I had taught Jenifer for a year before I met her parents. Or rather her mother, since father's designated role was clearly to protect wife and child from maths teachers, who fell somewhere between traffic wardens and tax inspectors in the popularity stakes.
Jenifer was a diligent pupil whose performance was somewhat limited by a 30 per cent-plus absence rate, the result of a recurrent illness that was beyond the skill of the nation's top medical specialists to cure - or diagnose. As a result, her end-of-year exam results had been middling. The parents obviously resented my tactful attempt to attribute this to her illnessabsence.
The response was that Jenifer was fine in everything else, but was going backwards in maths. She was not disadvantaged by her absences, but by the teacher. This information was copied to the director of education (a neighbour of the parents) and was followed by further complaints and allegations to the headteacher, school board and local councillors.
Her parents demanded a meeting with the deputy head, who was also Jenifer's guidance teacher. Jenifer's mother wanted her to get a credit grade in maths. As the exams are taken a year early, in S3 (Year 9), this would have been a tough target for a very able child with high attendance. The mother also felt I needed to build a rapport with her daughter by giving up my lunchtimes to tutor her. I said I thought it was a bad idea. Jenifer would only get worse with extra tuition from me, considering that I'm such a terrible teacher.
Jenifer was transferred to the lower maths set to spare her the mental, emotional, intellectual and physical abuse of which I had been accused. She took the easier generalfoundation exam and achieved the moderate Standard grade general pass, which I had predicted for her.
Unfortunately, Jenifer's two younger brothers - one of whom also suffers from delicate health, which he bravely overcame recently to finish first in the school's seven-mile cross-country run - have since joined the school. Another parents' evening already looms on the horizon.
*All names have been changed.
The writer teaches in Scotland. Send your worst parent stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could earn #163;50 in MS vouchers.