My worst parent: An A* in piffling about

4th September 2009 at 01:00
The woman who holds the title of my worst parent is someone I only met once

Her daughter, Jennifer, had been educated privately at an all girls' school and had been tremendously successful at GCSE level. But after completing a year in the sixth form she was advised to study elsewhere. What led to her departure we never discovered.

So Jennifer joined my A-level English language class at an FE college. After a few lessons she began to roll her eyes in response to others' contributions. I spoke to her after class about the need to behave in an appropriately tolerant and respectful manner towards everyone.

She was late for the next class and said she had to leave early. This pattern continued and no work was handed in. Her mother was informed. "What are you worried about?" she asked in a semi-amused, somewhat patronising way. "She'll get an A - she's an A-grade student."

I left it there but the behaviour continued. I contacted Mum again, adding that I still had received no work from her daughter and that everyone else was up to date with assignments. She continued to reassure me that Jennifer would pull it out of the bag.

Mum was invited to come and talk to us at college several times. Each time, she declined, telling us that there was no need. When it was suggested that for Jennifer to continue her studies with us she would have to attend regularly, complete the work set and behave appropriately, her mother said we were obsessed with "piffle". Again the mantra: "Jenny will get an A, you know. She'll help your success rates."

So we didn't take her out. She took her exam and got a C. Now Mum wanted to talk. She wanted to know if other students had achieved an A grade. "Yes," we told her. "Six, to be precise, out of a class of 15." Her parting shot was that due to our negligence, along with other shortcomings, we were simply unable to cope with a student of Jenny's intelligence. I was left speechless.

The writer is an A-level English teacher in Sheffield.

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