Parent-Teacher Night. An occasion rife with stories that can be inspiring, ridiculous, or even heartbreakingly sad at times. Here, a collection of Redditors share experiences about educators meeting parents—for better or for worse.
1. On Dad Duty
Student teaching for high school seniors and juniors: I had this guy that was a “shady 80.” No specific problems, just very low intelligence, but this guy worked his tail off. Never a late assignment, did all extra credit that was offered (usually extra credit is done by those who don’t need it and ignored by those who do need it), made flash cards for like every test and quiz even though I never said to.
Model student—just had low test scores. If it was an assignment that could be done with time and effort, he did it, but unfortunately, tests aren’t like that and that’s where he had the most problems. Back to School Night comes along and I meet his dad, an NCO in the Marines. Courteous, well-spoken, and completely knowledgeable about his son’s upcoming assignments and grades.
Totally made sense. Kid is getting through with hard work and dedication and pulling off a B average. Amazing what support from parents can do. In most cases, a kid like this would probably be failing most of his classes.
2. Son, Interrupted
This is less dramatic than the others, but still one of those “ah-ha!” moments. Had a grade eight student. Great kid, 100% responsible, academically talented, and would always speak in short clipped sentences and look like he was a frightened deer about to bolt. Had a conference with him and his parents together in which the kid was supposed to be leading the conference, reflecting on his growth and identifying his challenges.
Every time the kid opened his mouth to say something, he’d get halfway through the sentence and mom would finish it for him. Poor kid was always trying to get ideas out quickly so he wouldn’t be interrupted!
3. Anger Mismanagement
I had a grade two student who was constantly getting into serious physical altercations with others—stabbing kids with pencils, slapping girls across the face, etc. The first time I met his mom was when she came up to the school threatening to choke me because I said her son couldn’t come on a field trip to the pumpkin patch because he was “too violent.”
4. Kid’s Choice Non-Awards
My mom is a teacher in a very high-class part of town. Multimillion-dollar houses and all. She documents 100% of everything. If kids don’t do something, she makes them sign something saying they “chose” not to do it. Parent-teacher night, and it’s come time to meet with mommy and her little angel. My mom waits until the denials are done and listens to how good mom says their kid is.
Then turns to the kids and lays into both the kid and the parent with all the documentation, showing it is the kid’s own decision, and they have been 100% aware of it. As have the parents.
5. Faulty Father
These children (there were three of them) were known for being difficult at the afterschool care I worked in. I had always heard bad things about Dad, but not until I experienced it first-hand did I make the connection between his parenting and his kids’ behavior.
The eldest (grade five) would refuse to listen to us. He would often kick other children, provoke them by grabbing them and pulling them in close, or just act out in a way that was confrontational. When we asked him to stop, he would respond with “screw you.” The middle (grade three) struggled to pay attention for more than five minutes, and often picked on other kids by intentionally stirring them up and spreading rumors. The youngest (kindergarten) was six but still not entirely toilet trained and had to repeat kindergarten because she wasn’t at normal developmental or social levels.
One afternoon, the eldest is in a pretty good mood. Because I’m curious, I ask, and he announces proudly: “Dad is picking me up early at 4 pm because we are going to see a movie this afternoon.” This is awesome, because the three kids are always last to be picked up. But 4 pm comes and goes, and there’s no sign of Dad. 4:30 pm. 5 pm. 6 pm. 6:30 pm.
It’s closing time. We get a call from Dad. “I’m sorry…I got caught up…” It’s almost 7 pm before Dad arrives. As the kids grab their bags, he tries to explain to me, but he’s all over the place. Some actual quotes from our conversation: “Don’t tell the kids, but I’m so gone right now. I stayed back with some mates and had some drinks…investment banking is stressful, so you look forward to Friday.” “My mate is driving us home. I only trust some of my mates with the new Porsche.”
The nail in the coffin was when eldest asked Dad: “I thought you said we were going to see that movie tonight?” To which he replies simply: “…Sorry mate, I forgot.” And in that moment, I realized that these kids were being told over and over and over: “You don’t really matter that much to me.” And it broke my heart.
6. Falling on Dumb Ears
I was a teacher in a deaf school for many years. Kids lived on campus as well. I would take the kids home for visits on weekends. One kid was a major behavior problem and always screamed and yelled and broke things and was just generally all-around disruptive. We got along better than most staff did so I volunteered to took him home one weekend he missed his van.
When I got to his house none of his family members even looked at him. He was a teenager by this point. Freaking family never took the time to learn sign language. I was absolutely horrified. Yeah, all his “problems” made a lot of sense to me at that point.
7. Sounds of Sadness
Sibling group, all speak as if they’re deaf (accent, incorrect emphasis, excluded sounds) and exhibit rash, impulsive behavior. High instances of school refusal. But polite, ambitious, aspirational, popular, and well dressed. Turns out mum had an intellectual disability and was a drug addict, so all three kids had intellectual disabilities, possibly fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
But grandma was a drug dealer, so they always had loads of money for clothes, food, and drugs. Kids had just learned to speak like that based on their mum’s speech, which was affected by her constant drug use. It was so sad.
8. Cool Co-Parents
When I was student teaching (grade two), there was a little boy in the class who was just a genuinely friendly and sweet kid. He struggled a little academically when learning to read, and his handwriting had some problems, but he was the hardest worker, never got frustrated, or thought we were stupid (like many other students with those difficulties do).
He was well-liked by everyone and didn’t have a mean bone in his body. And he was extremely well-adjusted, despite his parents being divorced. I ended up meeting both parents separately during field trips. Both parents are extremely involved in his life and put him ahead of any of the problems they have with each other.
They genuinely want what’s best for him and it shows. The dad takes him out to the sports bar for boys’ night where they share root beer, which I thought was cool. Both parents genuinely are awesome people with great attitudes. It shows in their kid.
9. Excuses Don’t Fall Far from the Tree
College freshman was constantly late, didn’t turn work in on time or at all, etc. She had an excuse for everything. I wasn’t even asking. She just volunteered excuses. After getting a D in my class, which was frankly a bit generous as her actual grade was a high F, her mother called me. I wasn’t allowed to discuss a student’s performance with anyone, including their parents, and I told her as much.
Her mother then, unprompted, gave me a long string of excuses for her daughter and (oddly) herself. I kind of thought “o-h-h-h-h-h that makes sense now.”
10. Cut to the Core
This one broke my heart and it’s something I still think about from time to time. Just a few months into my first year, several grade five students were sent home for lice. One was a small blonde girl named “Jane” who was quiet and shy. Her clothes were always somewhat unkempt and had a strong smoky odor. She very rarely completed her homework and hated answering questions in class. However, she was kind, attentive, and performed well on her in-class assignments.
We had another round of head checking about a week after the first one and found that Jane still had lice/caught lice again. She was sent home with a call to the parents letting them know. The next day she walked into the classroom with a shaved head. Her parents shaved her hair off so that they did not have to deal with the lice again.
She cried when I asked her about it. I felt horrible for her. Grade five is a tough place to be when you have something that is “obviously different” about you that other kids can pick on. I could not grow her hair back for her, but I did buy her a cute hat that I allowed her to wear in my class if she wanted. It seemed to help.
When I met her parents shortly after, they showed up with three younger kids who looked about a year apart with the same shaved hair cut as Jane. The parents smelled like smoke and pet urine and I could hear them cursing at their kids in the hallway before I even saw them.
11. Ask and You Shall Receive
A girl in my grade seven class was bright, but almost never turned in her homework, so she just skated by on test scores. One time, I commended her for helping another student who didn’t understand the assignment, only to realize that night that she didn’t do her own. I called her parents in and quickly realized they’re the type that have an answer for everything.
They were quick to put the responsibility on me, as if I should stand over their daughter to make sure she works. I turned to ask the girl what she thought, since she had been completely quiet, and her parents began to answer for her again. I put my finger (index) up and said, “No, you’ve had your turn. I want to hear what she thinks about all this.”
Well, she apparently really appreciated that, because she went on for about 30 minutes about all her views on education. At the end, I kept her parents quiet and told her that if she’s willing to talk such a big game, she needs to back it up and do the work without her parents or me interfering.
She didn’t miss another assignment all year. Proud teacher moment.
12. Good on Them
I notice quite a few negative stories here, well here is a positive one where it “clicked.” I have a student who is friendly, smart, and amazing at English (I am an ESL teacher abroad). She is always friendly to me and always hardworking. She constantly helps other kids in class who struggle with the material and overall just a great girl. I met her dad once at a school event and holy goodness was this guy awesome.
He was a genuine and generous character and even invited me to get to know different parts of the city with his family. I could tell they had a close bond and that he had raised her well. Just an example of good people raising other good people.
13. Crossing the Great Multiplication Divide
One kid, sweetest kid alive, he was like what you imagine an actual grade four kid to be like. He was pretty much like a curious puppy. Flipside, he had a solid 13% in the class. He just couldn’t figure out how to put two numbers together. I cried when he learned to cross multiply and see the wheels turn in his head. Thing is, compared to a lot of kids, he had lots of reasons to act out and be violent and could be a jokester with friends. He could lash out but never did compared to other classmates.
Met his parents. Literal salt of the Earth types. Dad was older and had that old-spun country wisdom to him. Told me that they’ve been trying hard with him, but he just seems to not click right, like read eight hours a day with him and nothing coming right. What I also noticed is that they were patient as all living heck, and so was he. I wish we had non-behavioral special ed because he needed it bad. Still got him to cross multiply!
14. The Music of Life
Kindergarten teacher here, had a student who would much rather sing everything than talk, and she was happiest just spinning around in circles and singing! Met her parents—band teacher and a dance instructor! Such a sweet and happy family.
15. A Family Failing Grade
Grade nine student, thought she was entitled to an A despite her work not being A-quality work, let alone B-quality. Met her mom a few weeks into the school year, who happens to be on our board of directors. She also has a habit of treating teachers as if they’re less-than and is enabled by our school founder. On top of that, her son, a senior at the time, didn’t earn college acceptance.
However, our principal lied at graduation and said he’d gotten into a university he hadn’t been admitted to. Why? Because our school is touted as a college preparatory. Can’t possibly mar our good name!
16. Credit for Deception
This is from back when I was doing my student teaching. There was a girl in one of my classes who never did any work in class, turned in her homework late, and would ignore huge projects until literally the last minute and then ask to come in for help every day at lunch/after school to make up for the missing work. Eventually, I caught her cheating on a quiz (she had written down the answers, put them in the plastic cover of her binder, and put her binder down by her feet).
I took her quiz, gave her a zero, and told her that cheating wasn’t allowed. About a week later, we had parent-teacher conferences. The girl came with her mother, who took out every assignment that had been graded, and handed back, and proceeded to argue with me over individual points. Things along the lines of “She spelled it all right, so that deserves some credit, right?” or “She circled the right answer, so she should still get some credit!” when that right answer had been crossed off and then another answer had been selected.
This took nearly an hour to go through. Finally, the mother brought up the quiz, and I told her about the cheating. The mom said, “Well you should give her some credit on it, she was pretty clever to think of that trick.” From then on, I made sure to schedule meetings with myself, my mentor teacher, and the principal present.
17. Success Needs Failure
One of my students is “safe playing.” He won’t try any new ideas while doing math and would frequently flat our refuse to apply certain formulas. I used to think that he genuinely is less creative than others, but at times, particularly when playing games, he would show bursts of real brilliance. When I met his mother, it clicked why.
The mother burst into tears saying she was afraid what would happen if the child would fail. She desperately wanted him to succeed and because of this desire has all but sealed closed his chances of success. He is so afraid of failure that he doesn’t even try.
18. A Bogus Miracle
Had a kid who you looked at and it was very much a “lights are on but nobody is home” sort of feeling. I teach high school so sometimes that’s just the phase they are in but this one was basically living perpetually in that mode. Kid has an IEP (individualized educational plan) which is an official special education doc, I can’t reveal what was in there. But it was, suffice to say, generic. So, it feels like there are pieces missing.
Days go on, this kid is the gold standard of “something is up.” Completely illegible handwriting to the point it doesn’t resemble writing, you ask about what we are doing in class and the answer is so random and off-task that if the kid didn’t look and act fairly child-like for their age you would assume heavy drug use…but this kid, if anything, didn’t know what drugs were.
Mom comes to Back to School night which is supposed to be five minutes with the class of parents, a nice “how do you do,” and everyone moves on. She corners me. Immediately starts telling me about her concerns that I don’t fully appreciate her miracle baby who was mute until eight, didn’t walk until four, walked backward first, and had an IQ of about 60.
They told her this kid would never make it in school and didn’t: “I think you just COULDN’T TELL ANYTHING WAS EVER DELAYED…because this is a MIRACLE.” That’s why she blocked all mention of those conditions from the documents. Because people would never guess otherwise. MIRACLE.
When the word “miracle” comes up from a parent it always explains a lot.
19. Glamor Don’ts
Our class has one little girl that is utterly terrified of anything that might mess up her dress or her hair—she won’t play in the sand or the water, she refuses to paint and never goes near the play equipment. We thought it was so sad/strange, and we could never convince her to play “untidily.” Usually her nanny picks her up, but one day her totally done up and glamorous mother picked her up and it all clicked.
First thing she did was tell the little girl off for “messing up” her plaits, and suddenly it all made a lot more sense. The little girl is only three years old too. After a few weeks at school, she’s starting to become a little more interested in the messier activities, but she still gets very stressed out.
20. A Straight-A Nightmare
I had this grade eight girl. Straight As, lead role in the school musical, top student on the track team, super warm and friendly personality. But when she came into conferences with her parents, everything changed. She was frozen and quiet. Her parents never smiled. They pulled out quizzes where she got A-minuses. They asked her where she was struggling, what wasn’t she understanding, what can she do to get more help from the teacher.
She’s fourteen years old and I just feel like that kind of pressure is going to break her one day.
21. That Was so Sarah
This is kind of different, but I thought it was sort of interesting. Two weeks after I started high school, all the parents and students were invited to an informative tour around the school. Or something like that, I do not remember. But this was at 6 pm so it was not mandatory for students to attend. I was basically the only student.
We were welcomed to sit down randomly in our classroom. The interesting thing is that almost every parent took their own child’s seat without knowing it, or a seat very close to it. It was so strange, and I could see the similarities. Even the questions they asked. After a mom asked about the library, all I could think was “That’s such a freaking Sarah question to ask.”
Guess what? It was Sarah’s mom.
22. Don’t Shoot the Messenger
My third-year class, one of the top students did badly because she’s lazy, did no work, and didn’t attend any of my revision support classes that I did (unpaid) during my lunch hour. She lied to her parents when they found out her mark and told them the whole class did badly due to my poor teaching skills.
When they turned up on parents’ evening, they were frothing at the mouth and started to tear me apart. I showed them the spread of the class, which was exactly where it should be and that she was sitting below the median mark. Then I explained what the median mark was in my best “math teacher” voice. They just didn’t have anything to say. Satisfying.
23. Mental Math Shocker
I teach grade seven in the US. 13-year-old student constantly in low-grade trouble (the three Ds: disobedience, disrespect and disruption). I shrugged it off, figuring something was up at home. I meet the mother at the parent-teacher conference. She’s obviously very young. We start the conference, and she offers, “I’m sorry (student name) is such a handful. I just don’t have time to discipline him like he needs. I’m 27 and I have five kids.”
All four teachers in the conference can be seen subtracting 13 from 27.
24. Understanding the Worst
My grade five teacher said she understood why at times I couldn’t finish my homework or fall asleep in class after seeing my mother had cancer. I’m sure before that she thought I was lazy. She became super close with my mom after and the day my mom passed (I was still in grade five) she cried in class when they messaged her, and that’s how I knew it was over.
I personally believe teachers make a huge impact in a child’s life. She really helped me out and understood.
25. School of Compassion
My dad had colon cancer and had an allergic reaction to the staples that were used in the surgery to patch him up. This caused him to have sepsis that went undiscovered for a few hours. When the nurses realized the danger my dad was in, it was almost too late. It took him forever to recover, and during that time period, I had to help him with almost everything.
I was a junior in high school and couldn’t juggle school and assisting my father. My grades started to drop, and I became distant. However, my English teacher knew what was going on, and helped me through the tough times. She encouraged me and helped me get my grades up. I remember once I had had a particularly rough night and had fallen asleep in her class.
Instead of waking me up she made the class quiet down and just read the entire period. I still tear up thinking about it. Best teacher I ever had.
26. Taught What Family Means
My teachers used to show up to court cases to support me. They tolerated a lot of behavior that they didn’t have too. I lived in my guidance counselor’s house when my dad was serving time and got my first pair of glasses from her. My gym teacher looked the other way when I showered at school in the mornings when we didn’t have running water at home.
Despite great test scores I almost didn’t graduate high school because of the tumultuous life I lived, and when my parents passed not long after high school, I heard from nearly all of them, asking how I was doing. I wouldn’t have made it without them. They were amazing people.
27. Teaching a Sore Loser
Not yet a teacher but studying to be one. In one of my major field experiences, there was a kid who was insanely competitive. He would take everything as a challenge and would accuse others of cheating if he lost. He even challenged me, a 19-year-old student at the time, to a race. I told him it really wouldn’t be fair since I was fully grown, and he started berating me that I was scared to race him. (Mind you, he was nine at the time).
So, the end of the year is coming around and we had a field day where parents volunteered to do games for the kids, and it was supposed to be a fun day full of popsicles and school games. His parents had a relay race (spin around the bat, jump rope a certain distance, etc.) and when it was his turn, they encouraged him to cheat by not following THEIR rules and got upset because some poor girl dropped the bat (obviously meaning she would be disqualified).
They also brought a tugging rope, and it was the girls of the class versus the boys. The girls being outnumbered, my field experience teacher put me on their team. I decided I wouldn’t tug, to be fair. But, once again, the student’s parents started getting red-faced telling him to win. I looked at my field experience teacher.
She just nodded, and I pulled. Kid got knocked down a peg.
28. Bad News Mother
I was a teacher’s aide in an after-school care program in an elementary school. It’s where the kids come after the school day ends so they can be cares for until their parents get off work. There was one boy who was a total terror and attention hound. He was stocky and tall and strong for his age (nine at the time).
He scared a lot of the other kids because he demanded that they play with him, and he then threatened to break things if they didn’t do what he wanted. He was totally disrespectful of any adult authority, just a general terror. I disliked him. He was dropped off in the morning by one babysitter and picked up by another at the latest possible time. I never saw a parent. His mother was a news reporter for the Denver Post, like a “lady about town” who covered the society pages and did reviews of things.
One Friday afternoon, this kid was being super good. He spent all afternoon drawing things for his mom and saying, “My mom is coming to get me tonight! Not my babysitters! She has the whole weekend off and we’re going to do things together, just her and me! Here’s the list of all the things,” like watching a movie, going for a walk, eating dinner together.
Pickup time arrived and here comes the mom, yapping away on her cell phone (back when cell phones were very unusual), signing her kid out without speaking to anyone. Her son is standing there holding his pictures to show her, so excited. She shushed him and brushed off his hand, and her conversation was, “Oh yeah, I can go review that new spa in Aspen, I’m not doing anything this weekend, let me just drop (kid’s name) at the babysitter for the weekend,” blah blah.
The kid visibly crumpled in on himself, it was heart-wrenching. He was silently crying as his mom yanked him out the door while she yapped on her phone, not even as much as a “Hi, honey,” to her son. I did my best to be very understanding, caring, and attentive to the kid after that, asking him how his day went, praising him when he behaved well.
29. Gender Offender
Male students who were very tough on female teachers. Met their parents, saw how the kid’s dad treated the kid’s mom, and everything made sense. Tough to overcome attitudes that are reinforced eight hours a day, every day.
30. A Peter Pan Nightmare
I have one little boy who is strange. He either sits in a corner muttering to himself, or he’s trying to hug the life out of other kids. His twin sister is also in our class, and he needs to be reminded often that he shouldn’t touch her like that. He is five, but he can’t do anything. He freaks out about having to put his own shoes on, putting away his things, everything. On top of all of that, he will only eat PB&J sandwiches, so at school it’s just J.
And then I met his dad. “Oh, my baby, you are the cutest baby in the whole world! You don’t have to do one single thing when Daddy’s here!” It clicked.
31. Father Doesn’t Know Best
I kept returning assignments to a 16-year-old for constant, blatant plagiarism. After doing this several times for the same assignment (bending the rules a bit, but trying to get through to the student how to use sources without plagiarizing,) he said: “You’re wrong, my Dad says this is how you write essays, it’s how he passed his BTEC.” So, I got his dad in for a meeting where I taught him how to not plagiarize which led to this gem of a conversation:
Me: “You can see that this section of the essay is directly copied and pasted from Wikipedia.” Angry Dad: “That’s just not true, I’ve seen him work and he doesn’t copy and paste. He reads it from one window then types it out himself.” Me (after pausing in disbelief): “Then he is extremely inefficient in his plagiarism.”
32. Thick as a Brick
We had this girl who was really dense. Nice girl, but there was very little happening behind the eyes. She always stood with her mouth open and her tongue halfway out. Her dad picked her up, then came back five minutes later to ask if we had any bricks. We asked why. At the bottom end of our car park there is a big (visible) ditch where the ground has sunken, then there is a massive curb.
Again, all of this is clearly visible, so nobody goes near that end of the car park. But he thought this looked like a good way drive put of the car park and his car was now pivoting on the curb with his front wheels not touching the ground! We had to make a ramp out of bricks to get him free! It answered a lot of questions about the girl. But at least we got an amazing saying out of it. Since then “get the bricks ready” has become a euphemism for “just spoke to a stupid parent.”
33. Little Linguist
I had a student from Asia when I was a grade four teacher. I didn’t think anything of it. She worked very hard and was a high achiever. Sometimes she made silly mistakes that I couldn’t figure out. One day I had an interview with her mom, neither of her parents spoke any English. My student translated the whole interview. I couldn’t believe it.
She was only in grade four, and her language skills were so strong that I didn’t even know she spoke another language at home.
34. He Isn’t from Them
Used to teach preschool. I have plenty of those stories where it “clicked” but I’ll tell you my opposite-of-clicking story. One of the most interesting students I had was this sweet little boy named Mark. He was almost five and had the BEST personality of any kid I had had in my years of teaching. Nice to everyone, funny, talkative, smart, just an overall lovable kid. The teachers in other grades who had never had him loved him.
Anyway, I had never met his parents before. Wasn’t there during drop off/pick up. They came together one day because we were dismissing early. His mom was mean and yelled at him to “Hurry up and get your stuff! You don’t need to say goodbye to everyone!!” She was rude to me also when I introduced myself. His dad never said a word.
The next week I was working late and was there when the dad picked him up…completely intoxicated. Stalled long enough for the assistant to call law enforcement. This was the opposite of clicking. I was left wondering how he was such a great kid.
35. An Unperfumed Note
Not me, but my dad’s mum was a first-grade teacher. One year, there was a particularly unhygienic kid who other kids wouldn’t hang out with. He was just not pleasant to be around because he smelled bad. Teacher sends a note home telling parents about the situation, saying maybe he should be bathed a bit more frequently. Next day, kid comes to school with a note from dad: “Our boy ain’t no rose. Learn him, don’t smell him.”
36. 100% the Wrong Way to Parent
I had a grade seven girl in class who was a very high performer. She was bright, but not out-of-this-world smart. Her high performance came largely from her extreme amounts of effort. Problem was that she was also very anxious. When working on an essay, she needed me to “check” her work over and over again (it was always very high quality).
If she missed a point or two on a quiz, she needed to talk about it. Typically, this is great, but with her, it was clearly causing an unhealthy amount of stress. Parent-Teacher Conferences come, and she comes with her mother to the conference. I always have a grade printout with scores for every assignment to provide at conferences.
Mom picked apart every single assignment that wasn’t a score of 100% (most were literally 98 or 99, and NONE of which were below a 95). “What did she do wrong here?” “Why didn’t she understand this?” “What does she need to do to improve?” All of this despite me starting the conference by telling Mom how impressed I was with her daughter’s work ethic and motivation, but that I’d like for her to have more (much deserved) self-confidence, and to trust herself more.
37. Extra Help for a Worthy Kid
I’m a student teacher at a school where over 90% of the students are at risk. My mentor teacher and I were noticing one student was falling asleep consistently every day regardless of the activity we were doing. My mentor teacher asked him to step into the hall to talk about what’s going on and she found out that he wasn’t getting any sleep at his foster home because there were four children under three years old in the home, and he shared a room with a baby with colic.
Then we found out that he had been wrongfully removed from the free and reduced lunch program and had been starving all week long. The poor kid had no energy at all. When we called the foster parents, they said the exact same thing and it turns out they had taken him in because the only other place that had an opening was a group home for the severely disturbed or children with extreme behavioral issues.
Administrators are looking into why he was removed and now he’s got his own secret cabinet in the class full of snacks he can come get at any time. He is also allowed to come in during our off period to work on homework or take a quick nap. He is a wonderful student and an awesome kid, and it is awful that he’s going through that. It’s really a testament to how awesome my mentor teacher and what a difference a teacher can make in the lives of a student.
38. Junior Caretaker
I do volunteer work for a program designed to help students who are habitually truant. Had one middle schooler who was super bright, genuinely seemed to love school, got great grades, but was absent about half the time. He was very evasive about why he wasn’t coming to class and I honestly didn’t put him high on my list because he was doing fine even with the missed days.
When I was finally able to get a social worker to go by his house, I learned the heartbreaking truth. It turned out his (single) mother was having seizures and didn’t have any healthcare so she couldn’t get treatment for them, and the kid was staying home to take care of both her and his younger brother. I felt just terrible for the kid having to be so adult while still in middle school.
39. Forgiving the Unforgiveable
This girl in prep already showed traits of a narcissist/sociopath. She was an extremely clever but lacked empathy, manipulative, blatantly lied, stole, and so on. Yes, this might just sound like the characteristics of any child, but there was something different about her. Anyway, met her mum who refused to accept that her child would do anything wrong, and when the child admitted she took a girl’s bracelet because she wanted it, her mum said that’s ok we can go buy you one on the way home.
40. Keith Gets It Together Despite the Mom
Keith’s mom. Keith was a 10th grader and I was new to teaching. He was such a pain in the neck. Didn’t do any work. Mouthed off. Got other students distracted. I ended up calling his mom about half a dozen times, asking her to come in and meet with me to talk about the situation. She never returned my calls.
And then one day, out of the blue, she showed up to talk to me. She didn’t look happy to be there but hey, at least she came, right? I thanked her for being there and began to talk about how Keith was doing. She looked around the room while I spoke, and her body language made it very clear she didn’t want to be there. After a few minutes, she interrupted me, looking straight at me for the first time. “Look,” she said. “I gave up on that kid a long time ago. You want to try to do something with him, you go ahead. I wish you luck.” And then she got up and left.
I felt sick. This was her son. He was maybe 15, still a KID, for crying out loud.
In the days that followed, I thought about Keith a lot. In class, I did my best to see him through fresh eyes. I made a point of talking to him more. And at some point, I realized that for all the headaches he caused, I actually liked having him in class. Turns out he was a funny guy. He had a big heart. After a while he even started doing some work. Not a lot, but some.
One day, another kid in class was being really smug and obnoxious. Without warning, Keith punched the kid in the face. He sighed and looked at me. “I’m really sorry. Had to be done. I’ll escort myself down to the office.” I guess that was the last straw for the school, because Keith was sent to an alternative school in the district. A good one, thankfully.
I saw Keith one more time, about a year later. He came to my class, grinning, a report card in hand. All A’s. “I decided it was time to get my $#*! together,” he said, simply.
I never saw him again, but I heard he continued to do well. And I’m glad that though others gave up on him, he decided not to give up on himself.