Thursday, March 01, 2007
If you have taken to teaching some time in your life, one of the horrors you must have encountered—beside the atrocity some students call their command of the English language—is the fact of overbearing parents. The really bad ones I always call “monsters.” I don’t know what makes some parents completely transform into rabid creatures in the strangest circumstances. Maybe it is a form of a well-meaning regard for their children’s fair chances in the academe, but sometimes this is taken to the extreme that defies the graceful limits of humanity.
Consider what happened a few days ago. I shall not name the particulars of the incident because it would only add to the monstrosity of the situation. Let’s just say there was a dance class for very young children, and it was giving a recital of sorts, which was included as a kind of pre-show to a bigger show. Normally, this would be the very picture of “cute.” Nothing “cute” happened an hour before the show.
One of the mothers of these kids confronted the choreographer and initiated what instantly looked like trouble. According to witnesses, she was seething. “Who made this program?” the mother asked no one in particular backstage.
Somebody must have pointed to the choreographer because the seething mother went up to him, and began shouting at him in front of everybody. “Stop it now,” the choreographer said, getting embarrassed. But she instead rolled a copy of the night’s program in her hands, and began to repeatedly slap the choreographer’s hands and arms with it—“one hit per accusing phrase,” according to one witness.
Let’s just say this must be how the mother berated the poor man: “How dare you!...” (slap, slap)
... “omit my child’s name!...” (slap, slap)
... “from the program’s!...” (slap, slap)
... “list of dancers!” She was livid.
“I am not...” (slap, slap)
... “going to enroll my child...” (slap, slap)
... “in this stupid ballet school...” (slap, slap)
... “ever again!”
The shocked man could not do anything except take the sudden abuse, but promptly went home from sheer embarassment and shame. He never did see his troupe dance that night.
Here’s the deal: It was I who made the program
When I went home after the show to re-check the list of dancers given me while I was making the program, I could not find the child’s name at all -- thus inadvertently excluding her from the roster.What happened?
One of the dance teachers later told me that during rehearsals, she had told the kids, their yayas
and parents to put down their children’s names in the list, which would be used to monitor the costumes for the show, as well as to provide the names for the night’s program. All of the kids with their yayas
and parents did so—except for that one kid and her mother. Thing was, she probably was not listening when the announcement was made.
I could understand that she had the right to be angry that her kid was not listed in the program. But could she have willed herself to be diplomatic in finding out what exactly led to the unfortunate circumstance? Did she have to be so...dramatic? Did she stop to think that maybe it was her fault in the first place? And who has the right to berate and slap around another human being like that, and in public, too?
This makes me so mad, given that that poor man is a friend. And given that it was I who made the program in the first place. In a sense, that would have been me
being slapped around if I had gone to the Luce Auditorium a little earlier.Monsters.
It makes me so mad because I had an encounter like this once, when I had failed a student for plagiarizing a term paper. Soon her mother came up to me, accusing me of the vilest things. Most of all, I remember her giving this statement, in public: “Students fail because of bad teachers.”
That accusation pierced through my heart so deeply that it affected me for more than a year, and almost made me give up on teaching altogether. The incident deflated what joy I found in the profession. I have always tried giving my best in teaching, even if I falter at times. But to have that accusation hurled at me to save a child’s academic stake was just a little too much.
When the mother hurled that sentence at me, I could not say anything back. Perhaps I was in shock. But that night, I broke down—and I’ve been broken ever since. I am Humpty-Dumpty, really: I’m still full of unhealed cracks, and the whole incident still gives me nightmares, even until now. There was a time I thought I had moved on from this, but I saw the woman once and not too long ago. She was right near me during an event; I knew it was her; my heart started palpitating, and I had to move away, confused and bewildered over why I still felt this way after all this time. That was when I knew I’d been scarred for life.
Sometimes it pains me to realize that there is a certain lack of spark when I teach now; I used to be so animated and so in-love with teaching. The spark returns once in a while, but mostly it has become a dull throbbing.
Only much later was I ever able to formulate a good rebuttal to that mother’s unfair accusation. I could have said, with such bitchiness: “Well, ma’am, the parent is every student’s first teacher. Your child probably first learned to cheat and to be palengkera under your very influence at home.”
But I never did say anything. Mark, who saw everything, finally told me, “Sometimes you’re just too nice.” And yes, I often am
. That is my tragedy.
Labels: life, teaching
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