A Captured Audience Parent Learns a Lesson in Teacher Harassment
Picture, if you will, a teacher trying to constantly recover from hurtful attacks during her entire teaching career. As a choral director, any decisions I made about who was in what choir, who performed what solos or leads in the musical were always up for constant scrutiny. My worst critics? You guessed it. Parents. In fact, it was a handful of parents who got me fired at my last job after 46 years of teaching. But I digress.
It still numbs my mind that a parent would harbor such malicious thoughts and accuse me of malfeasance all due to a child not singing in the talent show, or in a certain choir, or being picked for a solo on a concert. Oh if they had just harbored the thoughts. But instead they put HRS into action: Hide behind their computer, Rant and hit Send.
In my last job, the administrator I reported to wanted me gone at any cost. So when these handful of emails per year popped up on her screen, she was all too excited to act. To this day, I HATE the word REFLECT. My admin’s favorite scolding technique always began with, “You need to reflect on your actions and how you could have better handled the situation.” Better handled what situation? Little “Cindy Sue” didn’t make it into the talent show because she wasn’t good enough. Her parents could not accept that so they literally spent the remainder of the school year trying to put pressure on the administration to fire me. Believe me, it didn’t take much pressure. Five months later I was forced out and “Cindy Sue” went on to have a great singing career at the school. But again, I digress.
Now fast forward. A few days ago I was asked to speak about my book at a local book signing. I stood at the door, welcoming people in, excited to finally be in person after almost two years of being shuttered from public speaking. As the participants entered the area, a few spoke to me by name. I would inquire how we met, with the conversations animated, some even with excitement. Then entered a lady with quite a frown on her face. She barely spoke to me. When I stated she looked familiar, the frown gritted that I was her daughter’s teacher several years before. In my stupor, I did not assess the potential of the situation to implode until the gloomy lady took her seat. And then it hit me like a wall of unwelcome emotions! This face of abject hostility was a “Cindy Sue” mother. Now I was met with this reality: my talking points dealt with the reasons teachers are leaving their jobs all across America. One of the main reasons? Parents inability to be thoughtful in their criticism and demeanor. Do I take out that subject completely? Can I give my rehearsed speech on the equity issues facing teachers and edit it on the spot? The reality answer rose swiftly and permeated my thought process: no, I cannot edit nor should I be expected to edit what I was about to address! So my speech began and to my surprise, was well received. I couldn’t even finish my thoughts before teachers in the audience wanted to share their nightmare stories of parental rants and threats. All the time, I suppressed giggles. Who knew this certain parent would make my life miserable years before and then end up in the audience? And the predominant comments? Many around her spoke of the inappropriate behavior manifested by such crazed parents. Karma, baby, it was karma! Did she establish eye contact with me at any time? No. I would like to think she sat chagrined, hoping for a fast exit. I did not see her afterwards so I’m guessing she was in no shape to lend any compliments to my presentation. But just for a moment, I celebrated a very small victory: a parent who maligned me all those years ago had to sit and listen to what it felt like to be a teacher under fire from a group of parents, who should know better.
I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!,
TUNE IN SOON. Here’s a tease: It’s my Covid Anniversary!
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