A nasty mother pushes me to the limit
"Okay, Melanie," I said, "why don't you visit your local library or a book store and find a book that interests you? Then let me see it and I'll let you know whether your book will work for this assignment."
All the other students had chosen books that had chapters and at least 175 pages. Melanie showed up the following Monday with a 100-page book (about half the pages were filled with pictures) on Hillary Duff. It had the age level 9-12 noted on the back cover. I told her that this book would not do.
The next day Melanie brought me a typed note from her mother. "Melanie chose a book that interests her and is appropriate for her age, according to the librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. I trust that you will respect her choice and not remove the fun from this reading assignment."
"Dear Mrs. __________, I wrote back. "I am glad that Melanie found a book she thinks will be fun to read. But I want the students to read books that will challenge them."
The following day I received a second typed letter. "Melanie WILL BE doing her book report on the Hillary Duff biography, as we have no time to revisit the library."
So I want to the public library on Melanie's behalf after work and checked out a dozen books that I thought might interest her. The next day she chose one and seemed genuinely excited about reading it.
BUT Melanie's mother still had an axe to grind. She called Mr. Principal and threatened to take the issue to the school board if Melanie wasn't allowed to read the Duff biography. Mr. Principal, always afraid of losing a student's tuition dollars, ordered me to be agreeable.
What has Melanie learned from this? For one thing, she learned that she doesn't need to respect the authority of her teacher. Her mommy can get the rules changed to make things go Melanie's way. She has also seen that acting difficult brings positive results. And, most saddening to me, that a juvenile book is just as worthy as a challenging one.