Monday, October 20, 2008

Are you a mean parent/teacher? Good for you!

Someone sent this to me today because they believe I fall into the category of 'mean Mom'. My sons agree wholeheartedly.

I'm flattered.

It reminds me of an exchange of comments I had with Janet Clarey recently when she posted a photo of the magnificent view from her newly refurbished kitchen on Facebook. We decided that I am a battleaxe.

I reckon it's just as valid for teachers, and it reminded me of Mrs Ewert. She was my teacher when I was in the equivalent of grade 5. Until I was placed in her class, I feared and loathed her, along with the rest of the school... except those who were in (or had been in) her class - they unequivocally adored her.

Mrs Ewert was strict. Very strict. She held kids accountable and woe betide if she caught you doing something wrong. On the other hand, if you were prepared to apply yourself, you found that she was a born encourager and you got to see up close the real love in her eyes for the kids she taught.

When she left to go an maternity leave, part way through my year in her class, we sobbed bitterly. Somehow, during that time, we had gone from loathing her to being fiercely loyal. Like every class of hers before us, we would brook no criticism of our teacher from those who had not had the privilege of getting to know what she was really like.

And so, to all the mean Moms/Dads and teachers out there...

Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a parent, I will tell them, as my Mean Mum told me: I loved you enough . . to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep. I loved you enough to stand over you for two hourswhile you cleaned your room, a job that should have taken 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents aren't perfect. I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

But most of all, I loved you enough . . . to say NO when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I'm glad I won them, because in the end you won, too. And someday when your children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates parents, you will tell them.

Was your Mum mean? I know mine was. We had the meanest mother in the whole world! While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, eggs, and toast.

When others had a Pepsi and a Twisties for lunch, we had to eat sandwiches. And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from what other kids had, too.

Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were convicts in a prison. She had to know who our friends were, and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for an hour or less.

We were ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the Child Labor Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, empty the trash and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for us to do.

She always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By the time we were teenagers, she could read our minds and had eyes in the back of her head. Then, life was really tough!

Mother wouldn't let our friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them. While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13, we had to wait until we were 16.

Because of our mother we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced. None of us have ever been caught shoplifting, vandalising other's property or ever arrested for any crime. It was all her fault. Now that we have left home, we are all educated, honest adults. We are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mum was.

I think that is what's wrong with the world today. It just doesn't have enough mean mums!


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Karyn!

You could add to your last sentence, "or dads or teachers." I'm sure you were implying that.

When I first started teaching in New Zealand, we had a senior master who was also the games master. Jack was an ex-army seargent.

I called him Master in Charge of Discipline. The kids called him Gravel-guts. He was a strict as hell. But the kids loved him.

The day before the McEvedy Shield, Wellington schools sports tournament, Jack had a serious stroke that paralysed him down one side.

I was supervising the long jump on the morning of the tournament when I learnt of Jack's unfortunate stroke. On release from that duty, I drove immediately to the hospital to be with Jack.

He lay in a ward by himself. I was the only visitor at that time. The light was dim in his ward. I could hardly see his outline as I approached his bedside.

I entered quietly, for he looked sound asleep. He turned his head to me and said, "How much did we win by?"

That Saturday, our school had achieved an outright victory. It gave me the greatest pleasure to tell Jack our points score and how we won the Shield.

When I'd finished relating my tale of the school's victory, Jack said, "You'll never guess who came in to see me this morning."

I made a few lame guesses.

"J---y S-----s", he said.

I knew this boy well. He'd left school some years before. He was one of the cleverest toughest rogues that had ever gone through the school. J---y was forever in trouble.

"I must have broken more pada-tennis bats over his backside than he's had breakfasts," Jack explained - which was true.

Jack recovered from that stroke and lived out his retirement years.

But he always spoke softly and kindly when he related the tale of the first visitor who came in to see him in hospital - one of the most mischievous rogues to have been on the roll of the school.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

The upsycho said...

@blogger You are so right about the implied addition, Ken, but, since it was a direct quote (albeit an anonymous one) I didn't feel free to make any additions to it. I tried to make that provision in the preceding text.

I think teachers probably remember with fondness those who had greatest need of correction - they were the ones who tested their mettle as teachers!

V Yonkers said...

Well, my kids (and nephew who I babysat until he started school) used to call me "meany Mom" when they were young! Now I think I'm more than mean, if last week's "discussion" as to whether they could go to a school function unsupervised was any indication.

I have a colleague, though, who is much loved and very strict, but whose name goes perfectly with this post, "Principle Meany" (really her name).

However, one thing your post implies that I find some "mean" teachers don't do, is to be fair. There are some people that are mean to demonstrate they are "good teachers" rather than to set standards and help the student. Both my children have had the teacher that gives a test that no one can pass so they can make sure they have a bell curve in the class. To do this they test on content they have not covered. Likewise, I have had teachers accuse my children of not trying when I have seen them spending up to 4 hours a night studying (in primary school).

My point is that "mean" is necessary, but so is being consistent and fair.

The upsycho said...

@V Yonkers. I don't thing that's 'mean', I think that's mean (without quotes). There are plenty of parents that fall into that category, too. This post is not about them.