#257: Meeting of parents and guardians - 2012-01-26
- " Hello, Dad. "
- " Hello, Alejandra. How are things going at school? "
- " Messy, as always. "
- " Huh? What do you mean, daughter? "
- " Did I already told you that Eliana is acting as our Math teacher, right? "
- " Right. Haven't they found another teacher yet? "
- " An student of Education came... but he didn't last a couple hours in the morning before leaving. Fleeing and crying, according to Eliana. "
- " But that's terrible! And how is the girl? "
- " Disappointed and resigned to her role as a substitute. But I must admit that she's not bad at doing her work. Even Andrea seems to be learning... "
- " Who is Andrea? "
- " Another classmate of mine, dumb like a shoe. She even had to repeat fourth and fifth grade, and still believes in fairy tales. But I never saw her as happy as when she got the results of a Math test that Eliana did to her, and the test wasn't exactly easy. By the way, I was the only one in my class who got a perfect grade. "
- " Well, to be honest what you tell me isn't quite believable. I know that Eliana is very smart, but from that to serving as a full-blown teacher there's a world of difference. "
- " I know. She must be striving a lot. Sometimes she looks like a sleepwalker, and she fills the blackboard of examples and exercises without saying anything. Other times, she repeats the same thing up to five times, and sometimes she looks almost like crying, but she quickly recovers. And she's very, very strict and authoritarian, during her classes not even a fly would dare to buzz around. "
- " Ah. I would like to talk to her, to know exactly how she feels. She doesn't come to Karate classes since the summer, and it seems that her brothers are as lost as us. "
- " Oh. About that... look at this. Mom, come to see this you too! "
Alejandra gets a notebook from her backpack, and she shows her parents a communication with the school's seal. An invitation to a "meeting of parents and guardians" (Spanish: "reunión de padres y apoderados")
- "Can you believe this?"
- "What, the meeting?"
- "What do you mean with 'what'!? Do you imagine a poor eleven years old girl standing in front of a group of twenty-something adults and talking about academic topics?"
- "Hey, that sounds interesting, but just at that time we have a belt awarding session, so we can not go! Carolina will have to go instead!"
Doña Lucrecia drops the pot she was cleaning.
- "Isn't that session on Tuesday? The meeting is this Friday, April 21! Look!"
- "... Oh yeah, you're right! Well, I will not miss it! I want to see what this little girl is made of!"
- "Dad, don't you think they should have suspended the meeting? You can not have a student from a class as head teacher of the same class! Is absurd!"
- "Absurd or not, I want to see it with my own eyes!"
Doña Clara opens the door of the house, and sees as Eliana enters, practically a zombie.
- "Hello, Eliana."
- "Hl, Mm."
- "What's wrong? You're unusually listless today?"
- " Thr's stll n tchr td. I wnt t d. "
- "Eliana ... I didn't not understand anything of what you said."
Eliana then regained her alertness and answered loudly, with an unusually desperate claim, whose text I can't reproduce.
- "I also listen to that singer, Eliana, but fortunately I've never been in that situation."
- "Yesterday, an Education student came. The principal told me to show him how we teach here, so he begins today with his classes. And he went away, he escaped from me! And today I had to teach again... "
- "So, you don't want to keep acting as a teacher, Eliana, do you? Why you don't just quit?"
- "No, Mom. It's not that. Truth to be told, it's not so difficult for me to teach, and I'm happy with what I'll get paid. It's just that I was very excited about this despicable person. He even asked me out for a date! "
- "W-WHAT!? DAMNED PEDOPHILE!"
- "No. .. Actually, Mom, when he said that, he thought that I was true teacher, an adult woman who simply was very small in stature, not age. He even said I was an excellent teacher, and that it would be very difficult for him to get to my level. "
- "Yeah, right!"
- "He even compared me with one of his former teachers, whom he idolized when he was in high school! And after that, he asked me out."
- "And what did you say?"
- "I asked him if he really wanted to go out with an eleven years old girl ... and with that he became horrified. And then I told him the truth. And that's when he fled away from me."
- "... Wait. You really wanted to go out with him!?"
- "... Yes, Mom. I wanted to go out with him."
- "But you're just eleven year old, daughter! Why you don't go out with a boy of your age, someone from your class?"
- "How would I go out with those brats!? They're very immature, very childlike! Although ... now I realize that it was a pretty immature reaction from him, to get hired and quit that way, the same day... Look, now that I think twice, I think that I left myself be influenced by his appearance, and perhaps by his role as a savior hero ... Yes, it must be that. What a fool! I'd better forget that good-for-nothing! "
- " I'm glad to hear those words, because it means that you're back to yourself. Honestly, you're the last person I would have imagined to fall in love at first sight, much less for someone who at least twice your age."
- "So I thought until now. Who knows, might be the puberty, I'm 11 years old after all... Anyways, I think I better go to sleep. Tomorrow I'll another work day awaits for me."
- "Eat something first."
(Sorry for the hasty translation. This became rather longer than expected. - lgm)
Friday, April 21, 1995. After the usual classes in the morning, Eliana spent the afternooon resting, once she finished preparing the announced meeting of parents and guardians. At 18:00, she wakes up, mainly for hair grooming and going to the toilet. Several parents were already in school at 18:30, time at which the children finished their classes.
The meeting began promptly at 19:00. At that time, there were almost no children in school.
- "Good evening, parents and guardians."
- "Good evening."
Doña Clara was the last to arrive. All other guardians were present, no one was missing from the meeting.
- "... Hi, Mom."
- "... Hello, my daughter."
Doña Clara gave Eliana a vacuum flask with hot water, a cake, a bag of disposable plastic cups, and a kitchen knife.
- "Thank you everyone for attending this meeting. As many already know, my name is Eliana Martínez, I'm a classmate of your children, and for the time being I'm here as a substitute in charge of this class while the school looks for a new Math teacher. "
- "First, I will give you all a copy of the guidelines of this meeting, the homework and final exams schedule for all subjects, corresponding to this trimester, and the calendar of extracurricular activities for this year. Please share it among those present. Later, I will start giving to each one of you the partial grades report that was prepared by the Educational Technical Unit (Spanish: 'Unidad Técnico-Pedagógica'). If anyone is interested, when I give you the report, I can serve you a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake, for a voluntary cooperation at the benefit of the class's fund. "
Everyone cheered. They had already tried some of that cake at the previous meeting.
- "Leter, we will discuss the activities planned for the month of May, with an emphasis on Student's Day activities. Then, we discuss the particular situation we are living as a school, following the resignation of teacher Leticia Pizarro and the lack of a replacement teacher. Finally, we will review special cases and remember the pending obligations of the students. "
Then, Eliana takes the grades reports from a bag, and starts calling the parents and guardians one by one. All the slices of cake and half the vacuum flask's water were replaced by about ten thousand pesos.
- "Very good. As I pointed out, May 11th is Student's Day. That day, there will be no regular classes; however, attendance will nonetheless be taken, so please don't let your children miss school, as we will have various activities. "
Eliana then approaches the board and makes a list of activities for that day.
- "The day will begin with a morning breakfast hosted by the head teachers of each class. This year, the Martínez-Gómez family will contribute two vanilla cakes for our class and and two more cakes for class 8-B. We will also have sandwiches, assorted snacks and drinks for that day, and we hope to have a nice celebration among fellow students. "
- "At 10 am there will be a ceremony with a speech by the principal of the school. We hope that this time will also be the time of the official welcome to the new Math teacher, which we hope to arrive before that day. After the ceremony, several sports, cultural and recreational activities will begin; the students must register for these activities by May 9. "
- "In the classroom meeting last Monday, my classmates and me decided to install a giant mural in the school, where children will be able to showcase their creativity. I have a quote for three cork panels, each one 100 by 150 centimeters, plus a Trupan panel of 200 by 100 centimeters, everything for ten thousand pesos. We would still need to buy paper and markers. What do you think? "
- "Very good. The eighth graders and their head teachers, Mr. Muñoz and Mr. Otarola, will organize a parade of national costumes from different countries, and they will be the life of the party. We hope that the students will be respectful with their schoolmates, because we can't tarnish a school celebration with mockeries and misconduct. The activities will last until 12:30. Finally, the awards ceremony will be held, and the children will be able to go back home. "
- "Other than that, on May 15 there will be a ceremony at 9:45 am, to celebrate Mother's Day. To this end, the Spanish teachers instructed students from fifth to eighth grade to make short poems dedicated to their Mother, with a delivery date during the week from May 8 to May 12. Three poems will be selected among those with the best grades, and the selected students will be called to read their poems in front of the school. Also, there will be homework regarding Navy's Day and the month of the sea. "
(Pass the mouse over parents and guardians to know their names (in parentheses) and those of the students they represent)
- "Good. We will now discuss the current situation of Math classes. To begin, does anyone have any questions?"
Mr. Gutiérrez raises his hand.
- "Tell us, Eliana, how these days have been for you."
- "Good question. Well, this experience has been very stressful to me, because I had to do almost everything you would expect from a real teacher. The teachers here have been very supportive, and I have received many compliments because of my work, but I realize that it will never be the same as with a qualified teacher because, at the end of the day, I'm just a girl. So, I ask you to bear with me as I can only do so much to accomplish this task. "
Everyone cheers. Mr. Espinoza raises his hand.
- "Eliana, my son told me a lot about you, and he has noticed a great change of level in comparison with teacher Leticia. According to him, she committed a lot of mistakes during class, and it seems that she had little mastery of the material she was teaching. However, things changed radically with you, he told me that i's as if you were a teaching machine, like you seem to do everything right and never commit any mistake. The perfect teacher. "
- "He really said that? Hahaha! No, sir, I don't think I'm really that good. I do the best that I can, but as I said, I'm just a girl, I'll never be as good as a true teacher... "
- "My daughter tells me the same things about you." - Mr. Vergara, a very strange man dressed in green, raised his voice - "In your classes, not even a fly would buzz, no one dares to make a noise. There is no time to get distracted, you do everything very quickly ... It's not easy to go at your pace, there is no other choice but to concentrate on your class. "
- "... Maybe ... I'm going too fast? Although I still try to do it so that nobody is left behind, but it's hard, because I have no patience with those who are slower to learn ... nevertheless, I try to make the student do exercises so they can understand how to solve each of the problems I present them, and so I take the time to know when something hasn't been explained well. "
Mrs. Elizalde (mother of Mariana Aguirre) raises her hand.
- "That's what my daughter likes the most about your classes. Despite the fact that you try to go as fast as possible, you still make sure that the children learn, and you give yourself time to explain several times if necessary. I think that's great from you to do, and I congratulate you for that. "
- "Thank you, lady ... Well, is there anyone who has any complaint about my teaching? Something you don't like, something that they miss?"
Mr. Mansilla raises his hand.
- "My son ... is not happy at all with your work as a teacher."
- "Oh ... yeah, I've noticed that, Mr. Mansilla."
- "I never told you my name. How did you know it was me?"
- "Same hairstyle, same seat. Actually, it seems that everyone is sitting in the same seat as their children. Or am I wrong?"
They all look at each other's faces, but nobody replies.
- "Well, Mr. Mansilla, this is the opportunity to express your complaints. Go ahead."
- "Well, my son really liked Leticia the teacher. She let him hug her, she was endearing to him and forgave him everything. When he saw you in her place, he was left with brain trauma, because he knew what awaited him. And he was right. He told me several times that he does didn't want to go to school anymore. Every day I have to leave him at school before going to work. And my wife said that he always returned crying to home. It's only differen on Wednesdays, since he has no classes with you these days. I haven't seen a smile in my child's mouth for almost a month, and he was a very happy child. "
- "... Well, uh... I don't know what to say. The fact is, to be honest, I don't like your child, I've never had a good relationship with him as a classmate. But I've tried to be as unbiased as possible. To my knowledge, I have treated all students equally. I don't think I have been too hard on him, but maybe I'm wrong and indeed I have mistreated him... "
- "No, ma'am. My son doesn't like to study. He's a very naughty and troublesome child, and it has been very difficult for my wife and me to raise him and try to straighten his ways. We had to force and menace him in order to make him do his homework. Now, he does it on his own. I know that my son is having a bad time, but I think that he should mature and put more effort in his studies, once and for all. And I think you are doing a great job to guide my son to the right road. And I admire you for that . "
Everyone cheers. Eliana blushes a lot.
- "Well, I really wasn't expecting to receive so many compliments. Actually, I thought you would be outraged by the idea of seeing a classmate of your children in place of a teacher ..."
Mr. Gutiérrez raised his hand quickly.
- "Of course we are! This is a serious abuse of child's rights! And even worse, by an institution that should be specifically dedicated to protect these rights, primarily the right to education and protection against child labour! Is there anyone here who disagrees with me? Isn't it absurd that a 11 year old girl was dedicated to teach Math to children their own age and even older? Because she's also teaching Math to eighth graders! "
Mrs. Hardy, mother of Patrick López, raised her hand.
- "With regard to that, I have a 13 year old son, his name is Harold López, and he's in class 8-A. He can't believe that the girl who's teaching him Math is a classmate of my son Patrick. Does someone else have children in eighth grade? "
Clara raised her hand, but Eliana interrupted her.
- "Mom. I don't think Rosa can give an unbiased opinion on this matter."
- "... Right." - Clara replied, and lowered her hand.
But there were two more parents who raised their hands, both incapable of anything other than to congratulate Eliana for her work. Then, Mrs. Hardy returned to her speech:
- "This situation is outrageous to me, too. And I've talked to parents of other children who are in Harold's class. Everyone has the same opinion of Eliana. Even without being a teacher, even though she's only a child, she's much better than teacher Leticia, which herself was supposed to be a qualified teacher. Or at least that is the view shared by the children. "
Mr. Torres, a man with eyeglasses, brown skin, unkempt beard and messy hair, raised his hand.
- "I have two daughters who are very familiar with Eliana, although the opinion each one has of her is very different. While my elder daughter, who is in second grade of high school, sees in Eliana a very intelligent and responsible girl, my younger daughter sees in her a very hard, inflexible and workaholic person. That's why my daughter was horrified to see Eliana instead of teacher Leticia. This month has been horrible for Andrea, mainly by the workload Eliana imposed on the children. But on the other hand, Andrea's grades have improved incredibly, and that fills me with happiness. "
- "I am surprised, too." - Eliana replied - "I never thought I would be so successful with Andrea."
- "... But there is a problem with this. I talked to other teachers a few days ago, and they too are very surprised by how Eliana could become integrated to the academic work, and of the good results she achieved. There are no complaints no objections on her performance, only applauses. Don't you all think that this is very strange? "
- "It doesn't seem so strange to me." - said Mr. Gutiérrez - "I know Eliana personally, and I know how quickly she learns things. Moreover, as mentioned a few minutes ago, she has received support from teachers, and I know that she won't hesitate to ask if there is something she didn't know how to do, and also that she will always seek the advice of those around her. "
- "Exactly." - Mr. Torres continued. - "They're turning her into yet another teacher. They know she is intelligent and can learn to be a teacher or anything else, and it's all going very well for them. Too well."
Everyone stared at Mr. Torres. Eliana's face had an unusually bright scarlet glow, that she tried to hide with her hair. She could not overcome her shame anymore, because she thought she didn't deserve such level of praise.
- "Fellow parents and guardians. Do you know what I think? I believe that the school doesn't have the slightest interest in getting a new teacher!"
All parents and guardians looked at each other's faces. Mrs. Tranamil, mother of Elías Panguinao, raised her hand.
- "That's true! How it can be possible that they haven't found a single teacher in a whole month!? Could it be possible that they are so happy with her work that they don't want to replace her? Is Eliana really as good of a teacher as the children and the other teachers are saying? I find that totally inconceivable! "
All parents and guardians stared at Eliana.
- "Eliana" - Mr. Gutiérrez pointed his finger to her - "Give us a demonstration of what you do in your classes!"
- "Huh? Right now, so suddenly!"
- "Yes! Something short, just to find out how good you are at this!"
- "Er... eep... I'm not good at improvising ... but I'll show you a bit of what I taught your children during today's classes."
Eliana then spent five minutes to explain various aspects of operating with whole numbers, in a very neat and detailed way.
- "Well, that. What do you think?"
They all gawked at her.
- "Uh... is it really true that you're not a teacher?" - Mr. Torres asked her.
- "My God! I'm just a girl!"
- "Well, let me give you a professional opinion about it. I am a teacher at the Polytechnic High School, I know it's not the same as in primary school, the pace and level of expertise are different. And I must tell you that I loved your presentation, you show a perfect mastery of the content and great confidence in yourself and your abilities. "
Eliana blushes even more.
- "Still, you feel very nervous. You only partially believe in all this. You know you're not a teacher and you think that you can't fool anyone. You give the best of yourself, but it shows that you don't like what you're doing. You don't like standing in front of an audience. It is clear that this is an exceptional situation of emergency for you, and deep inside you just want this nightmare to end. "
- "Well, it's not exactly a 'nightmare' for me, but ..."
- "And it's obvious that you're imitating someone. Superficially, your exposure seems convincing, but it's clear that you don't handle the essential concepts of the job of a teacher in the classroom. And you aren't supposed to do so, since you've never attended a Methodology of Teaching course in the first place. "
- "Well, that's true ... this ... What advice would you give me in order to improve my work?"
- "None. You're doing much more than anyone would expect from you. But it's not OK if this situation continues over time. As parents and guardians, we must demand a solution for this problem to the school."
- "That's true!" - Mrs. Tranamil protested - " No matter how skillful she is, Math classes shouldn't be put in charge of one of the students."
Then, as guided by a powerful and invisible force, everyone started to stare at Clara.
- "Mrs. Gómez." - said Mr. Torres - "You are the mother and guardian of this child. You allowed your daughter to work as a substitute. Tell us, why did you authorize her to do so, and what is your opinion on the situation of your daughter and the school. "
Clara stood beside her daughter.
- "At first, I was opposed to Eliana working at the school. I didn't want Eliana to expose herself to such a responsibility and pressure. In addition, obviously, she does not have the necessary training to be in charge of a classroom. But I must admit that my daughter is very persistent, and when she has a goal in sight, she doesn't rest until she achieves it. Eliana is a very responsible and hard working girl, and knows a lot about Mathematics. In addition, she looked very excited about the idea. "
- "Is that true, Eliana?" - Mr. Torres interrupted Clara.
- "Yes. I knew it would be difficult, but I think that was necessary."
- "Of course it is necessary to solve this problem, but the solution shouldn't come from one of our daughters."
- "So I think, but at least my peers are not missing classes."
- "That's not the point. Mrs. Gómez, please proceed."
- "Ah, yes." - Clara continued - "What I mean is that, even though she's only a child and that it's wrong for to assume such a responsibility, I am confident of my daughter, and I know that she won't try to do something that is beyond her capabilities. And if she says she can teach Math to eighth grade children, it's because she is sure she can do so. "
- "That she can do it, she indeed can do it. There's no doubt about it, she just showed us so. But that does not mean it's right."
- "I know. Nor do I agree with my daughter's decision. Had I said no, she would have spent those hours of Mathematics without a teacher, sleeping in her seat while her classmates did what they wanted. She wouldn't be missing the rest of her classes, and we wouldn't have had this meeting. But I decided to support her, since that was what she wanted, and also for the sake of her classmates. Also, I thought it would just be a few days ... "
- "A few days. We're nearly a month without a teacher of Mathematics now. One month sacrificing a little girl for the sake of all others..."
- "Excuse me, sir," - interrupted Eliana - "but I would appreciate you to stop talking about me as if I were an innocent victim of this situation. I could resign at any time if I wished so. They would pay me for the hours I worked, and I would go back to being a simple student. "
- "And yet, you prefer to work, even with the life of a teacher being as hard as it is."
- "Girl, do you know how much would I be willing to give in exchange of going back to being a child? Do you realize what would I do in order to regain the freedom I had during those days, to be again able to play all day without having to spend eight hours a day enslaved to bring food to the house? "
- "I think I can imagine how you feel, sir. I have received that speech before, I know that childhood is short and that you only live it once in life. But I'm not like you, sir. I have long since been bored with the life that you yearn so much to be able to relive. I wanted to skip the rest of elementary school, I wanted to enroll in high school... but several things happened, and I had to enroll here again. "
- "I don't know if what you want is possible, Eliana. At least not in this country. I've heard of cases in other countries, but I've never heard of a Chilean child who entered High School at a younger age than habitual. "
- "... Damn ..."
Eliana almost starts to cry, but she quickly recovered her composure.
- "Mom, you can sit now. We've talked too much about me, and this meeting is stretching a lot."
- "Before that," - added Mr. Espinoza - "Tell us one thing. What will happen if no teacher ever comes? How long you plan to stay working as a substitute teacher?"
- "I think it wouldn't be good idea to reach the end of the quarter. I woudn't award my own notes, but I could ask another teacher to evaluate me nonetheless ... Hmm, maybe there is a possibility to continue indefinitely as long as my school year isn't put at risk... "
- "Why don't you just stop studying, and dedicate yourself to teaching instead?"
- "Absolutely not, sir! Also, when I grow up, I want to become a doctor, not a teacher. Although I might do better in Engineering ... I dunno, I haven't decided yet. But I don't want to become a teacher."
- "You have big dreams, little one."
- "It's the least you would expect from someone like me, sir. Well, in order to close this meeting, I want to say a few words about my friends, things I've observed during this time that I've been in charge of the class. First, I want to highlight three students, with which I don't have a good relationship as a classmate, but with whose evolution during this month I am very pleasantly surprised. "
Eliana pauses and sighs, and then says the first name.
- "I already spoke with you about your son, Mr. Mansilla. I just want to add that I don't intend that your child loses his personality because of his studying, and I think it's more likely that he will return to normal when a new teacher arrives, if that happens ... Anyway, it would be great if at least some of the study habits he acquired during this month were maintained over time, if that were possible. "
- "I'll do my best to make Carlos keep with accomplishing his study tasks."
Eliana sighs again.
- "Well, you're the father and guardian of Andrea Torres."
- "I am."
- "You ... are very similar to your other daughter, Ximena. My brother Hugo was her classmate until last year."
- "Yes, yes, Ximena always spoke to me about him and you."
- "And yet, ypu two are so different from Andrea ..."
- "Well, Andrea looks more like her mother, but only physically. You know? I'm quite surprised by the grades Andrea obtained with you, too."
- "I think Andrea has much more potential than what she allows herself to use. But - and I apologize if this offends you - I think you should be more strict with her. Since I know her, I have always seen her as a little spoiled girl. She must work harder in order to succeed in life. "
- "I'm not offended by your words. Actually, I don't know what to do with my daughter, and I have experience with dealing with difficult children. I don't understand how you could get her to strive for something. Could you give me the secret?"
- "Oh ... in my case I think it's something like making myself respected and to be demanding with my students, though not too exaggerated, by the way. Or at least I think so, sorry if I can't give you a better answer."
- "Don't worry, girl."
Eliana sighs again.
- "Who is the parent or guardian of Cristián Sepúlveda?"
- "It's me. My name is Ximena Poblete. And I'm really surprised by you saying that you don't have a good relationship with my son."
- "What, is that so? Why so surprised?"
- "Because Cristián always speaks to me about you, he admires you a lot. Although he says that you show yourself as very hard, cold and distant with him."
- "I am like that with everyone, ma'am. I would also prefer it if you son didn't admire me so much, but instead that he tried to improve himself as a person and especially as a student."
- "Truly, you are asking from me aaaall of this and the Moon and the Sun, and the, the, the ..." - said Mrs. Poblete, with open arms as mimicking an old Chilean ad.
- "Yes, I understand. Well, thanks to God, he has behaved quite well during the last month, he focuses much more than before in the class and has even improved his grades. I wish it to remain so, when the new teacher .. . "
Eliana sighs again with a visible tone of annoyance on her face.
- "Well, I think this is all what I had prepared for this meeting. If someone needs to talk to me, please do so now. Oh, I forgot. The students: Danilo Chacón, Macarena Hermosilla, Rodrigo Nogales, Jorge Reveco, Luisa Silva and Luz Vergara, haven't paid their dues for the class trip we're doing at the end of the year.
After the meeting, Eliana stood for a moment at the teacher's room. Upon leaving, her mother Clara was waiting.
- "Why so much fun inside, Eliana?"
- "Let's go, Mom. They're all insane."