Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Venting About Parents of High School Students

My profile status on Facebook this morning read:

"Can't stand when parents swear that what they want is in the best interest of their kids when in reality their child is suffering. Parents please stop and listen to your kids when they are obviously in pain before it's too late and you lose them forever!!!!! Praying for our future."

Here's the situation that prompted such a post. As you all know, not only am I an English Teacher but I'm also a Grade Advisor in the guidance office. I currently have half of the senior caseload about 500+ seniors, most are graduating, but there are a large number not graduating. I had a non-custodial father come in on Friday to discuss his twins. His son is two credits shy of graduating and will have to attend summer school to graduate in August. Fine. His daughter on the other hand has struggled all throughout her high school career to make just barely passing grades. In her sophomore year, she all but stopped coming to school. Thanks to some counseling with many of our school officials we found out she was really miserable at our school and wanted to transfer to an alternative school. Unfortunately for her, she was too young with not enough credits and her mother didn't want her to leave anyway.

We managed to get her to agree to come to school and pass some classes to gain more credits so that when she came of age at 17 she could qualify for an alternative school. She agreed. Fast forward to now. Dad comes in and is completely supportive of his daughter's decision. I explained that some things just don't work everyone. We knew from the beginning this school was not her choice but her mother's. I sat with dad and went over all the alternative programs, some of which would still give her a diploma from our school. She would just be in a smaller environment that would lead to more one-on-one interaction with her teachers. I should rewind and mention that she is a resource room student, and school will continue to be a challenge for her. During the meeting with dad, all three (father and twins) made it clear that the mother (the custodial parent) would not consent to anything.

I called the mother and was able to get her to agree to come in for a meeting with me and the assistant principal of Instructional Support Services. I asked the daughter to have a private, quiet, sit down with her mother over the weekend to explain one last time how depressed she is at our school and that staying would only prolong her pain. She barely has any friends, and has made it clear to everyone, including her mom, that if her mother doesn't consent she will just stop coming to school altogether. Dad is at a loss because despite the daughter's insane desire to leave our school, she will not do the easy thing which would be to live with her father. She feels responsible for her mother since their parents divorce and will not abandon her. Dad eluded to the fact that there is a lot more to the story, and I would understand when I met with the mother.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. Sigh. I just don't know what to make of this. When I walked into the meeting the mother was already fired up telling the AP that "As her mother, it's my legal right to keep her here!" Now I'm not one to make snap judgements, however, there was something clearly wrong with the mother. The father told me that the mother has been out of work for over a year and in that time has "lost a clear sense of reality". Now this is what I observed when I sat down next to the mother. The smell of deterioration was the first thing. It was a ghastly sickly smell that was so horrid I had to reposition my chair to make it appear I wanted to look at her (that smell stayed in my nostrils all day long until I came home and literally painfully flushed my nose with tap water). When I turned to face her I see that her hair is unkempt, I mean, no attempt to tidy it for a meeting with school officials, her fingernails were gnarled and dirty, and the worst, very worst, part of my observation is that her teeth were totally gnashed, black, and foul. Now I'm no expert, but either mom is suffering from some kind of debilitating disease or she's on drugs. This would explain the daughter's need to stay with her mother. Both the AP and myself explained that as parents we know what it's like to want the best for our children but sometimes you have to cut your losses when what you want isn't working. Even after we explained that keeping her here would only prolong her time needed to graduate. She is 17 with 21 credits. It would take her 2 years or more based on her unhappiness to complete the 40 required credits needed to graduate. She's depressed. She's unhappy. She wants to go to college but knows if she continues here she will not succeed. All mom could say like a damned broken record was "I'm the custodial parent, and it's my right to keep her here!"

When all is said and done, I basically informed the daughter that when she turns 18 in November she can discharge herself, and in the meantime I'm shortening her programs to the four classes she can tolerate, and asked that she try to pass 1 or 2 of those classes, which would take some time away from trying to complete so much in the alternative school.In the long run the daughter would be happy, she's still have a diploma from us, no one would need to know how she got it, and she would be off to college.

But, really, what is with these parents?! I don't understand what goes through their minds sometimes. How could you watch your child in obvious pain and ignore it just to get what you want? Or be so oblivious? I don't get. I don't know which is worse, her or the parents that have no clue what their kids are doing and want to point blame when their kids are failing. My graduate thesis was on the lack of parental involvement on the high school level, and now that I have seniors it is frightening to see how many of them have completely taken themselves out of their kids education. I just don't know! I'm going to stop venting now because I can come up with at least a dozen more examples to piss me off.

1 comment:

Mocha Dad said...

Parents need to be involved in all phases of their kids lives. Parents must be aware of personality changes in order to intervene when things go wrong.