There are friends and then there are Friends. I can count my Friends on one hand. These are the people who just don’t have your back. They have your back and covering it with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. This is a story of how with the help of one Friend and some Friends-In-Training I (we) took down a teacher and saved a school. Okay, not the whole school. A class actually, but that counts for something - doesn’t it?
I must begin by issuing this statement: I love teachers. My children have been blessed with incredible teachers. Teachers that have changed their lives. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for educators. Yet, as in any profession there are those who do not bring honor to their vocation. The bad seed, if you will. In the field of education, a bad seed is especially virulent. A teacher has power and the ability to uplift a child or break them. A broken child may take years to recover from a bad teacher and have wounds they carry for the rest of their lives. On one very brisk fall day. A day full of promise. I was started on my path to rid one school from one very, very bad teacher.
The alarm about this teacher began going off even before school began. It didn’t help that this teacher was the only male teacher at the school. So, some in the administration thought the complaining was done by over protective mamas that didn’t want their kids to have a male teacher. Which was totally wrong. This is the teacher no one wanted, regardless of the gender. This teacher was a train wreck. This is the teacher who you began lobbying to the principal not to get the year before your child even entered that grade. So, imagine my surprise and horror on the day before school started when I found out that my son had received the school’s “worst” teacher for his teacher. Had I not volunteered for every fundraiser, was I not on the P.T.A. board, had I not been the room mom the year before so I could suck up to his then teacher to make sure he didn’t get this teacher? Did I not fill out the “teacher request” form where you couldn’t name the teacher you wanted, but you could describe the “educational environment” that you felt your child learned best in? And didn’t my description point extremely enthusiastically away from this teacher? Yes to all of the above. I was beyond angry. I was enraged. So, I did what any of you would have done I marched right into the principal's office, unannounced, of course, and said as I waved my son’s teacher placement paper in the air, “Are you serious?” The principal, bike wearing shorts dude that he is, told me to take a “deep cleansing breath.” I gave him the look that has been known to cryogenically freeze a man’s genitalia (at least that’s what two former boyfriends and a former boss has told me) and said, “We’ve got a problem.” The principal tried to explain to me that some kids had to get “that” teacher and my son’s former teachers thought he could “handle it just fine.” Ugh, I got the point that some kids did have to get “that” teacher. But why, did the school even have a teacher that no one wanted to “get?” That to me was the unacceptable part. I left his office, but not until he agreed that if after the first six weeks of the school year I felt that my son’s educational growth was not being served adequately by “that’ teacher he would be moved into another class.
That evening, my husband got to hear me moan and groan about what happened. His take is always a little different from mine. He thought I was “over thinking” (male code for hormonally charged thought process) the whole teacher thing. His point was, “When we went to school our parents never changed our teachers. I don’t think my parents even knew my teacher’s name. Just let it go. It could work out just fine.” Now, I know he does this in an attempt to talk me off the ledge, and yes, it does make me want to get off the ledge so I can strangle him. But, I had to take his advice. School started the next day and as far as my son was concerned it was all happy, happy, joy, joy.
Things did not begin well that first day. I walked into the 3rd grade classroom with my son, were both loaded up with school supplies, and there is Mr. “that” teacher. He’s a middle-aged, pasty-faced goober with a receding hairline, a gut and a toothpick in his mouth (not kidding) reclining all the way back is his chair, feet on his desk, wearing some athletic shorts and giving all who walk in an eyeball of dingy underwear. This loser didn’t posses the basic home training skills to be standing upright to meet his new students and parents. Parents were walking over to him, offering him their hand to shake and introducing themselves as he stayed reclined in his chair. Unbelievable. But, then it dawned on me that he knew exactly what he was doing. It was a power play. An obvious and early “F” you to the parents. I got my son settled at his desk, took some pencils to sharpen, and it took an enormous amount of self-discipline not to accidentally on purpose kick his chair en route to the pencil sharpener so he would fall out of his “recliner.” I, also, noticed that the classroom was not even decorated. It wasn’t all back-to-school cute with bulletin boards with fall themes and the Presidents’ heads on the wall it was plain and just a little stinky. Like it needed a couple of Frebreze plug-ins. I took some pictures of my son at his desk and then it was time to leave. Oh, how I didn’t want to leave my son in that room. I wanted to grab his still almost little hand and run out the door and begin home schooling. Okay, I can do this I told myself and I did have home-schooling as my escape pod, so I patted my son on the back out of the classroom.
Stories about Mr. “that” teacher began to come home everyday and me and the other moms with kids in the class began to share notes. It was the phone tree of doom. One month into the school year I had enough of all the phone calls and school pick up and drop off bitching and decided to host a meeting of concerned parents at my home one morning after school drop off. Mimosas would be served. First on the agenda was listing out our “classroom issues.” The list was lengthy. Topping it was the fact that Mr. “that” teacher didn’t teach. He put the kids in pods with worksheets for the day where they were encouraged to teach each other. He described it as team building. Meanwhile, Mr. “that” teacher sat at his desk playing video games on his laptop brought from home. His pod teaching method meant that our kids would come home everyday with a stack of worksheets they didn’t understand and couldn’t finish in class. So, in essence all of us parent were home-schooling as we spent several hours each day after school teaching our children what was in the worksheets. It was like they had a 10 hour school day. That’s pretty long for an eight year old. Even worse in my book was his method of dealing with the students. Mr. “that” teacher had a demeanor that was abusive. He was a bully. He would pick on the kids and give them nicknames. My son was “Geekatroid.” He also called a chunky kid “Hungry,” a super skinny kid “Mr. Invisible.” You get my point. Plus, it led to all the kids calling each other these awful nicknames. It was all very Lord of the Flies. Add in his classroom control which was threatening and you had a 3rd grade under siege. Based on data, sweet talked from the school secretary, “that” teacher’s class had the highest absentee rate of students and his class had the highest percentage of kids that went to the nurses office with stomach and headaches. It was so bad that if my son called me from the nurses office with the code phrase “extreme stomach cramps.” I knew it meant he was having an awful day at school and needed to come and rescue him - stat.
We made our list and then decided step two would be to have a conference with the school principal, present the list of grievances and demand some action be taken. This is where we had some drop off in participation. It’s one thing to show up at someone’s house and do the snack and bitch. It’s another to sign your name to a document and show up to a meeting. Out of the 14 mom’s in attendance only six would sign the grievance list and only three of us volunteered go have a meeting with the principal. And I knew that at least one of the 14 mom’s currently enjoying my hospitality would go tattle on us to “that” teacher by the end of the day. I adjourned my meeting, called the principal and requested a meeting with him the next day and then prepared to stake out my son’s classroom to see which mom would pull a Judas and betray us. Thirty minutes before the bell rang I positioned myself in the library where I had a clear view of the door into my son’s classroom. Bingo - at exactly 2:57, three minutes before the bell rang I spied a mom walking into the classroom. I tip toed out of the library and there she was a mom I call “Fakey Face” for her way of sucking up to everyone and then cataloging everything you say for use in her flagrant lying rumor mill. You know the type. It’s all “Oh hi, I’ve missed seeing you. Did you have a good summer? Did you guys take a big vacation this year? No, you didn’t? You just stayed here and had fun. Good for you?” From the innocent tidbit, that your family choose not to take a summer vacation, she’ll start her faux concerned routine and start spreading gossip by asking other moms questions like, “Is Snarky okay, because I talked with her today and I think her family is having financial problems?” That’s all it takes, one pick up and drop off cycle for all the moms at school to think your family is the economic dumpster. How does no summer vacation equal house foreclosure? So, that’s a long way of saying I wasn’t surprised in the least to see Fakey Face giving us up. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I didn't’ have too. I then saw Mr. “that” teacher strutting to the principal’s office to do what I’m sure was a preemptive strike on our meeting tomorrow.
Our meeting with the principal went just like I thought it would. He politely listened to our concerns by nodding his head a couple of times and saying hmm, a lot. He took our list and said he would look into it immediately and then asked each of us to fill out a district complaint form on the teacher. I said I would gladly fill out the form, but would it do any good, because I’m guessing his file probably has dozens of complaint forms in it already. I then cut to the chase and said, “What does it take to get rid of a teacher? A lot apparently. Basically, my take away was as long as the teacher isn’t touching the child inappropriately you’re looking at a long drawn out process. I know some of you are thinking, “Girlfriend I would have gone into that meeting with a lawyer and threatened to sue the district.” Good point. But, the whole attorney thing had been tried and nothing came of it. Yes, parents got their kids moved, but “that” teacher was still there. Me and the two other moms leave the meeting feeling like we let our kids down and we were all on the fence about filling about the district complaint form. All three of us had younger kids working their way through the school. What if the teachers got ticked off that we filed a complaint against one of their coworkers? That’s a big deal. Would they hold it against our kids? We didn’t want our younger ones to suffer down the road. We all said goodbye and went home to lick our wounds. Whenever I can’t think, I vacuum. As I was going back and forth over my wool family room rug,( that sheds worse than any dog I’ve ever owned - what’s up with wool?) it came to me, a plan. Really, it was a flash of brilliance. We would get rid of this teacher and we would do it by dropping a Mom Bomb on his toothpick sucking self. I celebrated my genius by finishing off an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy. I had earned it. (Yes, I can eat that many cookies. It’s one of my superpowers.)
After finishing the Chips Ahoy I got busy. I called the two moms that had gone to the principal's office with me, my Best Friend who did not even have a child in 3rd grade, but had two restraining orders against her (filed unjustly) so you know she’s bringing some serious heat and angry management issues and two other moms who last year had kids in that class and were still eating bitter for breakfast. Excellent. As we all know bitter is powerful fuel and I intended to throw a kerosene soaked match on it. In total, six moms were in and payback was just days away.
Have you noticed, my friends, that since we’ve become moms society at large, even other moms, underestimate us. When we’re in our work environment we get taken seriously, but take off your heels, put on your mom uniform of choice (my go to is track pants and tennis shoes) grab a kid and you’re nobody. We’re all just clumped into the “soccer mom” category. This is a huge mistake. To underestimate us is to do so at your own peril. We are the multi-tasking, sleep deprived, masters of the universe. I was planning on using that underestimation, to begin my reign of terror on “that” teacher. I laid out my plan the next morning. After school drop off my operatives reported to my house. Upon entering I had to call for a vow of silence. Nothing could be leaked. I also ratted out Fakey Face so the other moms could send laser beams of disgust her way. I do so believe in sharing. The plan, as I saw it, was perfect. The brilliance was in the simplicity. We were not going to do anything considered illegal in either civil and criminal court and it was very lady like, very mommish. We were going to stalk “that” teacher every hour of every school day.
Moms are experts at stalking. We’ve been stalked by our children since birth. How many of us have never gone to the bathroom by ourselves since having a child? Our school has an open door policy with parents. We are welcome to observe in any classroom everyday and “observe” we would do. I had taken a notebook and wrote on it in very large print “Documentation.” All of us would start out by taking a couple of hours during the week to sit in the back of his class and write down anything we wanted in the notebook. I didn’t care if it was a grocery list. We just needed to look very busy and troubled as we wrote in the notebook. When another “volunteer” would come into to class we would make a big deal of handing off the notebook and doing some serious whisper action. Also in my stalkerazzi arsenal were the tools that said “good mommy, great school volunteer.” I’m on the yearbook committee so my camera would be used to take pictures of him. Another mom did the school year-end video. We would set up her video camera just to tick him off and record his class. We also would use the P.E. volunteer stop watch to obnoxiously time his student interaction and then write it down dramatically in the documentation notebook. “That’ teacher would not even receive peace from us at lunch. The teacher's lounge and the workroom were combined so we would stalk him to the lounge and make copies of something during his lunch. The only way he could escape us is the restroom. But I had that covered too. The teacher restroom is the only adult size potty in the place so whenever we saw him going in we would stand outside the door and knock and politely ask him “if he would be done soon.” Imagine the horror of having moms, who you know hate you, following you around every second of your work day. Surprisingly no one balked at the time commitment and we were ready to drop the Mom Bomb the next day.
I was the first one to begin the stalk-a-thon. I arrived with my son to class, plopped myself down in the sole adult chair in the back of the room, made a big deal about getting out my notebook. “That” teacher immediately came over to me and asked “What I was doing?” I looked at him all innocent and said in my best “Go Team” cheerleader voice, “Just observing.” “Oh, okay,” he said. “For how long?” “Golly, I don’t know. I don’t have much going on today I thought I just might spend the day here. I’ll see how I feel after lunch.” He snorted at me. It was once of those man snorts that say, “We’ll see about this.” At lunch time he went into the principal’s office and tried to get me ousted. The principal came up to me and asked to “have a word.” “By all means,” I replied all smiles. “Goodness gracious” was my response after the principal wanted to know what I was up to. “Does it or does it not state in the school handbook, that you, yourself, wrote, that parents are allowed to observe in the classrooms at all times, expect during state testing. That, in fact, all we need to do is sign in at the front desk and get our visitor badge. Well, I’ve got my badge and I’m not leaving.” I then excused myself and started making copies in the lounge/workroom as “that” teacher ate his lunch. After five minutes he ducked into the bathroom where I, 20 seconds later, knocked on the door and asked if he would be out soon.
“That” teacher spent all week trying to shake the six of us. He complained some more to the principal, had a temper tantrum about the video camera, the still camera and the stop watch. We went all “mom” on the principal. “Wow, we’re just taking pictures for the yearbook and so sorry about the video camera, but we have to have footage for the year-end video.” As for the stop watch. “We just have it to help time those multiplication tests.” He had a fit about the three moms that were “observing” that didn’t even have kids in the class. Once again, Mr. Principal check that handbook you wrote. It never says you can only observe in the class you have kids in. “That” teacher also tried to give us volunteer tasks to get us of out the room. Our response, “Um, no thank you. I’m fine sitting here.” I’m sure it was killing him that he had to put up his lap top and attempt to interact with his students. I even got him busted for bringing a non-district approved computer to the school. I was all, “Oh my, what if the students got a hold of it. That would be real shame and what good are rules if the teacher, the role model, doesn’t follow them.”
“That” teacher turned out to be a big baby. One of those men that can dish it out to 8 and 9 year olds, but can’t take it when it’s handed right back to him. By week two he started sweating profusely and got the shakes. By week three he started taking sick days. By week five he had depleted all his sick and personal days. By week six he was on extended personal leave. By week 8 we had a full-time substitute, “Mrs. Delightful,” who was a wonderful teacher and excited about finishing the school year with “such an awesome group of third graders.” By the next school year “That” teacher had transferred to a desk job in the administration building. Hopefully, he will never darken the door of a classroom again. We have intell on him, just in case. Do I look back and have any guilt about causing a middle-aged man to have a nervous breakdown? No. The Mom Bomb is a regret free explosive device.
Thanks for reading the Snark. If you like it please share it with your friends and you can stay up to date on postings on FB by going to the Snarky in the Suburbs page and clicking on like. I, also, when I can remember Twitter @snarkynsuburbs. I don't really get twitter - does anyone want to explain the wonder of it to me? I would be in your debt. Happy Back to School.