Statistics and crime map…
Mar 31 Published in Remembrance, Reflections by Purple
This is a continuation of my journal from my 2001-2002 school year. Please read the previous posts to give this entry context.
Thursday – March 28: Hallelujah
When my husband and I were taking our harbor walk after school, I started to faint. My last day of school was a doozy.
First of all, I attended a Student Study Team for Brandon, requested by his parents. The meeting was attended by Brandon, his parents, two school psychologists, myself, a special ed teacher, Brandon’s counselor, and the assistant principal leading the team. There’s a protocol for these sessions. We start by listing the student’s strengths. These were easy for me: Brandon’s smart, well-liked, and has a great talent for physical comedy.
As the session proceeded, however, I was able to talk about my anger toward Brandon and how I haven’t forgiven him for his theft.
“When did the incident happen?” his father asked, although I’m sure he had pretty good idea when Brandon had his suspension.
“I think it was February twenty-first when I had a substitute.”
“It’s what, the twenty-eighth of March, and you still haven’t forgiven him?” The father seemed incredulous. In the part of the session that deals with what happens next, he recommended that Brandon be moved from my class.
I let the assistant principal put the idea on the butcher paper. But then Brandon’s counselor said that would be the second time Brandon had had his schedule changed because of not getting along with a teacher.
The school psychologist talked about how a class change was not dealing with the behavior that caused the problem.
I went back to why I still felt so angry at Brandon. I was also amazed that so much time had passed, but since February twenty-first, Brandon had served a five-day suspension and then, for whatever other reasons, he hadn’t returned to my class until only a few days prior to the SST. I was also having trouble forgiving Brandon partly because he’d expressed no sorrow or remorse about what had happened.
The parents said that Brandon claimed he hadn’t stolen the items, that he’d simply been the carrier. There was another student involved.
I said that that was for another meeting with another student and another set of parents. We agreed that Brandon would come to talk to me after school and that we would try to continue with him in my class.
The whole meeting was emotionally exhausting. The parents were so dear, with the mother touching Brandon’s shoulder and the father talking about how he’d graduated from high school, but hadn’t gone on to college and now he had a job that wasn’t satisfying. He wanted something better for Brandon.
I liked both of his parents even though the father at first seemed hostile to me. I kept trying to catch his eye and he would not look at me.
At the end of the session, he finally did. He turned his head and met my eyes as much as his pride would allow. “I’m sorry that my son took those things from you.”
I also had a parent from a student last year that was contesting his daughter’s grade. Second semester she’d received a D+ each quarter and then scored a B+ on her exam. The father claimed to have a note from me reassuring him that if his daughter received a good grade on her final that she’d have a chance of a better grade. He also seemed to be complaining that teachers didn’t respond to his calls. The father never talked directly to me, but rather started at the principal level, so I’m not sure of his exact complaints.
The situation was complicated by a number of factors: our principal was packing his bags as the complaint was made, all my old grade books are in storage because of the move to the portables, and I had an incompetent student teacher in that particular student’s class. I found out Laura’s grades by talking to her counselor who informed me that this father was not a very pleasant person. “So he’s going after you now,” she said.
I believe I know from whence his anger springs. Last year my student teacher had the students do a lot of journal writing. In the process, he discovered that this student had been sexually molested by a friend of the family, living in their home. The father must feel consumed with guilty rage.
These sorts of discoveries are the reason I stopped using journal writing some years ago. I learned too much about my students’ private lives. That kind of knowledge can get in the way of teaching. I had to look at my qualifications, too. If one is going to open a door to confessional, one needs to be trained to deal with the results. I had not been trained as a therapist or as a priest. I decided quite consciously that I had no business allowing my students to become so vulnerable to me when I was not equipped to help them.
There was no way I wanted to defend anything this student teacher had done. I doubt, if I had his records, I could decipher them. Furthermore, I believe I remember the father calling and me nagging the student teacher to call him, but the student teacher simply would not do things. Of course, as the supervising teacher, I should have made the call.
The father couldn’t find the note, testily telling the assistant principal in charge, “That’s like trying to find a receipt for something you bought last year.”
Which, of course, begs the question, “Why didn’t you complain about this grade last year?”
From the beginning, my position on this conflict has been that I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do battle with this father. I told the assistant principal to ask the father what he wants and to hand me a grade change form.
In truth, if I were using my old grading system of percentages, the girl might have received a C- for her semester grade. For example, if the percentage behind her D+ were a sixty-eight, and her final exam were an eight-eight percent for a B+, then using our formula of each quarter counting two-fifths of the grade, we’d have 68+68+68+68+88=360. Divided by five, that’s seventy-two percent, a C-.
The vice-principal who inherited this mess, last year worked to get all teachers on the same page with grading. We all had to use the system of D=1, C=2, B=3 and A=4. Using this system, the student’s grade ends up as a D+. There is poetic justice that he is saddled with this current case.
But, that was not all of my last day of school. When I opened my e-mail at lunch, I had a message to inform me that my fifth period class would be collapsed, after all. And, because the collapse would erase the class’s existence from the computer, I needed to input fifth period’s grades now.
It was hard even to feel happy about my lightened load. I felt bad for Brandon’s parents. How would they interpret Brandon being changed to another class after the agreement reached in the SST?
When I informed fifth period, they were so disappointed that I felt seller’s remorse. Some of their disappointment is just that they don’t want a schedule change. Nobody likes change except a wet baby. I assured them that the first line of action, would probably be simply to shift them to another English class fifth period, so their schedules wouldn’t actually change. Still, some of them were upset. In spite of how difficult they’ve been, they seemed the most bonded with me. Four different students in the class had given me pictures of themselves.
If there aren’t enough spaces in fifth period classes to accommodate the students, the next recourse would be to flip flop their fifth period English with another course. For example, if they now have math with Olds third period, they’d be able to have math with Olds fifth period and to have me for English third period. In some ways, even though the student has two new sets of classmates, this is the better change for continuity of curriculum. I am hoping that some of them will still be with me fourth quarter.
Third Quarter Grades for Sixth Period