Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Far Will a Parent Go?.......

One of the things I like about teaching online is that I (usually) don't have to deal with difficult parents. I don't have to deal with difficult parents too much in my real job either, but when I taught in the traditional school it just went with the territory.

I'm teaching summer school online this summer because I cannot seem to turn down extra money. We don't really need it per se, but it's easy money. Usually.

I have this one parent who is creating an awkward situation. She's logging in to her son's virtual school account when I know he's not there. In fact she TOLD me he wasn't there. She said she was "downloading some stories" for him but she couldn't get one of them to work, so she called me. First of all, there is no "downloading stories". You click a link, the story opens, you read it. Second of all, aren't you just a little embarrassed to admit TO THE TEACHER that you're logged in under your son's name? Hello?

When she posted a message on the discussion board that was clearly from HER, not her son, I became a little suspicious. So I started checking his log-in history. There were multiple log-ins during the times he is supposed to be in summer school. A quiz was even submitted during that time. Every time there is a question, it is MOM who calls. Never the student.

I don't like to assume the worst of people, but there's too much evidence against this woman. I started thinking about last semester, when I had her OTHER son in a different course. (I teach students from all over the state of Georgia, and I wind up with two from the same family in two different courses? Lucky me.) At first I was so impressed with how on top of things this mom was, how involved. (Yeah.......HOW involved?) Some parents don't know their kids are even taking an online course, and some never return my phone calls. So it was a welcome change to have a parent who knew what was going on with her son's school work. Ummmmmm hmmmmmm..... Maybe I'm just a little slow.

Last semester the older brother was doing fine in the course, turning in his work on time, participating in discussions, doing very well. And then he just dropped off the face of the earth. No log-ins, no assignments submitted, no tests taken, zip. Zilch. Nada. I called and left messages, I emailed, I tried to contact his high school counselor, I even contacted our virtual counselor. (We have one of those just in case our students have virtual problems. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) I got no response. He (naturally) didn't take his exam, he (naturally) failed the course. It's not uncommon in the virtual world. Students get behind, they give up.

When I called the mom at the beginning of summer semester because I had the younger son, I found out the whole story. Seems that mom was called away to South Africa suddenly because they thought her father might be dying. She left the country and instructed her husband to stay on top of the son's progress in his virtual course. He never turned in another assignment.

I sympathized with her when I first heard the story. She was so angry at her husband for not following through and making the son do his work.

After this new problem surfaced, however, I began to have my suspicions. Perhaps last semester the work dried up because SHE WASN'T HERE TO DO IT? And even if she weren't the one doing the work (I'm willing to give her an itty bitty benefit of the doubt), should a high school senior who has to have a parent telling him to do his work really be taking an online course ANYWAY?

Yesterday the student (or parent, as the case may be) submitted an assignment and had the audacity to ask if his mother could just attend the live computer lectures IN HIS PLACE and tell him what he needed to know. Good Lord!

I had been avoiding the mother's phone calls, something I never do, because I was waiting to hear from my virtual administrators (yeah, they exist in the virtual world too) about what to do. In the meantime, she called AGAIN yesterday while I was at the conference (I refuse to call it a "professional learning symposium"), saying some quizzes that she knew her son had done were showing up as not completed. I'm sure she's anxious to see how she did on them. I didn't take her call because I was in a meeting, but I sent her an email explaining where I was and why I couldn't take her call. I'm rude enough to EMAIL during a professional learning conference, but not rude enough to take a call. I do have some scruples. Okay, one. Scruple.

In my email I explained to her that it was really much more effective to talk to the STUDENT when there is a question about his/her online course, and to have her son call me Monday evening after he gets out of summer school. I'm sort of over taking this woman's phone calls on the weekends.

She called me again. Last night. On a Friday night. At 7:20. By now, of course, her number is programmed into my cell phone, and I ignored her call again. Her message was "give me a ring" (I did mention they were from South Africa, didn't I?). This time she didn't even say what the problem was, but she sounded pissed.

I dread talking to her. I don't know if someone from her son's school has alerted her to the fact that we think she's a big old bag of cheating, or if she's still just anxious to learn how those quizzes came out. I refuse to speak to her this weekend, though. In fact, I haven't even logged in all day. We are entitled to take the weekend off, particularly after two whole days of meetings and a night away from home. So what if I got to sleep with my husband anyway; I missed the DOG. (Please don't tell him I said that.)

I'm not usually one to put things off, even uncomfortable, awkward things. I'd rather deal with it and get it behind me. So this is going to hang over my head until sometime Monday, when I probably won't get the chance to call her because she'll call me first. I don't know how it will turn out; it's possible nothing is going to happen at all. But at some point I HAVE to tell her that logging in under her son's log-in is inappropriate. It feels weird having to tell a grown-up that.

I wouldn't wish anything bad on her family or anything, but maybe she'll get called back to South Africa. Summer school is only 4 more weeks........


Anonymous said...

I say she's a big cheater and you just keep on avoiding! Or tell her that you can't talk to her until the school authorities get back to you - maybe that will scare her into shutting up. This reminds of the one overbearing parent I had with the last name Elliot - I know many teachers at LHS that hated that woman and avoided her, too.

Lilith said...

I can't wait to hear what your superiors say, because I'm pretty sure if you have proof things were being turned in while he was in class, that's cheating and he shouldn't be allowed to finish the course!