Sunday, December 29, 2013

Years 13 to 22: The Reid Years: Parents and Principals

Over this past week, I had the chance to visit with my son and daughter-in-law during their trip to see us over Christmas. My daughter-in-law just finished us a trimester of student teaching that was also considered a teaching job since it was in a private school. She has a doctorate in biophysics and she was teaching math and science to middle school aged children. Listening to her talk about the students and seeing some of her lessons and pictures, I know she was making a difference for kids. However, she had many parents who demanded that she treat their children differently, including changing their grades or letting them not turn in assignments or homework. The many meetings, the bullying of the parents, and the lack of support on the part of the administration, caused my daughter-in-law to decide not to continue. This is really very sad as I think she is a good teacher and she teaches with a "hands on" approach that really helps the students learn the material. Maybe someday she will go back to it. We need good teachers like her!

Anyway, all of this made me reflect on my own experiences with parents and administrators. If you have been following my blog at all, you will recall my interesting parents in Spokane (with the antlers on their car), and my horrible principal in Tumwater. Well, Cheney had its' share of both as well. I had a single mom who had three children in the preschool over the years. The year I started at Reid, two of the children were enrolled in the program. These were very sweet children; happy and free spirited, as was their mom! Really she was quite the character! One day the children arrived at school quite late. When the mom showed up with the children she explained that her car would not drive forward, so she drove all the way to school with the car in reverse! Unbelievable but true!!

Another family I worked with also had several children enrolled in the preschool over the years. I loved this family and wanted to adopt the entire family, parents and all! The children always came to school clean, cared for and happy. If there was something you needed or something you wanted them to do at home, it happened. Parents like this don't come along every day, so you cherish them when they do.

And then you get the really demanding, illogical parents. Around about my sixth or seventh year at Reid, a family from Texas moved in. Their son was diagnosed with Autism and although he was 5 years old, they brought him into the room in an umbrella stroller with the seat belt fastened. He had some language and I thought he should be fine out of the stroller, but the parents told me that down in Texas, he had his own "padded room" and that was the only safe place for him to be. They warned me that if I let him out, they would not be responsible for what happened to the classroom. I took a chance and let him out. Well it was like I had unleashed the Tasmanian Devil! Wow! Around the classroom he flew, climbing up on counters and shelves, knocking things over, and throwing whatever he could find. I knew that in order to keep him safe and the other students too, he would have to be confined during instruction in one of our little Rifton chairs with a similar seat belt system to the stroller. However, since we also worked with gross motor activities daily, and I had a big gross motor area in my room, I figured we could make it work. The only draw back was that class size for preschool was 12 children with just a teacher and one instructional assistant. The only time I had extra support was when the specialists came to work with students and helped with groups in the room. Occasionally I also had practicum students from the college as well, but they were not always reliable. So it was up to Kay and me to manage 12 preschoolers ourselves most of the time.

The parents of this little boy would not give up on the idea of a padded room, and kept telling me and the principal that we would be sorry if we didn't provide one. Well he began preschool and we began chasing him on a daily basis; one time right into the street in front of Reid. He was a fast little guy and I began to really worry about keeping him safe. I asked for some additional support in the classroom, but the principal said no. Meanwhile, she downplayed the dangerous situations we found ourselves in with this boy in conversations with the parents. If I talked to the parents and suggested some different parenting techniques they might want to try at home and they didn't like what I said, they would call her and complain. She would then agree with them and come and tell me to stop making suggestions. This was frustrating and went on for over two months. Then one day the boy did not come to school. A few minutes later, down came the principal with a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. This principal always had one of those super sicky sweet "put on" smiles on her face, and today was no different. She walked in and said, "Guess who these flowers are from?" I thought they must be for me or Kay, possibly from one of our husbands. However, that was not the case. She said, "No, they are from LG's parents. They are for me. There is a nice note from them telling me how much they appreciated my support over the last two months! Isn't that thoughtful?" And then she turned around and went back to her office. Dude! Really? She had done NOTHING to help us with this child! Ugh! Well that family decided to move back to Texas and the padded room. Apparently we just didn't have the "right stuff"!
A small sample of the "thank you" cards
I've received from parents over the years.

But I have to say that over the years, most of the parents I've had the pleasure to work with have been wonderful and supportive, not only of me and my team, but also of their children. They have been advocates for these children and in some cases, continue to support and provide for their care. You have to admire them and continue to hold them up. As a parent myself I understand; you are always concerned, worried, excited, proud, and you continue to be your child's parent no matter how old your child becomes!