Since I’m off on holiday break and have a bit of free time on my hands, I thought I’d spend some time catching up on my blog reading, which sadly gets neglected during the school year. Of course, since the holidays have just barely left us, only one of the blogs I read on a regular basis has been updated. I guess that’s the price I pay for having a bunch of friends who are also teachers and students, who also have two, and sometimes three weeks off of work. Instead of updating their blogs, like me they are enjoying their vacation.
Since I was already at the computer with nothing to do, I foolishly decided to check my work email. I’d told one of my fellow English teachers to email me if she was having any trouble with plans for one of her new classes. She’s a fairly new teacher and as I’d taught the class before, I offered to help.
When I logged in, I quickly noticed there were no messages from her. There were, however, emails from five different parents waiting for me in my inbox. I swear email is going to be the undoing of me as a teacher. Something compelled me to open the first email. It was from a parent I’ve been in pretty regular contact with. Her child has been walking the very thin line between passing and failing my class for most of the semester. Before the end of the last school day before break, she’s already emailed me asking for her child’s grade. Considering I’d had classes and meetings all day, I thought this was a pretty unreasonable request, especially since our grades aren’t due until after vacation. I was very nice though, and told her the grades weren’t completed yet. I kept it short and simple. The first email I had waiting for me was one yet again requesting his final grade.
I told her I could grade his essay, however, since my grades are weighted, I wouldn’t be able to give her the final percent she wanted. Our grading program is at school and I live a fair distance away and have a baby with no readily available sitter. The gas money and sitter payment, not to mention the two hours or so of my vacation seemed an unreasonable expense considering her child was failing due to his lack of effort.
The next message, which came on that same day, was from a parent demanding to know why her kid had failed a project. Before responding I decided to read the rest of my emails.
The next message was actually positive. It was a mom apologizing for her slow response to my email. She thanked me not only for the feedback I gave her on her son, but also for being a caring teacher. I smiled. It almost made the negativity and demands of the other emails fade away.
Then I opened the fourth one. This mom berated me for giving a participation grade in my classroom.
I breathed in deeply and stopped myself from writing a reply that reminded her participation is only worth 10% of his overall grade, and therefore could not possibly be the reason he is failing the class.
The final email, just about made me scream out loud. Luckily I remembered the baby was sleeping and choked on that scream. The last mom wanted to let me know just how unfair and unrealistic my grading of her child’s research paper was.
I’m not sure when it became ok to bother teachers on their vacations. I have a feeling it all stems from the widespread availability of the internet. In my 10 years of teaching, I have never once had a parent try to contact me at home to discuss their child’s progress or to berate my teaching. However, since email is so easy to use and computers are ubiquitous these days, it seems they have no problem popping on at any hour of the day, any day of the year, and spouting off at me about whatever is bothering me. All of these emails came between 12/22 and 12/28. All of them are on my holiday break. I’ve had parents (and students) email me at midnight and then get upset that I didn’t get back to them in time to answer their question. I’ve even had both parties try to cite me not checking my email or not responding in time as the reason they didn’t complete a project or essay.
I just want to know how in the world people think this is ok. I would never consider calling them or emailing them during their vacations in order to bug them about their jobs. I would never email my doctor and ask him for medical advice while he was on vacation. It would never occur to me that I should bother my banker at one a.m. because I noticed an oddity in my checking account. I wouldn’t call my mechanic on Sunday to complain about my check engine light coming on. I wait until these people are at work, during their normal business hours to ask my questions. Yes, it’s annoying at times, but it’s how the world works.
I’m sure these same parents don’t email their doctors or lawyers or mechanics at home to discuss problems they are having. I’m sure they would never blame their doctor not getting to their email in time for the reason their cold worsened. Nor would they blame the repair shop being closed on the weekend for the reason their car is not running. Why is it that teachers are not afforded the same courtesy? I know my father would never have thought to contact my teachers outside of the school day.
It seems to be yet another example of how educators get little to no respect in society. We are expected to give our time all the time, and then berated for our efforts. It makes it really hard to go to school with a positive attitude. I dread every time I see a new email from a parent or see the blinking light on my phone telling me I have a voicemail.
Not that it matters right now. My grades aren’t due until after vacation. I’m not stepping foot in that school or returning a single email until school resumes and I’m on the clock again. Bad attitude? Maybe. Good vacation? Definitely!