High School Horrors (Or Math is Eating My Parenting Brain)

As a parent I find it difficult not to ignore teachers my kids have problems with.

I’ve written about this before during my daughter’s utterly disastrous Freshman year in high school when she didn’t get the classes she should have had, one of her teachers was a total witch who hated her students (I wrote a post about it) and another had a mental health and drug problem and was never there. Those two classes were a total waste of time. I was so angry about it but I tried to keep out of it and let the child learn to take care of her own problems. Now I wish I would have gone up to school and showed my fangs.

This year, the Senior year, there is a mathematics teacher who punishes the ENTIRE class and every single class because one student cheated (among other things.) There was almost a mass exodus from the class – enough kids trying to get out that it caused the school principal to send a letter to all of the parents saying how the teachers want to help and she doesn’t know what the problem is.

Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is. In fact, I’ll tell you what the fuck the problem is.

  • The teacher has a bad attitude and assumes all kids want to cheat (according to the students.)
  • The teacher will not give tests back to the kids so they don’t know why they failed.
  • The teacher yells at the class because so many kids are failing. Maybe she should yell at herself. These are advanced students. They aren’t idiots. They are studying their 16-18 year old butts and brains off. But if they don’t know what they are or aren’t doing right or wrong they’re going to be in the dark. Being in the dark is great for a Vampire but not for a high school student.
  • The teacher seems flippant about her attitude about these students. For a lot of them this class could make or break what college they get into. But she doesn’t give a shit. Maybe she does give a shit – but she has to let the students know that. It will make a big difference if they know she really cares.
  • The teacher will give the students a little bit of credit for homework but they don’t know if they did their homework correctly because the answers aren’t checked. No shit. I kid you not.

So what is a parent to do?

I’ve asked the child to talk to the teacher. She says she is available at lunch. I keep telling the child to talk to her at lunch. I keep telling my child to step it up and see her teacher. Tell her what you need. Tell her you have a nice college student tutor. Tell her you don’t want to fail. Tell her you need her help. Tell her that you really don’t want to fail and need her help.

If that goes badly tomorrow then I will have to let DAD take care of it because I tend to use too many bad words.

At one time my dear old dad was a college professor. He said if his students were a success then he knew he was a success. He never understood teachers who didn’t care if their students failed. If your students fail then as a teacher you fail.

As you know, if you read this “parenting” blog, that I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not one of those women who is always up at the school driving the administration crazy with crazy requests. I tell my kids to fight their own battles. That is why they go to public school – to learn to fight battles of the brain and learn to play the game of life. But this time I can’t stand back.

Fangs out. I’m ready.

I’ll keep you posted.

I hate this.

Yes, when you’re a parent, sometimes it feels like it is always Halloween.

And to the rest of my child’s teachers – you are wonderful. I love you. You make me want to go back to school.

To the math teacher – chill, listen to your students, have faith in them, respect them, trust them, and be there for them. They’re great kids. They’re smart. They really are. They want to learn. Let them know that YOU want them to learn too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

How to discourage a teenager and guarantee they lose all interest in school.

The college kid lives a charmed life but this year he had a complaint. Wow. At the big university no less. The TA (a graduate student who is a teaching assistant) in his chemistry class is a jerk. By jerk he means an arrogant bleached blonde Australian who talked like he has a mouth full of marbles. I guess the guy can’t surf very well either. He is a prick (the kid’s words not mine.) He doesn’t want to help students. The class is so large (over 100 students) that the professor is obviously unaware of the frustrations of the students. That is an age old problem with universities. Not arrogant Australians, but classes in huge lecture halls and little personal interaction between students and professors. Other than that my child says the classes and professors are fantastic.

High school is, well, high school is another matter. I’ll give you a little background then I’ll give you my opinion. I promise I’ll make it quick.

In her freshman year (last year) my daughter had a horrible experience. I’ll give you the run down.

Spanish: Two temporary teachers until three months into school a permanent teacher was finally found. The kids got on track but it wasn’t easy.

Math: The teacher told the kids to learn mostly from each other. Considering only two kids in the class knew what they were doing that method was a total failure. We had to hire a tutor.

English: Total FAIL. The teacher was negative and unavailable. No matter how hard my child tried she was shot down for every idea and comment she had. When the students were asked questions they were told to “look it up.” Soon she just stopped saying anything or trying. The behavior of students in this class could only be described as out of control.

Science: The teacher had either mental health or drug problems (or both) and was never there. For months the students had a string of substitutes. In the middle of the year they finally had a permanent substitute come in, but by then the class was completely out of control. It was a total waste of time for the students.

PE: That was ok, but it is PE. My daughter complained about all of the stoners in her class.

Geography: This was a bright spot. The teacher was enthusiastic and inspired the students in a variety of interesting ways.

Health: FAIL. The teacher was a shop teacher – as in wood shop. The class was in a room with huge fans going so the students couldn’t hear the teacher. This guy had no business teaching health (state mandated class) but I guess he was the only one available. Everything concerning female health was brushed over. I won’t even go into it. Just believe me. It was a fail.

Despite all of this my child made good grades – above average. She was still extremely discouraged.

In defense of the teachers…

Most complaints were about the HORRIBLE kids in the classes. Behavior was out of control. It was a constant barrage of sexual comments, racist comments, cuss words, the N word, a lot of F bombs, middle class white boys trying to be ghetto (and just making fools of themselves) and disrespect for the teachers and other students. They threw things. They yelled. They lied. And on top of that two violent kids who should have never been mainstreamed into the general population were allowed to be in the class. The other students (and teachers) were terrified.  I’ve blogged about this before.

But what about the parents?

Yes, what about the parents of these asshole kids who ruin it for everyone else. What about the girls who dress like whores and get into girl fights. What about the kids with a vocabulary that consists of grunts, swear words and an occasional “what? hun?”

What about the kids who show no respect for the teachers or other students. What about the boys who constantly sexually harass other kids. What about the kids who are spending their time sharing nude photos of each other? What about the kids who are yelling racist remarks at other kids, even if the kid isn’t the race they’re yelling about?

Parents? What the fuck? Do you even know what an asshole your kid is? Did he learn if from you? Do you have any idea your kid is preventing other kids from learning? Did you? Are you that fucking clueless. Yes, I’m using a bad word but maybe that is the only way to get through to you.

OK I’m done with my rant.

This year high school is great. The teachers are engaged with the students. They talk to the 15 and 16 year old students about their futures. They try to teach the hows and whys. They are available to answer questions – even stupid questions. Believe me there are a lot of stupid questions.

Fantastic news right? In some ways, yes it is. But think about the students who were so discouraged in their freshman year that they lost interest and mentally just dropped out. They stopped caring. They learned to shrug and tune out. The chip on their shoulders for school is now crazy glued on there.

Some of the problem kids are either gone or growing up. The sexist and racist remarks still go on. That bothers me and it bothers most kids in the school.

I’d go on for a while longer and then go back and edit but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury today.

So I’ll wrap it up and say what I always say.

If you don’t like a teacher or disagree don’t blame the teacher. Do what he/she wants. Do exactly what they want. Try your hardest. Know you are better. Know the class will be over soon. Prove the teacher wrong by doing your best. If the teacher is just an idiot then complain to the administrators (like that will do any good)

And appreciate your good teachers. Most teachers are great teachers with passion and dedication to their students. But hey, if you were in a class all day with a bunch of kids who disruptive and disinterested you’ll get burned out too. It just takes a few brats to ruin it for everyone.

I always wondered why behavior that is illegal in the workplace is legal in schools. What the Hell do school administrators do? They obviously don’t support teachers with behavioral issues. Yes, teachers do kick kids out of class. They yell at kids. They fail kids. But there is only so much they can do if parents don’t teach their kids to respect authority and to respect themselves.

So those are my thoughts today – just things I thought about after I dropped my daughter off at school today.

To all of the sophomore teachers at my daughter’s school – good job. You are loved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Thank you for NOT pissing off my teenage daughter (a letter to her English teacher)

Last year high school was a horrible hell for the most part, at least that is how my freshman daughter described it.  One teacher was bat-shit-crazy and eventually left. The class finally got a new science teacher, but the damage had been done to class moral and that was a WASTED science year. After several Spanish teachers she finally got a wonderful Spanish teacher. English was horrible and the joy of literature and language was literally sucked out of my daughter’s soul. I wrote not one but two posts about that one. Of course in the teacher’s defense the kids in the class were monsters who dropped F bombs and threw things and nobody gave a crap about school. School was a rude awakening and a big culture shock after 8 years at a lovely Montessori Charter School where the kids sang a mantra of peace and unity (more or less.) And my child goes to one of the better schools.

On the flip side she survived and ended up stronger for it. She made wonderful friends. She welcomed her sophomore year with a bit of caution but SURPRISE she likes her teachers. Her teachers are dedicated, creative, professionals who take joy in teaching and TEACH. Yes they teach in a positive and inspiring way. As a parent I am over joyed.

Lately the teacher who stands out is her English teacher. She was apprehensive at first. Clara couldn’t get into the Honors English classes because, well, I didn’t know the right people. I’ll just leave it at that (yes, I’m pissed because she is twice as smart and qualified as most kids in those classes.) But her new teacher teaches AP. He has also taught University level courses. He takes this experience and shares it with ALL of his students. So I wanted to let him know how I feel.

_____________________

Dear Dr. U,

Thank you for NOT pissing off my teenage daughter. Thank you instead for inspiring her and teaching her and giving her back her spark.

Rather than telling her what she does wrong you tell her what she does right. Then you give suggestions on things she can improve. The positive feedback is so powerful and strong. It makes her want to do more. It makes her respect you more. It makes you listen to you and learn from her mistakes.

She said you TEACH kids how to write essays, not just tell them to write then tell them what they wrote was wrong.

You also stress that you’re not going to dumb things down for them. You let them know that you know they’re smart (even when they don’t act like it because they’re teenagers.)

My husband and I have raised our daughter in a house where we talk and discuss everything. By everything, I mean everything – including school, literature, science, books, the humanities, baseball, history and anything else that crosses our paths. She is curious and has an open mind. Thank you for not trying to stop that curiosity.

Thank you for having open discussions and expressing your opinion. Your opinions are not opinionated but well thought out and reasoned. You will agree to disagree.

Ranting and complaining is always easier than saying thanks. If we were talking about the class over coffee I could say more than I can here. For now I just want to say thank you for not pissing off my daughter. Thank you for being the kind of teacher she will remember. Thank you for being the kind of teacher who will make a difference in the lives of teens.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

P.S. Have fun with Julius Cesar – it was a favorite of mine when I was a teen. Sounds weird but then again, I write this blog.

Shut your nasty disgusting dirty little mouth

My daughter wants me to write the vice principal of her high school about sexual harassment at school. It seems as if it is part of the school culture.

To me it seems off that in this day and age, in the United States, in California, that we’d have to deal with this problem.

Then again it seems as if certain parts of society are going backwards with the sexualization of women in music, especially the music so many boys idolize. If you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up or just turn on the radio.

I have no problems with sex or either sex or what people do with those they want to be with. I do have problems when my daughter can’t go to school without hearing a constant barrage of sexual comments and graphic sexual suggestions. It just pisses her off. It pisses me off.

This isn’t something that happens once or twice a week. It is something that happens once or twice or more times an HOUR.

In Spanish class a boy will say “Nice ass.” When he is ignored, he and his friends will start on the “slutty girl” who sits near by until she tells them to fuck off.

Then in English boys talk openly about who they want to “do” and look girls up and down saying “I want a piece of that.” Then one of them calls the teacher a cunt.

By 6th period science my daughter will have at least one guy say “suck my dick” or “send me nude pics and I’ll send you mine.”

Boys who behave nicely are called fags. Yes, being a fag isn’t a bad thing. I wish all boys were “fags.”

Before school starts in August I’ll write that letter. I’ll share it here.

As a parent I’ve held back on a lot of things, especially with high school. I feel like kids should be on their own, take care of their own problems at that age, etc etc etc. However, there comes a time when one does have to speak up, and this is one of those times.

The behavior the boys at our high school display would be illegal in the workplace.

And do these boys have parents? Do they talk to their sons? Not all boys are like this so on a bright note somebody is doing something right. Unfortunately not enough parents are. Or maybe they just don’t give a shit. Either they don’t care about their kids or they see their children as the center of the universe. Polar opposites aren’t really that opposite. It happens.

Yesterday my child told me that some kids want to transfer to another school because of the behavior and sexual harassment problems. Wait… this was supposed to be the GOOD SCHOOL. It was supposed to be the best public high school in the area. WTF?

One of the sad things is that so many girls put up with it. They don’t even know it isn’t normal because their lack of self-worth as a female, plus their lack of life experience.

And you thought Vampires were scary.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Dear Teacher: End of the year letters to high school teachers

shell

Dear Mr. M,

My son will be starting college in the fall as an Environmental Science Major with a Minor in Art. Over the past 2 years you’ve shown him the connection between the world of science and that of art. Not just that, you’ve also shown him that through science and humanity all things are possible, all things inspire, all things are important – as long as it is based on truth and knowledge and understanding. You showed your students that being curious is a good thing. You opened up worlds full of possibilities mixed in with those cold hard facts and formulas that they must learn (or else.) You’ve made a difference, not just for my son but for hundreds of teens. They will change the world – and that is a good thing. Thank you.

 

keep-calm-we-re-teens-3

 

Dear Ms K,

All year long I had to hear my daughter complain about you and about your class. Every evening she would describe the Bedlam type conditions in a room full of insane psychopaths and deviants and sex fiends. And there you were trying to be warden for these kids. Yes, there were a handful who wanted to be there and wanted to learn. Their grades might not reflect the fact that they did learn. At the same time my daughter was complaining about you and your curriculum she was also bringing up topics for discussion such as the comparison of presidential speeches or mythology or poetry. She talked about the books she claimed to hate reading (you have very different tastes.) The more she talked about you the more I told her that you were an amazing woman for teaching that class full of horrible monsters every single day. And you got through to kids. They don’t know that yet.

One of my most popular blog posts was written about you. It was called Thank You For Pissing Off My Teenage Daughter. I could have emailed it to you but I thought it was better not to. You might have taken it the wrong way. But that said, thank you for staying in the battle and for educating your students – even the monsters.

Also, please don’t edit this letter. I know it is making you hurt due to my fast writing and lack of correct grammar today. I know I have no excuse. Just thanks for sticking in there for the kids who want to learn. Thanks for trying to get through to the kids who don’t want to learn. That is all.

 

Everyone needs to get along!

Dear Mr S,

Thank you for taking over from a marginal strung out teacher mid semester and taking over another out of control class full of rude young people. My daughter thanks you too. You told the sexist kids to shut the F up and you tried to keep control in the class. I swear I don’t know why you teachers are put in such a battle zone. Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you’ve done an amazing job. I told the principal that she needs to hire you on perminately. She’d be a fool not to.

books

 

Dear Ms A,

My children have not only learned another language from you – they’ve learned another culture and a new view of the world. Thank you for bringing Spanish alive for them. Thank you for making the class more than memorizing. Thank you for making a different kind of grammar interesting. They don’t just know a different language, they know that despite the language that we’re not that different from each other.

 

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Dear Mr. J,

My child hates math. But she likes you and has requested to have you as a teacher for math next year. She said you’re the best teacher according to the students her age. She hated you at first but then she realized that she really just hated math. I appreciate the communication and resources you’ve shared with the students and teachers. The fact that my otherwise A student didn’t fail your class is a good thing. Maybe next year she’ll shine. Just a note: Some kids need a little extra coaching from the teacher because they never “get it”. Hint hint.

 

hipster+cat

 

Dear Mr. G,

The Night Coach post is not about you. In all seriousness the kids adore you. Good job. You’ve gotten them up off of their butts and maybe helped build some life long fitness habits.

 

High School Coach thinks he is going to score with a Vampire mom only to find himself in a passion that is off the score charts!

High School Coach thinks he is going to score with a Vampire mom only to find himself in a passion that is off the score charts!

 

Wishing you all a wonderful summer and many thanks. You are appreciated.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

flying pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for pissing off my teenage daughter…

backtoschool

Dear Ms K,

Thank you for pissing off my child enough so that she tells me about it. If only one person reads this blog today I hope it is you.

Parents are invisible except in what you see in our children. With any luck the best of us reflects in our teens. But they are their own people by this time. They aren’t just influenced by us, but by the kids around them and by the teachers and by what they read.

This is about what they read.

And this is specifically for you, my daughter’s Freshman English teacher.

She says you hate her. I told her that you don’t. She says you’re negative. I’m sure you are but… she doesn’t see what you have to deal with day in and day out. Or you might not be negative at all except through the eyes of a frustrated 14 year old girl.

My daughter is a freshman this year. She reads books about drugs, suicide, cancer and mental illness. These books are dark. These books don’t have happy endings. Nobody celebrates at the end.

Her reading list includes: Go Ask Alice, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars.

She is enjoying the section in class about civil rights. Maybe there are a few happy endings there. She was vocal about the chapter on Internet awareness and censorship.

She is frustrated by the lack of discipline among the other students in the class. That never seems to end well. She said she feels sorry that you have to deal with the problem kids. She wishes they would go away forever.

Her fiction, the stories she writes, can be dark. Extremely dark. But her stories are good. Really good. Adult good. But I have to admit she can work on spelling (me too.)

But this isn’t about what she writes. It is about what she reads and your reaction.

Yesterday you mentioned that my daughter reads dark books. You asked her if she wanted to go talk to a counselor about it. Maybe hash out some feelings. I don’t know exactly what you said because I got it second-hand from a peeved off 14-year-old who has been peeved all year about her English class.

You noticed what she was reading. No doubt you noticed that my kid wears a lot of black and too much black eye liner as well.

But the point is that you noticed what SHE, my teen, was reading. You have around 200 students to keep track of. They don’t think you see everything – but you see a lot more than they (your students) will ever know.

She said you told her that she could go to a counselor. It sounded like you almost pushed her to get out of class and go seek help. That pissed her off and she defended herself and said she was fine. Sappy books aren’t her thing.

Then she complained that all you like are fantasy books that she doesn’t like. Then she complained about everything else in broad terms. I don’t think she understood where you were coming from.

Thank you for looking for things that might just be a little off or disturbing. Thank you for looking for patterns that could mean maybe things aren’t quite right.

My daughter complains that no matter how well she does that she gets no positive input. She came from a very very small school with 30 8th graders and then jumped into a school with over 500 Freshmen. It was a bit of an adjustment. It is frustrating. So give the kid a break and sometimes just say “Your story had a lot of grammatical issues but the characters were well-developed. Good start. Work on your grammar.”

Not getting into Honors English was a huge blow. She would have thrived there. She is disgusted by the lack of respect the other kids show the teachers in the “non-honors” classes. She is frustrated that she isn’t close to the teachers like at the smaller school. She is frustrated that no matter how she does that she never gets positive input from you, her English teacher. She loves English. She loves to write. She is good – really good.

I know those last two paragraphs would have received a lot of red marks. In my defense, I’m writing fast, like eleventh hour fast. I’m rambling too… just call it musing.

Listen, I know a little about writing (not just rants like this.) I’m an admin for a highly successful online writer’s group. I am a published author. I also write an odd little semi-popular blog.

I know more than a little about teens. In my blog I cover issues about teens and suicide, bullying, depression, being an outsider and all sorts of problems. I also write about the wonderful and amazing goodness of teens – including their music and culture and humor. Yes, teens are funny. I love teens. That is one of the reason I write a parenting blog.

I also write about Vampires. Yes, my daughter has a shirt printed with the words “My mom blogs about Vampires.” I’ve written a fair amount on the blog and I have to admit that some of it is pretty good (passable.) But this isn’t about me.

A while back I heard an interview of the author Stephen King. He was talking about how when he was a kid he was fascinated by crime and serial killers and other unsavory things. That is exactly how it is with my daughter. She read about things she finds awful but fascinating. One day she hopes to be a Psychologist specializing in teens and tweens with mental illness. Just like Stephen King, she is starting early in her research.

I told my child to bring in Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck or The Crystal Singer by Ann McCaffrey so you won’t worry too much. She said she wants to read Of Mice and Men – one of my favorites but another dark story that doesn’t end well.

So anyway….

Today my daughter is wearing a yellow shirt, blue jeans and maroon shoes. Her necklace is a manatee picture on a bottle cap. On the way to school we talked about Obama Care, the drought and roller skating. We talked about how neither one of us like Little Women. And she told me that she loved me then laughed about some lame joke I made to her.

No black today. I want to tell you not to worry about her, but that wouldn’t be true. Thank you for worrying about my daughter and showing concern. Thank you for showing concern to all of the kids, because I know you do.

Your students have NO IDEA that you are going into more or less a battle zone five days a week for five periods a day. Your job isn’t easy. Dealing with kids (including the shit heads in your class who throw books, call you the “C” word and don’t care about schools) isn’t easy.

That said, you have at least one student, my child, who talks to her parents and tells us about school and about her frustrations and daily battles to get through it. She cares about school. It might not always show but she really cares. Just like it might not always show that you care – but I’m glad I found out that you do.

Once again, THANK YOU for caring enough to say something. Thank you for noticing.

Thank you for being brave enough to teach Freshman English in a public high school.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Be it the click of the metal keys or the click of a computer keyboard...I will write.

Be it the click of the metal keys or the click of a computer keyboard…I will write.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/daily-prompt-one/