Discrimination: The new trend for teachers Or Why we’re not on the same team anymore

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: We haven’t yet met with the school or the teacher, we don’t know his side so this is clearly our side of the issue and how we see things from this side of the fence… Also, you should know, this is not a short post.

Bebe comes to me, a week or so shy of the grading period ending (it ends today in case you’re wondering), and tells me that she has an F in one of her classes. Once I picked myself up off the floor I asked how/why she let this happen. She told me there were homework papers she didn’t do. She is taken out of this class (and a couple of others) 3 times a week for TAG (talented and gifted program) and so she doesn’t always get the homework because instead of the teacher handing it out at the beginning so all the kids can have it, he hands it out during class when the TAG kids are gone and it is their responsibility to get the homework.

Okay that makes sense to me and I know this because it was like this when Bug was in TAG at the elementary school, so that is nothing new. My next step was to tell her that she needs to talk to the teacher, find out if she can still get the missing work, do it, and turn it in for any grade, partial, half, whatever points he will give.

She comes back a few days later and tells me that the teacher said no. It was in the grade book and that was that.

Fine. I tell her the next thing she needs to do is to find out if there is any extra credit she can do. I practically hand hold her and walk her through what to do each time. Bebe is somewhat shy I think when it comes to things like this and has never had to ask for extra credit. Bug on the other hand is an old hat at finding ways to get extra points.

She comes home a day later and says the teacher told her to ask next week (this week) as he had nothing for her right then. Bebe goes to school and asks on Tues, she comes home upset and frustrated because the teacher told her No; there was no extra credit for her because she was a TAG student and they are the “head of the class”. She also said something about him saying it was unacceptable. I’m not sure what is unacceptable but I’m assuming it’s her failing grade. If that’s the case I agree… it is unacceptable but I also think a few other things…

When midterms came out I remember signing Shorty’s and sending them back to school with him. Because Bebe and Shorty don’t get their papers sent home on the same day (Shorty’s come home on Weds, Bebe’s on Thurs), I (ahem) forgot about asking Bebe for hers. I admit to that but I don’t think I thought anything of it because when I had checked her grades previously she was doing well, or at least the online progress book looked that way (more on that later). And because Bebe is a good student (this is the first year she’s been on the Merit roll and she calls that slumming), I didn’t think much of it. I now know that she did receive her midterms and the F was on there. In hindsight I should have asked for them but for whatever reason it slipped my mind to do it. (That blame is on me. I really should have asked where they were).

Bebe was embarrassed completely over the midterm and did not tell me that she had them. She kept them hidden in her room until this week.

In between all of this the teacher never reached out  or requested a conference to say that she was failing or that he had concerns, other teachers have come to me and said she had not turned in something and we took care of it; we always do. Not only that but over the years we’ve been contacted for far less than missing homework or bad grades so I am a bit surprised over there being no outreach at all. We are not a huge school. The entire fifth grade is maybe 120 students; small in comparison to other schools in our county.

(I feel it important to mention that earlier this year we had an issue with the same teacher. Bebe had worked her tail off on a Native American report and model that was to serve as a split grade for two classes. The night before it was due we were applying the finishing touches and printing out the report. I wasn’t aware we were running out ink until we started printing. It looked horrible. You could barely read it. The library was closed and it was too late for me to drag everyone to Walmart for ink so Bebe suggested that she could maybe print it in the computer lab room the next day where the students do a lot of research and in class reports. I put everything on a flash drive for her and taught her where to find it and how to open the file. When she took it to school, her TAG teacher said it would be fine to print it from her computer but she needed to get her other teacher’s permission first. When she asked, he refused and told her it was now considered late. I left a rather unfriendly voicemail for the teacher (you can’t make me apologize for that) and he never called back to discuss or weigh in.)

At this point, I don’t think this is so much about the F anymore as it is the teacher’s attitude over the situation. I take issue with what I feel is him being discriminatory against the TAG students. I asked Bebe if he’s offered EC to other students and she said yes, but not the TAG kids.

If I am understanding things correctly, then it’s perfectly okay for other, less intelligent (or perceived less intelligent, or even “average”) kids to be allowed extra help when they need it but it’s not permitted for the TAG students, which in numbers are fewer than the rest of the student body. Since when do we allow other students to make and correct mistakes, bring grades up and seek out help but not other students? I thought discrimination and segregating students was something we didn’t do anymore? I won’t even go into the possibility of their being a prejudice on the teacher’s part but the fact that if other students are permitted extra credit and make up work then it’s a safe assumption to assume that there is prejudice or at the very least discrimination in some way, don’t you think?

And so you don’t think that I’m in complete defense of my daughter and trying to wage war against the school… she does have a planner that the school gives out at the beginning of the year. She does not use it. She has a hard time remembering she says and because she misses classes due to the TAG and “specials” schedule (PE, Art, Music/Band), she says she finds it difficult to be able to go back and write everything in. She also says that the teachers don’t check it even though they are supposed to (from what I’ve been told and in the past they have signed off on it at the end of the day or beginning of next). It’s been an ongoing argument in our house between her and I, one that has even come to tears as she thinks I’m being mean and unfair when I tell her that she must use it, regardless of whether or not the teachers are checking it.

But at the end of every grading period, her grades have shown that planner or not, she is doing very, very well. Until now. With this one subject.

I used to consider myself an ally of the school; bent on working with them in every way to make sure each of the kids succeeded in every way possible but past experiences and situations have started to lead me to believe otherwise. I’ve always been a strong advocate when I believe the school or teachers are wrong as well and I’m not afraid to fight on their behalf, and I know that I take it personally when they fail (what parent doesn’t), but I’m not blind and I do everything I can when I see that they aren’t doing what’s expected and I work with them in every way possible to correct the situation. I don’t think this case is any different, Bebe will have to likely have to deal with the consequences of her F, if that’s what she still has (more on that in minute), but I will get to the bottom of why extra credit is okay for some and not for others and if there is a true case of discrimination going on or if there is a bigger problem at hand.

As for the progress book, homework and why I’m not even sure if she still has an F; I can’t make Bebe do what I don’t know is due. That’s why I have a love hate relationship with the school district’s online progress book. It’s a handy tool that teachers and students can log into to see what homework is due, when, special projects, notes, the month at a glance, email addresses for staff, etc. It’s a love hate relationship because when it’s used it works well and when it’s not used, I’m in the dark. Right now it’s a hate relationship because the teachers don’t update it. Every week the kids bring home a stack of papers each from homework, tests, quizes, assesment exercises and yet for all these grades that I see on paper, for many of the subjects the last entry in the online progress book (for a test, quiz or hoemwork assignment) is in February. Someone please tell me what month we’re in?! Some subects say they were last updated as recent as the 14th but when I look at the details of that subject it’s really more like early March (the 9th) or even the middle of February where there is an entry item.

So I’m confused, how do I help Bebe stay on top of homework and assignments when she doesn’t use the planner if the teachers aren’t even providing the parents with the right information? I can’t very well say, “Bebe, I see that X assignment is missing from ____. Do you have it finished? Did you turn it in?” because I can’t see all the homework or classwork that is assigned. This is an ongoing frustration that I’ve had with the elementary that goes back to when Bug was there (and yes I addressed it then too). In the middle school it improved a bit and now at the high school (apparently where this tool was really meant to be implemented), I ADORE IT. I puffy heart love it. I can see not only past assignments but upcoming ones as well including what page they covered in the book and what specific numbers they were to complete if it was an assignment from a book. The teachers are great about keeping it up… now if only the elementary teachers could get their act together.

I’m not just picking on this one teacher (because when I look at the online progress book they are almost all guilty) but since he is the topic as of right now, let’s take the progress page for his class an example (and since it’s the one she is failing). Last entry was on 2/16. In fact, every entry made was on 2/16 including all of the zero grades that Bebe has. Does that mean that all those zero point assignments were due on that day? If so, I don’t blame her for not being able to get them all done (they are 5 t0 15 page packets and there are six that she didn’t turn in). Does this mean that they haven’t had any tests, quizes or other homework since then??  (I checked with Bebe, that is definitely not the case and I’ve seen her weekly papers that come home so I know that’s not accurate).

Explain to me in tiny words how am I supposed to make sure she’s doing the work if she’s not telling me what homework she has and the teachers aren’t telling us what homework they have? They send out a weekly update with a general overview of what each teacher is working on but that’s it. That’s not enough for me to work with. Every year we get a letter telling us what the code is for our child and what the password is, so I take that to mean I am to use this tool and I do.

If no one is communicating with me then I can’t work with the school to ensure Bebe’s academic success can I? I provide her with a place to do homework, I provide her with all the tools she needs at home to do homework, including access to the Internet to research if needed. I provide everything I can and am able but it seems like I’m the only one doing it (or at least that’s how it feels right now).

So that leads me to wonder if the grades listed on the site are accurate? Is she in danger with other classes? Is her F still an F? The grading period ends today, the grades all have to be in (or are supposed to be) updated and turned in today. Usually I can check online the following week before report cards even come home and see what the grades will be.

I have called the teacher three times to request a quick meet with Brian and I but he hasn’t called back. So I have called and requested a meeting with the principal and teacher (fyi… the phone JUST RANG, we meet Monday morning, man that was spooky), and I have done my research on this end to make sure I’m not going in unarmed and not without questions.

But before all of that happens, I’m still left with questions and I debated waiting until after I had met with everyone to weigh in on this but telling a child that they can’t have access to the same opportunities that others have because they are viewed as smarter, just doesn’t sit well with me at all and I wonder if I am the only one. Twitter pals told me no but there’s also the question of how to deal with the online progress tool. Should that be considered an issue in this?

I’ve held nothing back in this, I take responsibilty for not making sure the midterms got seen – believe me, we would not be here had I known how bad the situation was. That being said, if Bebe had no interest in trying to fix what she’d done wrong or could have cared less about the grade I would be all for her taking her lumps and learning her lesson the hard way and she still might have to, but she came to me asking what she should do and I’ve advised her the best I can. This shows me that she realizes how bad this is and she wanted to fix the situation and was willing to do what was needed to fix it. Should it have ever happened in the first place? No and I’ve been quoted as saying that they need to be responsible for their own actions and accept the consequences and I believe and stand by that but also I believe that any kid who shows an interest in righting a wrong should be given the opportunity. It’s no longer about the F to me, now it feels bigger.

All of the above, past issues (and problems from last school year that are just too intensely personal and painful to even go into) are reasons why I don’t think the school and I are on the same team anymore. Things have shifted and I’m no longer in team player mode. I’m in mama bear defense mode and I fully admit it and not ashamed to say it.

However, I welcome the discussion. Feel free to debate it with me, share this with your other friends and ask them what they think. I’m willing to debate this. I’d really like to get your opinions and views:

What would you do if you and your child were in the same situation? Have you been in one similar?

I believe as parents we’re all in this together and we can learn from each other’s stories and views so feel free to share!

About Nichole Smith

Nichole Smith has written 760 post in this blog.

Founder of Chaos in the Country and (original) The Guilty Parent blog, Nichole is a professional writer, blogger, social media strategist, and collector of yarn, books, and pretty paper.

Comments

  1. It sounds to me as if this teacher has a real problem with gifted students. You say he gives out homework while they are not in the room, which to me was the first alarm bell. I don’t accept the excuse that gifted students should be capable of getting the homework themselves because it is putting an extra hurdle in their way. I’m going to assume the teacher would not dare suggest that he only give the homework to the boys because the girls were capable of getting it themselves.

    As for letting some students get extra credits but deciding it was “unacceptable” for others to get extra credits, that is blatant discrimination. If I was in a class where this guy was putting up as many barriers to my success as possible, I think I would have stopped doing the homework altogether. “He’s making things impossible. Why should I bother?” would be my attitude.

    As for hiding the midterm results, I think I understand that. If she has thought they were bad but there might be a way to remedy the problem, perhaps it is understandable that she would hide the results until later. That way she could say ‘these look bad but I’ve sorted it now’.

    I hope your meeting with the principal goes over well and you can get this sorted out. It’s horrible when a teacher has decided to take umbrage with a student through no fault of their own and they deserve a kick up the behind for it.
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  2. This is exactly why my daughter attends private school. When both the public school and the district refused to tell me the class size and what curriculum they were using, I found a private school that was happy to release that information. When they were against me from the start, I knew I had a problem. (And for the record, Madison is in first grade now and I’m still waiting for the kindergarden’s class size!)

    I think you are in the right. If the teacher can’t be bothered to call you back and schedule a conference, your daughter had no chance with him. Fight on! If we don’t stick up for our kids, who will?
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  3. Justthe10 says:

    I can kind of understand why he won’t give extra credit to a student that did not do their assignments in the first place. I can kind of understand why he won’t allow a make up assignment when she didn’t ask the following day what the previous days work was. (there really is no reason to wait weeks to ask for help with a failing grade)

    What I do NOT understand is why this teacher did not contact you midquarter to discuss solving the problems then.

    I do not understand the point of a “gifted” program that takes the child out of the regular classroom. If she belongs in a gifted class, then it should be a regular class for the gifted curriculum, not a block of time that makes her miss regular classes. Taking a child out of a regular class midway into the hour will only make them miss the learning.

    If it were me, I would not do a program like that. My son is going to be in advanced placement english next year, so I’m not against special programs. I just think they don’t do anyone any good if they are half assed.

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