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Angelo Angelo is offline
 
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The Parent Playbook
Old 04-16-2022, 01:04 PM
 
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Let me preface this post with a quick straw poll. When you were in high school, would your parents have called (or emailed if that was a thing — email wasn’t around yet when I was in high school) the school to try to get you a second chance if you missed a deadline / tryout etc? If so, under what circumstances?

I recall once I was part of a talent show and we were told if we missed the dress rehearsal, our act would be cut from the final show because they had to have the timing and the lighting cues exactly right. No exceptions. I ended up having to miss the rehearsal to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I asked my mother to call the teacher organizers and get them to let me perform in the show. She said no. She said I could go to them and ASK for special consideration. She said they could call her to confirm the particulars of the funeral (not that she would call them). She also said whatever they decided, I should accept it graciously because they probably had good reason for needing all performers there for the dress rehearsal.

Anyway, that was then. This seems to the playbook nowadays if you’re the parent of a kid who misses a deadline / tryout / audition and therefore misses out on something:

1. Send the student to ask (or more often email). “I missed the deadline. My bad. Can I still…?”

2. Have the student follow up with an urgent plea: “But I REALLY want to…” “This is very important to me!” [Wasn’t important enough for you to pay attention to the deadline and/or show up when it mattered, but whatever.]

3. Parent reiterates student’s insistence that “this is very important to them”. “Can’t you make an exception?”

4. “My kid is a good kid” [and therefore, presumably, deserves special consideration].

5. Blame the school. Insist this deadline was too tight or poorly communicated. Where was this announced? How long was it announced? Did you notify parents or just students? Deadlines are arbitrary… what’s the big deal?

6. Combine 4 and 5. My kid is a good kid and always pays attention. Therefore, if they missed the deadline, it must really have been poorly communicated and many other students must have missed it as well.

7. Cite “mental health concerns”. If you don’t make an exception for my kid, I’m worried their mental health will (somehow) be adversely affected. Do you want that on your conscience?

8. Insist “all teens are bad at time management”. You need to be more flexible. [This fact will no doubt come as a shock to all the students who DID somehow meet the deadline].

9. Throw yourself under the bus. Claim it was somehow your fault the kid missed the deadline / tryout and that it would be unfair of the school to punish their kid for the mistake.

10. Claim “I’m not the type of parent who calls in…” or some variation on that theme: “My kid’s been at the school for 3 years, and we’ve never asked for anything before…” [Don’t worry if this is a bald-faced lie and you generally call once every week or two about something or other. Assume the teacher / coach you’re dealing with won’t know that or talk to any other staff.]

11. If all else fails, go full Karen and demand to speak to the principal.

It’s funny because, while some parents are unapologetic snowplows, others actually do sound embarrassed. I get the sense they don’t really want to call but their kid pestered them into it or else that they (the parent) figures this what all parents do for their kids now, so if they insist their kid take responsibility for their choices but no other parent does, their kid will somehow be left behind. Or else they are reluctant to call but got riled up by other parents on social media.


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Old 04-16-2022, 01:14 PM
 
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I feel like it's due to us not caring about deadlines anymore. At least at my school we are supposed to take work whenever they turn it in. Fees and permission slips have due dates that always get pushed back. Why worry about the due date when you know that it will get pushed back? Drives me crazy.

Then don't get me started on what we allow if a parent calls to complain. We have a rule about no hats or jackets in class. Right now there is a boy wearing a hat because mom called and said that his haircut was so bad they had to shave it close and he was embarrassed. Sure the admin said. Never mind the no hat rule. And I fought with a boy all first trimester to not wear his coat. Well parent called and said that he was embarrassed about his chest tissue due to being overweight. Can he please be allowed to wear his coat? Instead of saying no and that a sweatshirt would cover the same area, they gave in and now he wears a coat daily. I'm done telling other kids that they can't wear a coat.
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Old 04-16-2022, 02:35 PM
 
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By high school, school was considered to be my business/my job and nothing to do with my parents, other than ensuring I had what I needed to do my job - uniform, books, stationery, signed notes, etc. Everything else, including getting myself there, was on me (I wouldn't swear that my father even knew where my high school was other than the broad town name). I was in high school 1971-76 so a loooooooooong time ago.

When my children went to high school (early 2000s) more parental involvement was expected but I would never have dreamt of intervening to this extent.
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Old 04-16-2022, 05:13 PM
 
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Back in the dark ages when I was in HS, my mother not only never called a teacher or the school, she never set foot in it. I wasn't the type of student to miss deadlines, but if I had, she would have told me to figure it out myself. When my son was in HS, I would never have called/emailed a teacher for something like that. I went to conferences, but he was a good student, so I didn't have any reason to contact them, tbh. The one time a teacher emailed about a missing redo assignment, I told him to get it done and he did it. Some parents are ridiculous! I'm glad to be retired and happy I don't have to deal with that stuff anymore.
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Old 04-16-2022, 05:31 PM
 
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I was guilty in high school one time. My daughter was going through a tough time. She was taking AP calculus. She had the teacher two years before. He didn't think she should take the class--said she was too emotional so she went into it with that in her mind. She was struggling but wouldn't drop to regular calc sine there was a "shrine" in the room to the first student to drop the class that year. Then each name was added on the wall. A little embarrassing. So we got a tutor and moved to pass fail, which the teacher did not like. She did well with the tutor but not in class. She had a 64 average and needed a 65 to pass. I called and asked to pass her, he refused. We did not continue to fight it. If the shrine wasn't there, she would have left the class.


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Old 04-16-2022, 06:30 PM
 
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I called once for each kid.

First kid had a teacher who mid year had some medical issues and started teaching mornings only. They hired a sub to teach each the afternoon classes, but the teacher still did all the planning and grades. Grades came out and my kid had a question about his. Sub said you have to talk to teacher and to make an appointment through the office. But, when he asked at the office, they kept telling him the teacher was unavailable. So I called and asked that he get to talk to the teacher and he did. Teacher explained. Son said thank you. All was right with the world.

Second kid was doing poorly and mid semester he came home with several deficiency notices to be signed. I called guidance and said that I would encourage him to do better, but noted that I did not expect him to get the grades he got at the beginning of the year or last year as we were all reeling from the realization that his dad was not going to survive the year. I told the kid to get his act together as his dad valued education. Teachers gave him some grace. Kids grades were not stellar, but they were passable.
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Old 04-16-2022, 11:10 PM
 
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Regarding your #1: I can't stand the "apology" thats ends with "My bad." This is not an apology.
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Old 04-17-2022, 04:57 AM
 
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My mom never called the school or even emailed teachers once I was in middle/high school (I don’t think she even did it in elementary).

My mom even taught at my high school and still never intervened with a teacher.
It was always my responsibility to get my work done in school and talk with a teacher if needed. If I had missed a deadline, it would have been on me.

Since she taught there though, I had the added benefit of knowing which teachers were not a good fit for me. There were two teachers that she absolutely did not allow me to have. Thankfully there were other options.


However, I also didn’t have any of the large personal problems going on described in above posts. If I did, she certainly would have spoken to a teacher on my behalf.


I see some of my friends with kids in middle/high school and cringe at how much they “helicopter” even at that age. I see one friend even writing her child’s AP papers for him and question how he’s going to function in college. She raves about him having straight A’s… but, some of those are her A’s, not his.
She’s had multiple teachers reach out to her about his behavior/attitude in class and she always says: “he has straight A’s” and blames the teacher (despite her being a teacher herself!). I tell her how much it much take for a high school teacher to even reach out to a parent and she fixates on his grade… I would have been mortified if a teacher had to contact my parent (though I was very well behaved and my mom wouldn’t have put up with anything else).
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Old 04-17-2022, 04:18 PM
 
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My mother wouldn't have gotten involved unless in was some kind of emergency.

Several years ago I remember having a similar conversation with some dear friends, both of whom are university professors. They were shocked over the audacity of some mothers who felt the need to interfere with the university system, usually grades.
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Old 04-18-2022, 05:05 AM
 
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Okay, I totally know what you mean. I think the question is why does this happen? Why is there an increase between when we were in school (and even when our kids were in school) and now? And are we just complaining about parent involvement in situations where the consequences for failure are not too serious, like the talent show example?


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Old 04-18-2022, 07:51 AM
 
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"And are we just complaining about parent involvement in situations where the consequences for failure are not too serious, like the talent show example?"

The thing is, I don't think this is what school staff had in mind when they said, say 20 or 30 years ago, that they wanted parents to be "more involved." I think the ideal of parental involvement is about parents planning and assisting with school events. It's about parents coming for career day to talk about jobs. I don't think anyone had in mind non-stop parent complaining on their kid's behalf or non-stop individual advocacy or this mindset that educators and the school system are somehow adversaries to be thwarted so their kid can get ahead. That's not involvement... that is toxic.

When I took over as Assistant Head this year, one of the duties I inherited was to plan the senior leadership program. The application process (which includes the deadline) is set up to ensure that the students who are ultimately selected are self-starters who pay attention to what's going on. My predecessor warned me on the way out that I would have to deal with parents at both ends. I'd get calls and e-mails when some kids missed the deadline and had their applications declined (check... I currently have at least 6 parent e-mails sitting in my inbox demanding to discuss the situation of students who either missed the deadline and still want consideration or who didn't complete all steps of the application and had their applications declined on that basis). He also warned me that when it's time to select the final leaders, I'll get a ton of upset calls and e-mails from the parents of the students who aren't selected. It's not a question of "if". It's a question of "how many". How sad is that? A process that should be exciting for me and a teachable moment for the kids is just leaving me guarded, angry, and exhausted.

Add to that something else we're going through. I'm in the process of having to hire an outside coach for one of the fall athletic programs. Why do we have to hire outside? None of the staff will do it (even for a pretty generous stipend). Why? "I can't deal with the parents" is the common refrain. Parents complain about the timing of the practises and games. Parents complain about the transportation arrangements. Parents want to call the coach (or come in) and debate the matter when their kid gets cut during tryouts. Parents want to debate with the coach about the amount of play time their kid is getting. So coaches who love the sport and enjoy working with the students refuse to coach anymore because a group of parents have ruined it for them. Again, how sad is that?

I am looking at a retired coach for the program coming on board for the fall. Do you know the one condition he set? He looked me right in the eye and said, "Nobody questions my cuts or my coaching. When I cut a player, that's it. I'm not taking calls from parents about it. You and the Head have my back on every decision I make. I don't want to hear about it. You come to me even once asking for information or feedback on one of my cuts because a parent is calling to discuss it with you? That's the day I walk and don't come back. You get a call about one of my cuts? Your line is 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach'. If they keep talking, you repeat, 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach.' You don't question my calls, and you don't let the loudmouth parents pull you onto the dance floor. Remember... I don't need this job. You called me." I was thinking, this guy should do a Ted Talk, because I wanted to cheer for him during the interview.

It's the same all over. It's like pulling teeth to get anyone to direct the school musical. Why? Parents. Parents freak out when their kid is cast in a chorus role instead of the lead. Parents lose their minds when a cast member is cut for missing too many rehearsals.

And you'd think teacher parents would know better. But they can be some of the worst! I called out a teacher parent at our school recently who went loco when his son was cut from something. I said, "Come on. What are you doing? You know better." He took a deep breath and said, "Yeah, but here's the thing. When your kid is quiet and a bit shy, you're constantly on edge as a parent. As a teacher, I see quiet kids with silent parents getting left behind all the time. I'm not happy about it, but I know what the other parents are like. If I don't speak up, they will, and sometimes the squeaky wheel really does get the grease, and you know it's true. Like it or not, advocating in 2022 is a key way for parents to communicate love and concern for their kids. When you don't do it, kids read it as you don't care enough about them to speak up. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but unfortunately, that's how it is."

Just shaking my head.
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Old 04-18-2022, 07:58 AM
 
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Nope.

I got wait-listed for my top college pick because I missed my admittance interview. My uncle was killed in a work accident that week, and his services were the same time. I couldn’t even go by myself because I was 17 and needed a parent to sign for me. They told me I could handle it. I didn’t want to, so . . .
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Old 04-18-2022, 12:57 PM
 
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"Nobody questions my cuts or my coaching. When I cut a player, that's it. I'm not taking calls from parents about it. You and the Head have my back on every decision I make. I don't want to hear about it. You come to me even once asking for information or feedback on one of my cuts because a parent is calling to discuss it with you? That's the day I walk and don't come back. You get a call about one of my cuts? Your line is 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach'. If they keep talking, you repeat, 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach.'

I did exactly this in 2014 when I was asked - they actually begged! - to coach a fall sport freshman team that no one else would do. I had last coached that sport in the 1980s! This was in addition to full time teaching, of course, plus it was going to be a tremendous amount of work for me to get up to speed in the rule changes, etc. in the sport, plus I was already coaching a spring sport. I was supposed to coach one year and ended up doing it for four before I finally realized that no matter how many times I said it would be my last year coaching, they wouldn't look for another coach until I simply didn't show up on the first day of practice.

Anyway, my stipulation was the same as the coach above - I told the varsity coach that I wouldn't deal with parent complaints, period. I told her that if a parent had a complaint, I'd refer them to her, and if I got any guff about it, I would quit that very minute. Only had two complaints in four years (that I knew of, anyway!) and both times the varsity coach took care of it immediately. The best - or really, the worst! - was when a girl missed the whole week of tryouts, came back two days into practice, and the mother was absolutely incensed that I wouldn't give her daughter a spot on the team (much less just a tryout!) I'd had 34 kids try out for 14 spots (and that was 4 more than I wanted or really had room to keep!) and the team was picked and practicing already. The varsity coach took care of it right away - I never heard another word about it.

It was great!
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Old 04-19-2022, 05:19 AM
 
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We all have horror stories and Angelo you have more than your fair share due to the nature of your job. And, I guess that's the nature of the vent board, right, to complain?
I'm nowhere near as insane as these parents are as I'd rather my DD experience a setback when she's a kid and learns her lesson about missing deadlines when she's a kid and the consequence is not making a sports team (or in her case missing an audition or not making a theater production).
Having said that, my question is still the same. This is happening. We all have horror stories and Angelo's private school experience means he has more than others. Why is it happening? What has made it worse now than it was before? Is it worse now?
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Old 04-19-2022, 06:36 AM
 
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Nope. My mom got involved once in high school. I had a problem with a teacher, mom offered to help and I told her I'd deal with it. I tried to talk to her on my own, got nowhere. I came home crying and told mom I needed her help. It wasn't a case of my missing deadlines. I was getting all my work done, doing my job, etc.

In terms of missing deadlines, etc, I just didn't. But, if I did, no way would my parents have gotten involved. I made my choices, I could live with the consequences. I lived in a house where, if I got in trouble at school, I was going to get in WAY more trouble at home.

I think that's the problem in education today. That mindset is missing. If a kid gets in trouble at school, the teacher will get in trouble.
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Old 04-19-2022, 08:37 AM
 
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“Why is it happening? What has made it worse now than it was before? Is it worse now?”

Well, I don’t know too many educators who would argue that parents are getting less demanding.

Different schools of thought point to a few causes / catalysts (many of them interconnected).

1. Fear. Some psychologists say that, for many, fear is becoming the governing principle that drives parenting. The world is now perceived by some as a scary and menacing place that will chew their kids up and spit them out if they don’t protect them. Wandering around the neighborhood is too dangerous. You don’t know whom your kids might encounter. Every passing car could contain a kidnapper / pedophile. When your kid makes a friend on their own, you might not know the family or if the kid is “our kind of people.” So it’s parent-curated play dates and a generation of kids for whom the idea of walking up to someone your own age and starting a conversation or kicking a ball (without a parent-arranged introduction and oversight) is anathema. Then you get kids who arrive in middle / high school with crippling social anxiety and a sense that their social media “friends” are more real to them than flesh and blood kids they see every day. And then we get parents complaining their kids are sad and lonely and excluded at school and looking for school staff to take over arranging “play dates” (and leading them by the hand to sports and extracurricular) so they’ll have friends and not eat lunch alone.

2. Envy / FOMO. There’s a school of thought that over parenting is a sort of narcissism by proxy. How my kid is treated / perceived correlates to my self-image and status. My kid is, therefore, one of the “special people” and destined for greatness. Anything that might disrupt that narrative or point to the idea that my kid might not be the best creates too much cognitive dissonance and activates my underlying fear of inadequacy or shame. I go into “mama bear mode” and lash out at anyone who doesn’t play along.

3. Flipping the script. People who didn’t particularly enjoy being in school when they were young and look back on high school as a time in their lives when they felt powerless and unhappy are bound and determined to protect their kids from experiencing that. They act out all the fantasies they entertained as adolescents (“One of these days my mom is going to walk in here and tell all those power-tripping teachers where to stick it!”) They may also create an “us versus them” conflict of authority where they frame themselves as their kid’s true ally against a big, bad, mean school system. The trouble is they need to look inward to find the real source of their unhappiness (Hint: it’s probably not a Math teacher writing you up for missing homework or an AP sending you home to comply with the school’s dress code).

4. Social Media. Information and gossip travel at the speed of light. People create digital echo chambers. Parents get one another worked up. Parents look at all the other snowplows who are active in their social circles and fear their kid will miss out if they don’t do the same. They see calling and emailing as “the way things are done now” and fear their kid will be somehow left behind if they don’t.

5. It must work for some. My dad used to say about kids throwing tantrums in public: “It must work or they wouldn’t do it.” I think some schools / districts have let parents get away with the adult version of temper tantrums and, in some cases, rewarded them for their efforts. Add to this that you hear more and more of the “customer service model” being employed by school leadership and it’s little wonder. Education isn’t a “product”, parents aren’t “customers” and students aren’t “clients”. Schools that have lost sight of this do a grave disservice to the work of educators and, ultimately, to the futures of the students that work is meant to serve.
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Old 04-19-2022, 09:26 AM
 
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Angelo,

(As with any of your posts), I've been following this conversation and look to see each added response.

Your latest response with #1-5 is so chillingly accurate. I hope I can make it the less than ten years I have remaining before retiring.
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Old 04-21-2022, 12:44 PM
 
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"Nobody questions my cuts or my coaching. When I cut a player, that's it. I'm not taking calls from parents about it. You and the Head have my back on every decision I make. I don't want to hear about it. You come to me even once asking for information or feedback on one of my cuts because a parent is calling to discuss it with you? That's the day I walk and don't come back. You get a call about one of my cuts? Your line is 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach'. If they keep talking, you repeat, 'This was Coach's decision. We support the coach.'

This is why my dad is glad that he retired. He could never have coached in the current environment with administration and parents. I think the reason why this is happening is that parents know that they can jump the chain of command and run to the central office. Parents, students, and administration have an adversarial relationship with teachers. I am on the brink of losing a third colleague in five years because of the ridiculous animosity that parents create with administration. It's a total witch hunt. My colleague just had leave a few weeks for something so dumb that I cannot even write it down, and not just because it would give away my identity. I see administration behaving unprofessionally and picking at teachers until they give up or quit, and the board's a rubber stamp. I feel like there will never be any reckoning about what has been done over the past few years.
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Old 04-22-2022, 01:42 PM
 
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My parents never intervened. I never intervened with my own kids. I follow the philosophy that school is their job.

I continue to be stunned by the parent involvement that I see today. I coached basketball and cheer - at different times. I also had the policy that my cuts were not questioned. No issues with the basketball team. But cheer - unbelievable. Screaming, threatening to pull their kid out of school, crying, attempted bribes. I had supportive administrators for the most part. But I quit coaching when I got a principal who was swayed by parents with large bank accounts.

I run a tutoring business now. I employ lots of high school and college students. Quite often I field calls from parents seeking a job for their kid. I even have parents show up for the interview and want to be a part of it. Will never happen
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Old 04-22-2022, 02:14 PM
 
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What is this with parents involving themselves in job interviews? I drove my DD to her first interview for a full time job because the buses didn't work for that time (they were fine for the start and finish of work) and she only had a learner's permit at the time, but I stayed in the car and read the paper. I doubt the employer even knew I was there. I would never have dreamt of butting in and expecting to be part of the interview.
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Old 04-23-2022, 06:32 AM
 
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Both times by email.

1st time: DD4 takes new cell phone to school. Not using it. In backpack. Someone looking for the last person to have the phone number called. French teacher confiscated cell phone and turned it into the office. Office said that my daughter would have a one-day in-school suspension and that a parent would have to come and pick it up.

I said that the school should abide by the district published policy which called for confiscating the phone and student picking it up at the end of the day. (For first offense)

Assistant principal wrote back that most parents were appreciative of their pro-active approach, and implied that since I was one of those parents, they would do as I asked. (Very snarky reply.)

2nd Time: Senior Drama students were in charge of end of year awards. They thought they'd be funny, and awarded something to my daughter that was offensive. (She was known as being straight-laced, so they gave her an award for being the most promiscuous.) I wrote the drama teacher and said that the award was unacceptable, and suggested that in the future he should supervise the awards so there were no surprises.) He apologized, and agreed. I really wanted to make sure that this didn't happen to another child, so I was satisfied.

P.S. I didn't publish it on social media, or cause a big stink at the award ceremony. This was a private email conversation that never went any further.
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Old 04-23-2022, 12:10 PM
 
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I knew if I got in trouble and school there would be he'll to pay at home. My mother often told us she did nor care if we liked a teacher, we would respect them.
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