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What are the ways parents are setting their kids up for failure in school?
Parents Make Their Children Take On The Roles Of Adults Too Early
I’m tired of hearing that my students don’t have time to study because they have jobs outside of school which are necessary to feed the family. I’m tired of hearing that my students are late to first period because they’re taking their little brothers or sisters to school. I’m seriously tired of my students being absent in excess of 10 or even 20 days in a year because they’re babysitting one of their siblings.
Parents Lie For Their Kids
I’ve had parents tell me their kids were absent because they were sick, only to have their kids tell me to my face that they weren’t sick. Where were they? Shoe shopping for prom. Staying home to make up homework from when they were absent (which is about as crazy as it gets). Playing a new video game. Visiting family. Or, my favorite, just staying home because they didn’t feel like going to school that day. Some of these kids rack up a huge number of days off.
One parent came in and told me that his daughter was absent a lot (about 20 percent of the time), but was going to start coming to school every day. Could I please let her turn in her missed assignment from those days? Sure. If those absences are excused, that won’t be a problem. Unfortunately, they weren’t cleared. He then told me that he had cleared them. All of them.
When I asked what he’d told the attendance clerk, he said that he told them his daughter had been sick. I told him that I found that odd, since she had told me that she had simply not felt like coming to school on those days. He pressed ahead and asked me again if I would let her turn in the work, I told him that I’d consider it if she were there every single day for the rest of the year. He said she would. My question then was, “How can she be? She has been sick for so many days … did she get some miracle cure? Did they give her an immune system transplant?”
I also had a student turn in a paper which was 96 percent plagiarized from the internet. Her mother claimed that she had watched the girl write the paper. I showed her the source from which it had been copied. She claimed I was wrong and that she had watched her daughter write the paper. I showed her the publication date of the essay from which her daughter had copied. Two years before. She told me that she had watched her daughter write the essay. I asked her daughter to explain what “patriarchal hierarchy” meant. She said she didn’t know. “But … you included it in your paper.”
Then there are parents who claim that their computer did, in fact, catch a virus. One included a picture of the Blue Screen of Death. I noticed that there was a frame around the screen, just barely visible, which made it quite apparent to me that he had found a picture of the BSD and had expanded it to fill the screen before taking a pic of it with his cell phone. Another claimed that a virus had hit which was so powerful that it made his CPU catch fire! Amazing!
I could go on, but I think you get the point. These are parents who are afraid of their kids, want to be their kids’ best friends, or just want their kids to get a diploma so that they don’t feel like the worst parents of all time.
Parents Discard Children
This is particularly tragic and galling. I teach high school. Most of my class loads of late have been seniors. I had a student about five years ago write an almost incomprehensible essay. The writing was fine, but the formatting was so strange that I couldn’t grade it. I asked her why she had turned in a paper like that, and she started crying. Apparently, she had written the entire thing on her cell phone.
She’d been sleeping at the homes of various friends. Her mother’s new boyfriend didn’t want kids, so her mother tossed her out about 9 months shy of her eighteenth birthday. I gather that the two just couldn’t get along. I had another kid who looked positively exhausted. Why? He was in a similar boat. His father had tossed him out because they argued too much. He was 16. He was sleeping in his friend’s parents’ backyard. He’d been homeless for a week.
These kids are embarrassed that their irresponsible parents didn’t want them around. Every time I deal with one of these cases (there have been about ten in as many years of which I am directly aware), I become almost incoherent with rage. Unfortunately, it would seem that CPS has little power to do anything for these children, especially those who have turned 17.
The thing that really gets me is that I know I don’t know what’s going on in these homes, but can it be all that bad? These are parents! They’re supposed to be responsible. These are the fruits of their loins. Most of the kids we’re talking about are generally really good kids. The girl I mentioned had a 3.8 GPA and was shy and really kind. There is no way she deserved anything but really nice parents. No kid ever deserves to get tossed away regardless, but some of them … like I said, I get a little bit angry. Did I mention that she wrote a 5-page essay on her phone?
Daniel Kaplan is a high school teacher and is dedicated to lifelong learning. He has a master’s degree in literature and a minor in education. You can read more Quora posts here: