I’ve been called a lot of things as a teacher. Most are positive – a Good Teacher, an Organized Teacher, a Fun Teacher. But no one has ever called me the Nice Teacher.
Scene: A parent has requested a conference with all of their kid’s teachers. We are on Zoom, along with the grade-level administrator (because normal parents don’t request conferences like this).
The parent wraps up a monologue about how they’re a good parent, STUDENT is a good kid, things are just really hard right now with CoVid and everything, etc.*
We all do the empathy nods of support. The other teachers offer the usual “You’re a good student, STUDENT. We know you can do this! You’re off to a better start this semester! You can do it!”
ME: I have a question for you, STUDENT.
All pause. All are surprised, especially STUDENT, who has been silent the whole time.
ME: You’re missing two assignments in my class. They are both Friday assignments. Since Fridays are asynchronous and you work remotely, what does your Friday usually look like?
STUDENT: Awkwardly Well… I get up and check Google Classroom to see what I need to do. Fridays are hard because there’s usually a lot of work, assignments for every class. That’s… hard.
ME: sincerely Uh-huh. Sure. I get that. So why didn’t you do the work?
STUDENT: launching into intense uptalk as she squirms I think one time? my computer wasn’t saving my stuff? and then I turned it off and back on and it’s better now?
OTHER TEACHER: jumping in, sympathetically and energetically Sure! And we want you to know that you can turn things in late. We all take late work for two weeks. We want you to do your best, so if you need more time it’s okay. You can turn it in late.
ME: flatly Yeah, Google doesn’t do that. It doesn’t just randomly stop saving your work. That’s not a thing. So why didn’t you do the assignments?
PARENT turns to STUDENT with an “oh, really?” Look. STUDENT turtles further into her hoodie.
STUDENT: I guess maybe I forgot?
PARENT: We’ll talk more about that later.
OTHER TEACHERS: Once the parent leaves the Zoom I’m so glad you called her out on that! We all know she’s trying to play the system! She’s missing Friday work in all of our classes too!
ME: Not out loud, because I have learned some diplomacy, THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING?!??!
ME: out loud Oh, good! I hope it was helpful.
I’m okay with not being the Nice Teacher.
*I’m enjoying how every parent says this now: “Things are just really hard with CoVid;” as if we teachers somehow bypassed the entire pandemic.