In Fresno, CA, three 5th graders, two boys and one girl, admitted to trying to kill their teacher by lacing her coffee and cupcake with rat poison. The teacher was unharmed because, at the last minute, one of the boys knocked the coffee from the teacher’s hand.
The plot was uncovered when “a parent was bragging that her son saved the teacher’s life by preventing her from drinking the poisoned coffee.” This was the same boy who came up with the master plan in the first place. The students were expelled and transferred to other schools.
I know I should be shocked that 10-year-olds were trying to “off” their teacher, but I’m not. There is such a blatant, pervasive disrespect for the teaching profession that it’s not at all surprising these students treated their teacher like a rodent. The fact that the mom was proud of her son for “saving” the teacher he tried to poison really says it all. My question is, when and how did this happen?
When I was a kid a parent would not think of trotting into an elementary school classroom and calling the teacher out for giving her child a poor grade. If you received a bad grade, your parents immediately took the teacher’s side. There was no whining about the injustice of it all, or how the teacher didn’t like you, or whatever excuse kids come up with now to manipulate parents. The teacher was right, you were wrong, end of story.
Now it’s the polar opposite. Kids hear parents speak disparagingly of their teacher all the time so it is no wonder kids treat their teachers like bottom-feeders. Teachers know that if you give a kid a poor grade you better have a paper trail as long as your arm because you are most likely going to have to prove the student deserved it.
Maybe it’s a cultural issue; teachers are under-valued by society so they are treated disrespectfully. Maybe parents are exerting power they didn’t have when they were in school.
Whatever the reason, it is astonishing how parents take at face value whatever their child says happened at school.
When I was student teaching the teacher had a poster in the classroom that said, “If you don’t believe everything your child says about what happens at school, I won’t believe everything your child says about what happens at home.” This phrase should be printed on t-shirts and teachers should wear them to parent-teacher conferences.
Oh, of course there are teachers who are questioned for good reasons and parents who are respectful and appreciative of their kids’ teachers. But, when you have elementary school children who nearly poison their teacher and a parent boasts about her child because he didn’t go through with his plan, you have to admit the tide has turned.
So don’t be surprised when the best and brightest teachers run for the hills.
Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1