lunch and drinking her Slurpee, and she loves carrying on converstations while she’s talking.

I pointed all of this out. Naturally, she flatly denied it.

As soon as her parents stepped in on her behalf, my master teacher stepped in on mine. She could have two days more to turn in the faux news article contrasting Soviet propoganda to the way things really were. She and I shook hands — the optimistic father insisted. They left, the door slowly closing behind them.

“She’s full of shit,” my master teacher said in hushed tones, once the family was out of sight and earshot. “But we have the parents on our side, now. If she ever steps out of line, we can just call.”

I like the way he thinks.

Moral of the story? Lose the right battle; win the war.


  1. Lesson learned, right?
    I often have the opposite — the parent defending their child to the death and making up excuses for them. (I can understand the impulse, as a dad, but not the reality)

  2. Her dad is, so I’ve heard, an prominent local evangelical preacher guy. He believes in the power of words to solve disputes.

    Especially his words, and especially her words.

  3. dkzody

    Hmmm, preacher’s kid. Funny, but I was just having that conversation with my husband about one we know, and your descriptors seems to be right on.

  4. Her slightly older brother also works in the office. It’s like she thinks she owns the place.

  5. Lindsey

    My aunt is a teacher at a “less affluent” public school district, as I like to put it. She has some truly bright and wonderful kids… and then there are the ones who bring knives to school, beat each other up, etc. The knife incident actually occurred recently. When her kid was suspended and punished, the parent rushed to their defense, calling the school “racist” for punishing their child. This happens on a daily basis in my aunt’s classroom. The kids who “under perform” and misbehave seem to have the parents who are quick to make excuses for their behavior, while the kids who shine at their work do so because their parents really do hold them responsible for their actions and teach them to be better people for it. I hope that when I have a child I can do what some of these wonderful parents, many of which who struggle every day because they are immigrants and have no money, have done for their children.

  6. Parents are a mixed bag — it shows, too, when they care.

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