Tag Archive | teaching

Mom’s panic attack


Maureen let him escort her to the car and open the door. Panic crawled through her chest. Tony had a son going into second grade next year. If he didn’t like her dating his brother, he might talk to other parents. If enough of them decided they didn’t want their child in her class the school board might not renew her contract. That was probably a lot of wild paranoia, but having a class full of kids with hostile parents wasn’t. Linda had a pack of them this year in third grade and they were making her life hell. Two years ago Jenny Gilchrist had six kids fail and those kids’ parents drove her so crazy she ended up in the hospital with panic attacks and quit at the end of the year.

Nothing galvanizes a person quite like having a sibling a call to say, “I don’t want to worry you, but Mom was taken to the hospital today.” Several years before she retired my mom (yes, I am a second generation teacher) had a number of students failing her elementary class. The grade she taught was high stakes because it was the year before the state tests are administered so kids who aren’t going to hack it, aren’t getting out of third grade. Their parents disagreed. Stridently. My mom had taught for almost 30 year at this point, over half of it in third grade. She knew her stuff. They harassed her so much about it that toward the end of the year, in the middle an assembly, my mother passed out cold on the floor.

Turned out Mom had had a panic attack from the stress and an overabundance of coffee. (My mom loves her coffee.) She wore a heart monitor for a day, failed the kids anyway and carried on for three more years before she retired.

So, is the scenario Maureen cooks up possible? Likely? That little heart attack I had when my sister called that day says yes.

Please remember, when you have a disagreement with your child’s teacher, that teacher may be somebody’s mother too. Keep civil, gather your evidence (because not all teachers are as excellent as my mom) and take it to the principal if you can’t get satisfaction from the teacher.


Writing What You Know


“Fucking cut it out,” Michael bellowed yanking Marc’s hand off Jack’s shirt with a tearing sound. Marc still clutched a scrap of material in his grasp and Jack backed against the wall gasping.

“Like your shit doesn’t stink.” Jason reached across the group, giving Marc a shove.

Marc turned his attention to Jason. “Listen, you whiny bastard.”

“Alright everyone, let’s calm down.” Maureen stepped into the middle of the group. Another thing different about recess. Those combatants couldn’t keep arguing over her head.

Many moons ago, when I was student teaching in an eleventh grade, low functioning class, two of my students got into a fight. Instinctively, I knew the best way to defuse the situation was to step between them. Then I realized that with one at five foot nine and the other approaching six feet, they could not only continue the argument over my head, they could outreach me leaving me in serious danger. There was a split second there while this sunk in that lasted about twelve years. I can vividly remember the shorter boy’s throat and the taller boy’s black t-shirt because that’s where my eye level was.

Then a miracle happened. The 22-year-old ex-con, who had been arrested before he graduated and was therefore allowed to finish after his release, grabbed the taller boy and dragged him into the hall for a stern talking to. I don’t know what he said, but neither of those boys was ever a problem for me again. And the ex-con? One of the best students I have ever had.

And people wonder why I don’t teach high school.