Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Tale Of Two Teachers

I had interactions with two of my kids' teachers on Friday. And they were so night-and-day different, you wouldn't believe they worked at the same school.

You know that Brooklyn never gets less than an A in any class. She's a naturally smart kid and she's remarkably self-motivated. This is not me being one of those - 'My kid is perfect and can do no wrong' kind of things because believe me, although I love all my kids, I would not use those words to describe all of them! Unfortunately, she's struggling in her biology class this year. She ends the day in tears often, saying, "I'm just not learning anything this year, Mom. She just reads these powerpoints and she goes so fast and she just assumes that everyone knows what she's talking about instead of explaining and teaching it. Maybe it's just me, but I don't know anything in that class."

This teacher gives her students until 6:00PM to submit their assignments each day. For the kids who have activities after school - jobs, sports, volunteer work, church, classes, well that's just too bad. They get a zero. No chance to turn it in later. They can't do it the next day. Nothing. Just a big fat zero for the assignment. As you can imagine, a couple zeros on assignments dramatically bring down the child's grade.

To her credit, the teacher does replace those zeros with the score the students receive on their quarter exams. I'm sure this helps some students. Brooklyn, who has struggled all year, stayed up and studied a good 2 hours the night before that test. She went through every Kahoot (game-based learning platform) the teacher gave the kids to help them review. She literally wrote down every question and answer, felt she had a pretty good understanding, and thought she would do well on the test. When the test came, Brooklyn felt it was over completely different material than what she had studied and she got a D on the test. That was a tough pill to swallow for a straight A student. Especially when that grade was not reflective of her effort.

Incidentally, this is the same teacher who taught from home the entire first quarter of school. I use the words "taught from home" loosely as many of her classes were taught while she was driving, or sitting in her car in a parking lot. 

Which brings us to Friday. On Friday, this teacher told her class that they were going to dissect a flower, but she generously gave them to until 7:00 to complete and submit their assignments. Nothing had been said about this in advance so students could make arrangements to have the supplies they needed. Students on campus were sent into the courtyard of the school to pick flowers, however students who were doing remote learning from home, were out of luck. We don't have any flowers. There are literally no flowers anywhere in my entire apartment complex. 

I had never communicated with this teacher about her policy of not accepting work after 6:00PM. I had commiserated with Brooklyn, I had gotten resources from the science teachers at my school to help her, and I had told her that she would undoubtedly have teachers throughout her education whose teaching method just didn't resonate with her, and that she just had to do her best. But this flower thing just pushed me over the edge. So now Brooklyn would be getting yet another zero because once again, this teacher had set those students up for failure. So I emailed her.


Good morning,

My daughter, Brooklyn Meehan told me that you informed her during class today that she needs a flower to dissect. We live in an apartment that has no flowers around the complex. Had your students been notified in advance, I could have made arrangements for her to have the supplies she needs. I’m a single mom, I work 2 jobs, and I won’t get home in order to bring my daughter a flower or take her to pick one until after your cut-off time for turning in assignments. I feel that making students turn in work by 6:00pm, you’re setting them up for failure. Brooklyn struggles to complete your assignments on days that she has cheer practice after school, and has received zeros because you don’t allow your students to turn in assignments in the evening. Yes, I know you replace those zeros with their quarter test grades, but this does precious little for poor test takers. As a parent, this is frustrating. As an educator, it is mind-boggling to me.

What are you doing for Launch-Ed students who aren’t able to pick flowers in the school’s courtyard today? Is there an alternative assignment? Or are you giving them longer than 7:00pm to complete it?

Ms. Dawn Meehan

J Be the reason someone smiles today. J


This was her response:


Hello Mrs. Meehan,

Your concerns about me, how I teach, my teaching strategies, and my policies are duly noted.

No, there is no alternate. No, they do not get any longer than 2:20 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to walk outside, pick a flower, remove its parts, use the diagram to label it, and upload the image to a GOOGLE form.

That part of the assignment will simply be adjusted for her, and any other student that finds that part of the assignment too difficult to complete.

Thank you for letting me know.

Dr. XXXXXX


I forwarded our correspondence to the principal along with this note:


Good afternoon, Mr. XXXXXX,

How can it possibly be acceptable by OCPS for a teacher to refuse to accept assignments after 6:00pm on a daily basis? Brooklyn cannot be the only student with after-school commitments who finds it difficult some days to complete assignments in that time frame. Brooklyn was one of few students in Orange County accepted into the Horizons Scholarship program. She is required to put in volunteer hours and engage in regular after-school Zoom meetings, classes, and mentor sessions. And of course, she’s encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities as well.

Brooklyn gets a zero from Dr. XXXXXX every time she cannot complete an assignment by 6:00pm because she has cheer, band, or a Horizons Scholarship activity after school. Dr. XXXXXX does not give her the opportunity to turn in assignments after her after-school activities; instead she simply gives my daughter a grade of 0%. These zeros negatively impact Brooklyn’s eligibility in the Horizons program because the coordinators obtain regular grade reports from the high school.

What do I need to do to get Brooklyn a teacher who will work with her and not against her? Brooklyn would love to go back to school face-to-face, especially if it meant a schedule change and a different biology teacher, although I understand I missed the cut-off to change from Launch-Ed to F2F. Is dropping biology at the high school and taking it on Florida Virtual School a possibility? Because I am not okay with Brooklyn missing out on 2 years of college tuition because of a poor grade in biology that is not reflective of her ability.

Thank you for your help on this matter.


I imagine the principal will address this on Monday. If not, it will all be forwarded to the chief of high schools.


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While this was going on, I received an email from Clayton's calculus teacher: 


Ms. Meehan,

Is everything ok with Clayton?  He has missed the last two days of class and has not turned in the last 3 assignments. 

Bob XXXXXXX


My response: 

First off, thank you for being that amazing teacher who legitimately cares about his students and wants to see them succeed. Believe me, that is not always the case!

And this is completely unacceptable and will be addressed with Clayton immediately.


I had a little talk with Clayton that went something like this, "You need to email Mr. XXXXXXX and copy me on that email! You apologize for not showing up to class, you make up those assignments NOW, and you don't miss another class in the future or your part time job is OVER, Mister, because that was the deal when I let you take that job! Get your act together and get caught up!"

And here is Clay's correspondence with his teacher:


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This is Clay's second year with this math teacher, and this is not the first time this teacher has reached out to me in concern about Clayton. (Although Clay's really smart, he's a little lacking in the motivation department.) Anyway, Clay says that he's the best teacher he's ever had. Not only does he do an amazing job explaining things and teaching, but he records and puts every lesson online so students can go back and and review. He also gives students his phone number and tells them they can call up until 10:00PM if they have any questions. And he does free tutoring as well. Clay's teacher is clearly invested in his students' success. He goes above and beyond to ensure his kids achieve. He's the kind of teacher who most teachers strive to be. 

And then there's Brooklyn's teacher . . .


*****UPDATE*****

Brooklyn's biology teacher happens to be the teacher's union representative for her school. I get the sense that the administration is afraid to approach her on her teaching methods or her tone of correspondence to parents' concerns because of that simple fact. I feel the principal gave me a disappointing non-answer. But I kept pressing because I felt strongly about this. I've had 6 kids go through that school, times 4 years each, times 7 periods a day. Of course my kids have had some less-than-wonderful teachers over the years, but I've never complained before. Instead, I've always told my kids that they will encounter people through their lives who are simply difficult to work with, and they need to learn how to make the best of it. But this teacher's policies and attitude especially, especially during a pandemic with so many other challenges, both educational and other, is just unacceptable.

Anyway, I insisted they withdraw her from the class, and I signed her up for Florida Virtual School for this one class. Because FLVS is inundated with students who having chosen that platform this year, she hasn't been assigned a teacher yet, but they said she should be able to start next week.

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