Sometime, it all just clicks after you meet the parents!
"I teach college classes so I don't normally meet my students' parents, but here's a backwards example of meeting the mom and having it click later.
I used to teach at a community college where it wasn't that unusual to have family members in the same class. I've had a lot of siblings take classes together, once a husband-wife pair, so it didn't strike me as that weird when a woman introduced herself and her son on the first day of class.
Except the mother was not on the attendance sheet. She was not registered for the course. I double-checked with the administration and learned that she wasn't a student at all.
I talked to her at the end of that first class and told her that, unfortunately, this class is for students only and she was welcome only if she registered for it. She said she had to be there for her son, that he needed accommodations and she was there to provide them. I told her in that case her son needed to get official documentation from the disability services office and then we could work from there, but short of that I couldn't allow her in the classroom for the sake of the other students. She said that was fine but, unsurprisingly, nothing ever came of it and I didn't see her again except to drop off or pick up her son.
His attendance was perfect but his in-class work (what he managed to turn in, sometimes he'd sit there doing nothing) was drastically different from his take-home assignments... Mom wanted to be there to do his work for him. He had gotten so used to his mother doing everything for him and saw no reason to change that when he got to college."
"College freshman was constantly late, didn't turn work in on time or at all, etc. She had an excuse for every single thing. I wasn't even asking... She just volunteered excuses.
After getting a D in my class, which was frankly a bit generous as her actual grade was a high F, her mother called me. I wasn't allowed to discuss a student's performance with anyone, including their parents, and I told her as much.
Her mother then, unprompted, gave me a long string of excuses for her daughter and (oddly) herself.
I kind of thought 'ohhhhh that makes sense now.'"
"Had a kid that never made eye contact ever. The Dad came in for a parents meeting. Same thing. Didn't make eye contact at all during the meeting."
"These children (there were three of them) were known for being difficult at the after school care I worked in. I had always heard bad things about Dad, but not until I actually experienced it first hand did I make the connection between their parenting and their kids' behavior.
The eldest (5th Grade) would refuse to listen to us. He would often kick other children, provoke them by grabbing them and pulling them in close, or just act out in a way that was verbally abusive. When we asked him to stop, he would respond with 'screw you.'
The middle (3rd Grade) struggled to pay attention for more than five minutes, and often picked on other kids by intentionally stirring them up and spreading rumors.
The youngest (Kindergarten) was 6 but still not entirely toilet trained, and had to repeat Kindergarten because she wasn't at normal developmental or social levels.
One afternoon, the eldest is in a pretty good mood. Because I'm curious, I ask, and he announces proudly: 'Dad is picking me up early at 4pm because we are going to see a movie this afternoon.' This is awesome, because the three kids are always last to be picked up. But 4pm comes and goes, and there's no sign of Dad. 4:30pm. 5pm. 6pm. 6:30pm. It's closing time. We get a call from Dad. 'I'm sorry... I got caught up...'
It's almost 7pm before Dad arrives. As the kids grab their bags, he tries to explain to me, but he's sort of all over the place. Some actual quotes from our conversation:
'Don't tell the kids, but I'm so gone right now. I stayed back with some mates and had some drinks... investment banking is stressful, so you look forward to Friday.'
'So, you'd be, what 20 now? What's a young pretty thing like you doing working so late on a Friday night?'
He offers to 'slip some cash' to me and my co-worker for the extra time.
'My mate is driving us home. I only trust some of my mates with the new Porsche.'
The nail in the coffin was when eldest asked Dad: 'I thought you said we were going to see that movie tonight?' To which he replies simply: 'Oh ... yeh sorry mate, I forgot.'
And in that moment, I realized that these kids were being told over and over and over: 'You don't really matter that much to me.'"
"Obviously an extreme example here, but I had a student, an eighth grader, who was quiet to the point of absolute silence, but who did extraordinarily well with the written word. A few times, he showed up with bruises, which I naturally reported, but he was adamant that they were from other students. Surprisingly, his parents came in for a conference and seemed relatively normal. Until he went to speak for himself and I saw his father grip his arm so tightly that it left a mark. I understood immediately that his parents basically didn't let him speak at all for fear of reprisal. A few weeks afterward, the kid stopped showing up to school, and word eventually got around that he got caught up in a lab explosion in his parents' house from when they were cooking illegal substances and was covered head to toe in second and third degree burns. He came back a month or so later, covered in bandages. He couldn't move, write, or really do anything without excruciating pain. I'd never cried so hard as I did that day. Sorry, I know it got off track but there are certain stories that stick with you."
"I was an elementary teacher's aide for several years in college.
We were having a parent-teacher conference with a struggling fifth grader and his parents. The poor kid was bright, but somewhat lazy and reading at barely a first grade level. The teacher laid out what we've been working on with the student individually for the last few months to try to improve his reading and get him engaged in learning.
The teacher then gently suggested that the kid should be practicing his reading at home with an adult. I suggested that since the kid loved Pokemon, there were some juvenile novelizations of Pokemon stories at the local bookstore that he may enjoy, and that it would help interest and engage him in improving his reading comprehension.
I'll never forget the withering look the father gave me. "We don't have extra money lying around to buy something that he can do at school." I was 19 at the time and shaky around confrontation, so I lowered my gaze and shut my mouth.
The teacher reassured the parents that we were doing everything in our power to help their child, and that we would continue helping their son improve his reading. That was that.
A few days after this, the students were taking turns at the end of the day telling us something good that happened to them that week (a ritual that I really admire that the teacher started, the kids loved it).
When it was the struggling student's turn, he stood up and got an empty video game case and controller out of his bag and said, 'This week, my dad bought the new Playstation and lots of new games, and we've been staying up late every night playing!'"
"I have a student who is really friendly, really smart, and amazing at English (I am an ESL teacher abroad). She is always really friendly to me and always really hardworking. She constantly helps other kids in class who struggle with the material and overall just a great girl.
I met her dad once at a school event and holy goodness was this guy awesome. He was a really genuine and generous character and even invited me to get to know different parts of the city with his family. I could definitely tell they had a close bond and that he had raised her really well.
Just an example of good people raising other good people."
"I taught preschool. I had one boy that was really clingy. He would always want to be the one sitting on my lap at story time. He would constantly look for my approval when he was playing. He would act out if he wasn't the center of attention. I found it a little obnoxious and would get so frustrated sometimes. Then, one day, his father came to pick him up. In uniform. After being deployed for weeks. It clicked. He just wanted the love and affection he was missing while his dad was away. I felt terrible. He became one of my favorite students after that."
"A girl in my 7th grade class was really bright, but almost never turned in her homework, so she just skated by on test scores. One time, I commended her for helping another student who didn't understand the assignment, only to realize that night that she didn't do her own.
I called her parents in and quickly realized they're the type that have an answer for everything, and were all to quick to put the responsibility on me, as if I should stand over their daughter to make sure she works.
I turned to ask the girl what she thought, since she had been completely quiet, and her parents began to answer for her again. I put my finger (index) up and said, 'No, you've had your turn. I want to hear what she thinks about all this.'
Well, she apparently really appreciated that, because she went on for about 30 minutes about all her views on education. At the end, I kept her parents quiet and told her that if she's willing to talk such a big game, she needs to back it up and do the work without her parents or me interfering.
She didn't miss another assignment all year. Proud teacher moment."
"This is from back when I was doing my student teaching.
There was a girl in one of my classes that never did any work in class, turned in her homework late, and would ignore huge projects until literally the last minute and then ask to come in for help every day at lunch/after school to make up for the missing work. Eventually I caught her cheating on a quiz (she had written down the answers, put them in the plastic cover of her binder, and put her binder down by her feet). I took her quiz, gave her a 0, and told her that cheating wasn't allowed.
About a week later, we had parent-teacher conferences. The girl came with her mother, who took out every assignment that had been graded and handed back, and proceeded to argue with me over individual points. Things along the lines of 'Well she spelled it all right, so that deserves some credit, right?' or 'she circled the right answer, so she should still get some credit!' when that right answer had been crossed off and then another answer had been selected. This took nearly an hour to go through. Finally, the mother brought up the quiz, and I told her about the cheating. The mom said, 'Well you should give her some credit on it, she was pretty clever to think of that trick.'
From then on, I made sure to schedule meetings with myself, my mentor teacher, and the principal present."
"I dunno if this counts, but I used to help tutor ESL to Spanish-speaking immigrants. There was one woman who was super focused and dedicated, and was making real improvements lesson to lesson. But she would miss massive amounts of time because she said she had to work, take care of her kid, and it really hurt her studies. She was stressed and frustrated all of the time even though she said she loved her job and was doing alright for herself...
Then one day she brought her mother in because she hadn't been to tutoring in a month and needed to come I guess. That woman was a terror. She wasn't even that old, probably in her late 50s. She yelled at her granddaughter, who also came along, and would smack her randomly, complaining that she was so ill behaved. It clicked that the woman was missing so much time because she had to babysit her mother just as much as her daughter. I felt so bad for her that she had such a burden, and yet so much respect that she'd go through so much to care for her mother."
"9th grader thought she was entitled to an A despite her work not being A-quality work, let alone B-quality. Met her mom a few weeks into the school year, who happens to be on our board of directors. She also has a habit of treating teachers as if they're lesser thans, and is essentially enabled by our school founder.
On top of that, her son, a senior at the time, didn't earn college acceptance. However, our principal lied at graduation and said he'd gotten into a university he hadn't actually been admitted to. Why? Because our school is touted as a college preparatory. Can't possibly mar our good name!"
"I had a second grade student who was constantly getting into pretty serious physical altercations with others--stabbing kids with pencils, slapping girls across the face, etc. The first time I met his mom was when she came up to the school threatening to choke me because I said her son couldn't come on a field trip to the pumpkin patch because he was 'too violent.'"
"When I was student teaching (2nd grade), there was a little boy in the class who was just a genuinely friendly and sweet kid. He struggled a little academically when it came to learning to read and his handwriting had some problems, but he was the hardest worker and never got frustrated or thought that we was stupid (like many other students with those difficulties do). He was well-liked by everyone and didn't have a mean bone in his body. And he was extremely well-adjusted, despite the fact that his parents were divorced.
I ended up meeting both parents separately during field trips. Both parents are extremely involved in his life and put him ahead of any of their problems they have with each other. They genuinely want what's best for him and it shows. The dad takes him out to the sports bar for boys' night where they share root beer which I thought was really cool. Both parents genuinely are awesome people with great attitudes and it definitely shows in their kid."
"One of my students is safe-playing. He won't try any new ideas while doing maths and would frequently look out to applying some formulas. I used to think that he genuinely is less creative than others, but at times, particularly when playing games, he would show bursts of real brilliance.
When I met his mother, it clicked why. The mother burst into tears saying she was afraid what would happen if the child would fail. She really desperately wanted him to succeed and because of this desire has all but sealed closed his chances of success. He is so afraid of failure that he doesn't even try."
"When I was student teaching, I had a student who seemed to have textbook fetal drinking syndrome. Then one day I saw her with her mother at Target, and I recognized her mother as one of the long-time regulars (i.e. chronic drinkers) at a bar I worked at in college. The whole thing made sense, and it was very sad."
"Had a kid that you looked at and it was very much a 'lights are on but nobody is home' sort of feeling. I teach High School so sometimes that's just the phase they are in but this one was basically living perpetually in that mode. Kid has an IEP (individualized educational plan) which is a legal special education doc, I can't reveal what was in there but it was, suffice to say, generic. So it feels like there are pieces missing.
Days go on, this kid is the gold standard of 'something is up' --- completely illegible handwriting to the point it doesn't resemble writing, you ask about what we are doing in class and the answer is so random and off task that if the kid didn't look and act fairly child-like for their age you would assume hardcore substance use...but this kid, if anything, had Ralph Wiggum genes and didn't know what illegal substances were.
Mom comes to Back to School night which is supposed to be 5 minutes with the class of parents, a nice 'How do you do' and everyone moves on. She corners me. Immediately starts telling me about her concerns that I don't fully appreciate her miracle baby who was mute until 8, didn't walk until 4, walked backwards first, and had an IQ of about 60--- they told her this kid would never make it in school and didn't I think you just COULDN'T TELL ANYTHING WAS EVER DELAYED...because this is a MIRACLE. That's why she blocked all mention of those conditions from the documents. Because people would never guess otherwise. MIRACLE.
When the word 'miracle' comes up from a parent it always explains a lot."
"One female organ student I had always wore dresses that were very revealing - both above the knee and in cleavage. When she'd sit on the organ bench for a lesson, it was almost embarrassing.
I wondered why she'd insist on dressing this way until I met her parents. Her mother dressed identically - to the point where other parents would study her movements as she walked across the room at a reception after student recitals.
It was a classic case of 'Like mother, like daughter.' And her father seemed to revel in it."
"We had a crazy kid in 6th grade a few years back. I mean, he was the type of kid you assume will probably go on a shooting spree at some point. He was diagnosed with all sorts of acronyms/acrostics, so he was on a ton of meds.
On his medicine he was defiant, but manageable. Typical class clown type stuff. Off his medicine... oh man. We could all tell when he came in the building whether or not he had taken it. It was in his eyes or something. He routinely refused to do anything and had to be physically carried, limp-bodied, to the principal's office a few times. He hit a teacher once, and called another one a female dog to her face. In the same day.
We had parent/teacher night and his mom came in. She was 26. He was 12. It became clear to us that the reason he was off meds so much was because she was taking them. She had also just had another baby, so he was acting out more because of that.
His mother had a very low IQ, clearly, and so did he. He ended up getting sent to alternative school eventually. Never saw him again."
"As a fourth grade teacher I endured a lot of unruly students. Had one kid whose favorite show was Sons of Anarchy. Great show but not sure for a 9 year old. He wasn't super aggressive but would get in other kids faces or slap/hit at them for various reasons. Met his mom (also happened to work at the school) and she would often tell me how she would tell her son if anyone got in his face or hit them to 'drop that mother.' Let's just say he took that advice to heart and he made a lot more sense after meeting his mom. Great kid otherwise though!"
"This girl in prep already showed traits of a narcissist/sociopath. She was an extremely clever but lacked empathy, manipulative, blatantly lied, stole and so on. Yes, this might just sound like characteristics of any child but there was definitely something different about her. Anyway, met her mum who refused to accept that her child would do anything wrong, and when the child admitted she stole a girl's bracelet because she wanted it, her mum said that's ok we can go buy you one on the way home."
"Kid named 'Rowdy'. Super nice kindergartener. Wondered why the heck his name was Rowdy.
Met his mom. Dad was MIA. Lived with grandma. In a hoarder-house and they smoked inside with the window closed.
He graduated last spring. Saw him walking in the rain at 9 am - not sure where he was headed, but all I could think was he was headed in the wrong direction."
"Not yet a teacher, but studying to be one
In one of my major field experiences, there was a kid who was insanely competitive. He would take everything as a challenge and would accuse others of cheating if he lost. He even challenged me, a 19 year old student at the time to a race. I told him it really wouldn't be fair since I was fully grown and he started berating me that I was scared to race him. (Mind you, he was 9 at the time)
So the end of the year is coming around and we had a field day where parents volunteered to do games for the kids, and it was suppose to be a fun day full of Popsicles and school games.
His parents had a relay race (Spin around the bat, jump rope a certain distance, etc) and when it was his turn they encouraged him to cheat by not following THEIR rules and got upset because some poor girl dropped the bat. (obviously meaning she would be disqualified.)
They also brought a tug-a-war rope and it was the girls of the class vs the boys. The girls being outnumbered, my field experience teacher put me on their team. I decided I wouldn't tug so that it was a bit more fair, but once again the student's parents started getting red faced telling him to win. I looked at my field experience teacher and she just nodded and I pulled. Kid got knocked down a peg."
"Student Teaching for high school seniors and juniors I had this guy that was a 'shady 80', no specific problems just very low intelligence. But this guy worked his bum off. Never a late assignment, did all extra credit that was offered (usually extra credit is done by those who don't need it and ignored by those who do need it), made flash cards for like every test and quiz even though I never said to. Model student, just had low test scores. If it was an assignment that could be done with time and effort, he did it, unfortunately tests aren't like that and that's where he had the most problems.
Back To School Night comes along and I meet his dad, an NCO in the Marines. Curteous, well spoken, and completely knowledgeable about all of his son's up coming assignments and grades.
Totally made sense. Kid is getting through with hard work and dedication and pulling off a B average. Amazing what support from parents can do. In most cases, a kid like this would probably be failing most of his classes."
"In my first year of teaching high school, I was at an affluent high school, one of the best in the state. I taught honors and AP students in tandem with another teacher (Paideia setup, she taught the AP lit, I taught the history course paired with - the school did not then pair 2 AP courses for paideia).
I had a student, let's call him Timmy. He was a typical bright but lazy 15 year old white kid from an upper middle class family: he always had the latest phone, he could afford all sorts of illegal drugs, he got the 5 year old hand-me-down BMW when he turned 16, and he had the entitled attitude to go with it. Normally, the Timmys of my school got B+s and A-s: just enough to get into the colleges they wanted, not so much that they actually had to work.
Timmy, on the other hand, did nothing. Literally. If an assignment didn't happen in class, he didn't do it. If it did happen in class, he would hand in an empty page, and if you required him to do something, he would either ABACADABA the multiple choice (or just put C for everything), or write one word responses in short answer and essay sections. At first, I was sympathetic: I figured he was going through a divorce at home, or an undiagnosed dyslexic, or SOMEthing. Discussed it with my co-teacher, but she just said, 'no, that's just Timmy'. I discussed it with the counselor; same result.
It was really driving me nuts. This kid could easily go to college and he was torpedoing ALL of it. And worse, if he was known to be so useless, why did they let him into an AP class in the first place? Our kids were bright, driven, and passionate - the sort of kids who came in crying when they missed a homework assignment, not the sort whose response to any question was, 'whatever, man'.
I documented everything. Sent letters home, offered him extra credit, tried any way I could to talk to him, made it very clear that i would fail him. And his response was still just, 'whatever, man'.
At the end of the semester, his grade was a 17. For non-Americans, bright, hardworking kids get a 93-98; still bright but not as hard working and hard working but not as bright kids get 85 - 93; hard working but not bright get 77 - 85; anywhere below 77 is either a learning disability, a behavioral problem, or a poor fit to a class. The absolute basement is normally around 60. 17 is so low as to be unheard of.
So, in due course, I failed him. As expected, I immediately heard back from the parents who had been impossible to contact all semester. Turns out, she was a neurologist at one of the local university hospitals, he was high up in the state's attorney's office. They both came in, with earnest, sincere, 'good white Americans' expressions and voices, talking about how 'he's a good boy, surely we can work something out, etc'. I said no, the time for that had been any of the 8 different documented occasions during the semester that I had tried to contact them. At this point, it was unfair to the other students to let him pass.
Of course, they didn't like that at all. So they went to the principal, we all sat down and had a very long meeting, and the outcome was I gave him a test. His grade for that test was his grade for the semester. Timmy wasn't stupid, so of course he got a 94. And that was his grade, despite doing zero work.
After that, someone finally bothered to tell me that he had been doing just that for years, and his parents were such amazing pains in the ass that he had been getting away with it. I quit teaching after that. He should be about...27 now. And is probably a horrible human being somewhere."
"We had this girl who was really dense, nice girl but there was very little happening behind the eyes. She was always stood with her mouth open and her tongue half way out.
Her Dad picked her up and then came back 5 mins later to ask if we had any bricks.... we asked why.
At the bottom end of our car park there is a big (visible) ditch where the ground has sunken, then there is a massive curb. Again, all of this is clearly visible so nobody goes near that end of the car park.
But he thought this looked like a good way drive put of the car park and his car was now pivoting on the curb with his front wheels not touching the ground!
We had to make a ramp out of bricks to get him free! It answered a lot of questions about the girl.
Since then 'get the bricks ready' has become a euphemism for 'just spoke to a stupid parent'."
"At parent teacher conferences, watched a student's dad drink from the water fountain then mama bird-style spit the water into his wife's mouth. This happened twice. It greatly explained why their child was socially a hot mess."
"I had a 12 year old girl talk blatantly about wanting to get with me, in front of me, to her entire group of friends. I got so paranoid that I had to immediately go to the principal and make a report. Nothing ever came of it, but I covered myself and always wondered what would make a young girl act like that. When I met the girls mother, she was carrying a Starbucks and texting on her phone and made a provocative, aggressively flirty comment about raising her daughter's grade...made perfect sense."
"I had a student and advisee as a freshman. Kid had no social skills whatsoever, superiority complex, and no friends. I gave a creative writing assignment to write from the viewpoint of a pet, to which he replied that dogs are evil and he hates them all because he was convinced that his parents loved the family dog more than they loved him.
Parent-teacher conference comes - his mother is the most emotionally cold, robotic parent I've ever met. She was upset at him for getting an A- in my class and asked what kind of punishment might motivate him to work harder.
The kid was still annoying, still had no social skills, still thought he was smarter and better than everyone. But I saw his home life and realized that he's learned it from his family."
"This one broke my heart and it's something I still think about from time to time.
Just a few months into my first year, several 5th grade students were sent home for lice. One was a small, blonde girl named 'Jane' who was fairly quiet and shy. Her clothes were always somewhat unkempt and had a strong cigarette smoke odor. She very rarely completed her homework and hated answering questions in class. However, she was kind, attentive, and performed well on her in-class assignments.
We had another round of head checking about a week after the first one and found that Jane still had lice/caught lice again. She was sent home with a call to the parents letting them know. The next day she walked into the classroom with a shaved head. Her parents shaved her hair off so that they did not have to deal with the lice again.
She cried when I asked her about it. I felt horrible for her. 5th grade is a tough place to be when you have something that is 'obviously different' about you that other kids can pick on. I could not grow her hair back for her, but I did buy her a cute hat that I allowed her wear in my class if she wanted. It seemed to help.
When I met her parents shortly after, they showed up with 3 younger kids that looked about a year apart with the same shaved hair cut as Jane. The parents smelled like smoke and "pet urine" odor, and I could hear them cursing at their kids in the hallway before I even saw them."