The Porridge Goldilocks Ate and Parental Involvement

I know. You’re wondering where I’m going with this. I’m hoping we all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Long story short: broke into a home in the forest, ate some food that wasn’t hers and went to sleep. Awoken by bears and ran away. The end.

Let’s face it: In this day and age, she would have been booked for breaking and entering, trespassing and theft. However, she was very selective in what she took, and she preferred the porridge that was ‘just right’.

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As a teacher, there will always be an expectation of working with parents in the best interest of the students.  However, parents, like the kids they send us, are not all the same, and have different expectations about what involvement level they should have.

For example, my co-worker had a student that was combative, argumentative, and hated women. She documented, contacted the counselor, and did everything she could do before contacting mom. Mom said, “You need to just make him run laps”. My co-worker patiently explained that she was not a gym teacher, and that, furthermore, this was a form of punishment not endorsed by our District. Mom’s response, “Well, if you’re not going to do what I suggest, don’t ask”.

Teacher = frustrated. Parent = frustrated. Student = Still belligerent. Not a great solution.

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So back to Goldilocks. She looked for what was just right. It started me to thinking about parent involvement in school.  What parent would Goldilocks pick? Which one would she definitely NOT choose. In discussions with my co-workers, it was determined that several different types of parents exist.

Helicopter Parent

AKA: OMG I have another email from this person!!

This type of parent is ultra, super, 110% involved in the student’s life. They know every test, when it’s coming up, when they should have a project due, when every pep rally is scheduled and the who, when and where of every single cotton picking aspect of their student. Don’t get me wrong. It’s FANTASTIC when you have parents that care. This type of parent, however,  takes it to another level. They send you emails about grades less than 30 minutes after their child’s scheduled class with you is over. They want you to let them know where they sit, who they sit with, did they bring their folder to class, did they put their review in their binder, did they leave their sweater in the cafeteria, did they eat breakfast, were they allowed a bathroom break after lunch, why do they have a 98, why not a 99…?

They make you consider an illegal life as a small foreign arms dealer.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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Vicarious Parent

AKA: We don’t understand how we got that grade on the report card, A Momager

These parents have their daughter in the following events: Tumbling, cheering, drill team, dance, choir, band, twirling, soccer, softball, student council, honor society, FFA, FTA, Key Club, Junior League…..wait, did I mention that this was just ONE student?  I have honestly never seen a Dadager. I’m sure they exist, but my experience is limited to moms living vicariously through their daughters.  Their student is doing SO many things that grades are the last thing on the parent’s mind, until one isn’t to their liking. As a teacher, I’ve suggested before or after school tutoring. “No, we have dance before and after school, cheer on Tuesdays, choir events on the weekend, a fashion shoot on Friday, and a modeling class on Wednesday. We know it’s not fair, but we have so much going on and we were wondering if maybe we could take the test at a later time?”

Momagers ask you to do things for their kids that other parents wouldn’t, and for that matter, shouldn’t.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Ghost Parent

AKA: I know you have a parent or someone who takes care of you, right?

You’re pretty sure this parent exists because the student shows up everyday, and they had to come from somewhere, but you’ve never actually see, spoken with, or received any form of correspondence from the parent. No matter how many contacts you make and in what manner you make them, they are never returned. Ever.

You begin to wonder if the kid has a part-time job and lives alone.

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick. If she could even find them.

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The Combative Parent

AKA: I’m going to kick your a** if you ever f*****g give my d**n kid a ‘C’ again. I can have your f*****g job! I know people!

I’m friends with people on the school board! I pay your salary!

These are a special kind of people. Their child earns a ‘B’, and they want to sue you because the review sheet wasn’t word for word like the test. You write their child a referral for ripping another student’s pair of jeans in half while in the locker room during gym, and they want to meet you after school in the parking lot and discuss what you can ‘do’ with your referral. There is no reasoning with these people, and after one or two times, the front office begins posting their photo next to receptionist’s desk.

It’s best to stay away from these people. If you choose to deal with them anyway, I have 2 words for you: Stupid hurts.

Definitely NOT the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Enabler

AKA:  Well, Little Jimmy has ADD, ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Operational Defiant Disorder, Discipline Syndrome, Narcolepsy, Panic Disorder, Insomnia, Allergies to everything known to man, Forgetfulness, and an in-grown toe nail.  At least I think he has all these things. He’s going to be tested next week.

These parents WANT their child to have something wrong with them. It relieves them of the responsibility of dealing with their behavior issues, lack of motivation, and poor grades and decision-making skills. These parents make tons of excuses for their child, but never offer any solutions.  They attend every meeting, want their perfectly normal albeit bratty child tested for everything under the sun, and want special arrangements and treatments for their child, such as “Little Jimmy says the desks make his bottom itch. Could he have a pillow provided by the school that will be transferred from class to class to keep his bottom from itching? I think he has shingles”.

  Kids like this learn to always blame someone or something else for their failures in life. They don’t try because, well, why would they?

They have all these things ‘wrong with them’.

*I am NOT referring to kids who really DO have these disorders. *

Not the parent Goldilocks would pick.

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The Middle of the Road Parent

AKA: You let me know if you need anything of if they act up. They know how we expect them to act at school.

These parents contact you back when you leave a message, they return all forms in a timely manner, and they let you know when something is going on in the student’s life, such as a death in the family or an illness. They back you up and encourage their kids to be responsible, to be prepared for class, and to act respectfully. One phone call home about bad behavior and it’s like you have a new student the next day.  Are they perfect? Nope. Sometimes they overreact before speaking to you about a situation, or they forget to send a needed item to school. The bottom line is that they respect the educational process and want the best for their kids. Not too intrusive, not in constant contact, present, but not living through their student, they represent what a parent should be: helpful, encouraging, and involved in a manner that is adequate.

These types of parents would definitely be akin to the porridge Goldilocks ate. JUST RIGHT.

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4 thoughts on “The Porridge Goldilocks Ate and Parental Involvement

  1. JB says:

    Amen, preach it, sister! I have had variations of all of these throughout my career. I was unfortunate to meet a combination Combative/Dadager/Nutcase my FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF TEACHING. It was enough to scar me for life. To this day I cringe at every phone call, every message left in my box, every parent conference—and there’s really no reason to be. Most parents are your Middle of the Road parents; it’s the crazies that ruin your days and spoil your weekends in anticipation for that Monday morning parent conference–and then they don’t show up.

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