Friday, March 27, 2009

Pantswearer

At a recent Open House event at my daughter's school, one of her teachers said the following to my husband and me:

Your daughter is doing really well. She got an A on her last report, though I wish she'd just do what I ask her to do -- I do provide the students with a checklist -- and not go off on tangents and provide extra information about stuff that apparently interests her. But that's not what you really need to worry about. I gotta tell you, if your daughter ever marries -- and I'm not sure she's ever gonna get married -- her husband will not be the one wearing the pants in that family.

During the moment of stunned silence that followed that pronouncement, another parent broke into the conversation with "Oh Mr. S, I am so worried about how my son Rupert did on that test today and...". My husband and I drifted away.

We walked in silence for a minute, then my husband asked me: Did he just call our daughter a bitch?

I said: No, I think he just called our daughter a castrating bitch.

What's a girl to do? I'd like to say she takes after her mother, but in fact she resembles her father more in her intense personality.

Later, I asked her what she thinks of this teacher and she said that he's nice enough but kind of "ineffectual". Interesting. I wonder if this teacher has issues with pantswearing women.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh. I'm more concerned about the "not go off on tangents and provide extra information about stuff that apparently interests her." I'd be ecstatic as a teacher to have a student that turned in (extra?) work that interested them. What an idiot, see the opportunity.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Suggested response:

"Oh, Mr. X, you are so right. Fortunately, Mr. FSP has already arranged our daughter's marriage. She hasn't quite accepted her preordained role as wife and mother yet, but she'll come around once she realizes that she has no choice, and we're sure she'll settle in to her new role eventually. And since we know of her mannish ways, we've been saving up for an extra-large dowry to compensate her future husband for the extra work he's going to have in taming our little shrew."

Yeesh.

ml said...

where do you live? i hate to say this sounds like something that comes out of the midwest or the deep south. pretty ridiculous.

Fault Rocks said...

Poor teacher lady. Your daughter sounds more ready for the world than her teacher. And she seems to understand that, which bodes very well for her future of pursuing things in which she is interested instead of just doing what she's told!

DrugMonkey said...

I wandered here fresh from ScienceWoman's interview of her mother. Filled with gratitude for how far that generation had pushed before I entered the workplace.

You remind us that much work remains...

A Life Long Scholar said...

I'm with anonymous #1--tangents should be encouraged so long as she's also meeting the requirements. Can you get her a different teacher? This one sounds very capable of quashing the student's interest in learning...

Gingerale said...

Do you have to send your daughter back to that teacher? He's creating a learning environment I would call chilly at best.

female Science Professor said...

She's changing schools next year, by unanimous family decision. She would have had the same teacher next year if she didn't.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Schools in western industrial societies are 10% for teaching students to think critically and independently, and 90% for indoctrinating students into their appropriate roles as workers and consumers in the corporate capitalist economy. For students in public schools, and not elite private schools, a large part of this indoctrination is the enforcement of rigid adherence to patriarchal gender norms.

This should be a surprise to no one.

coraifeartaigh said...

Scary to think there are teachers like that...if I ever thought that about a student I would stop teaching in the morning

Mrs. CH said...

Wow - that is incredibly sad!! I cannot believe a teacher would say such things - not only about the "pants" comment (although bad enough), but how dare your daughter add more information to her work? Especially that has to do with her interests??

He obviously does not enjoy his job of teaching, as most teachers would love to have that attitude from all students!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you have an awesome daughter who has learned at an early age to deal with the a-holes of the world. Rock on sistah!

Thomas Joseph said...

Un-frickin-believable. If I had been you, that teacher would have been grateful for the interruption, because my response would have been to reach over and throttle his neck until his eyes popped out of his skull.

Kim said...

I'm glad to hear that she's changing schools. That teacher sounds... well, like someone out of the 70's and 80's. Which is NOT a compliment.

Who, me? said...

Um. Wow.

I mean...

wow.

Anonymous said...

That's scandalous.

Have you thought about writing a letter to the principal of the school? My son had a horrible experience with his first kindergarten teacher (though nothing like this) - I'm still astounded this person was allowed in a classroom. We got him moved after a couple of months, but never talked to anyone about our real concerns with his first teacher out of fear of some kind of reprisal (he's still in the same school). But it bothers me. If the principal doesn't know there's a problem, the problem is not going to go away.

Anonymous said...

I can understand if a child was REALLY going off on tangents (to the point of making a paper or project a lot longer than it had to be - and making it harder to grade) trying to encourage them to just follow the assignment (and then say be willing to accept anything else they wanted to share - but as a separate extra credit assignment or something) because I can see where that might get hard to deal with as far as grading - but not to EVER phrase it as such a negative thing as that!

(And the rest of the comment was just so offensive as to not warrant any kind of response other than to say I'm glad your daughter is changing schools - that is not a teacher's place to be saying such things - though I'd be rather glad in this situation that at least you found out that he thought that - than him keeping his mouth shut and your daugther staying in a classroom that isn't conducive to her learning)

Nepenthe said...

I keep parsing the title as "pant-swearer" instead of "pants-wearer". Very confusing.

Odyssey said...

You clearly have a wonderful daughter. Who has a crappy idiot for a teacher.

catgirl said...

It seems like this teacher assumes no man will ever want to marry a strong-willed woman. If that were truly the case, I'd rather stay single than have to change my personality to convince a man to marry me. Fortunately, most men aren't as insecure about women as your daughter's teacher is.

chemfan said...

She really said you should be worried that your daughter would "wear the pants" in her future relationships? If that was my daughter I would have taken it as a compliment: "why thank you, I've tried to show her that women are just as strong and effective at leadership as men, I guess I've succeeded!"

Astra said...

She sounds great! I also had this happen to me as a kid; truthfully it's good to see it young, to get used to it (and deal appropriately), it will continue to happen throughout her life if she is an independent thinker. I'm 33 and it hasn't stopped yet; there are MANY men (and women) who are very disturbed by women who are smart and think for themselves, as I'm sure you have encountered in your own life.

Milo said...

This is why we are considering home-schooling. It is the tangents that get the sparks going in the brain.

Academic said...

I had to deal with some shit like this when I was a student. These sorts of comments where pretty much the only comments that would send my father through the roof. My parents would have probably demanded an immediate apology and replacement for me if a teacher of mine ever said this. I'm glad that your daughter is developing critical and independent thinking in school. I hope that she continues to make the best of this year's situation.

unlikelygrad said...

Point 1: Neither creative thought nor assertiveness are valued in public schools nowadays. (OK, I admit that creative thought is eventually given a modicum of value in English, but nowhere else.) Many children therefore have these qualities crushed out of them when they're young.

Point 2: I've heard several professors wonder why undergrads and even grad students need so much hand-holding when tackling research. Gee, I wonder why?

Note to Milo re: homeschooling: Go for it, dude. It's hard as hell but very rewarding (like going to grad school, I guess). Best of all, the outcome will please you beyond your wildest dreams. Just be sure to allow your children a few months to adjust if they're coming from public school.

John said...

My initial impression was outrage, then that you must be two time zones east of me (as you turned out to be), but in the end just sad that teachers can have such an blindered attitude and lack of tact.

I'm guessing your daughter should have little problem with a milquetoast of such limited vision - it's just a missed opportunity to have someone more capable.

It's good that you can switch schools, although too bad your daughter has that disruption.

Jeffe said...

Wow. If a teacher ever said that about my daughter, I'd probably give him a cigar, shake his hand, and thank him profusely for the compliment. "Really? You think so? Wow, that's amazing! I can't tell you how proud that makes us, you insufferable putz."

Alicia M Prater said...

Sounds like you have an extremely intelligent and independent young woman on your hands, FSP! Sounds wonderful :)

My mother used to respond the way chemfan suggested, but everyone has such great ideas for how to respond.

Kevin said...

The teacher did sound a little out of touch (early onset Alzheimer's perhaps?). Even the expression "wearing the pants" is so 1950s.

Like others, I'd be less concerned about the clueless misogyny than about the unwillingness to have a student who goes beyond the assignments.

Switching schools does sound like a good idea, but weird and incompetent teachers can appear at any school.

TW Andrews said...

How old is your daughter? I love that she's calling her teacher "ineffectual."

If I ever have a daughter, a conversation like that with one of her teachers would be an indication that I'm raising her right.

Anonymous said...

I'm disturbed at all the disparaging of public schools going on in the comments here. My husband's a public high school teacher, and I came out of a public school that I feel gave me an overall great experience. Certainly more so than I think I would have gotten out of the more test oriented/drill-drill-drill teaching strategies in other parts of the world.

There are always going to be some shortsighted bigoted people and I don't think it has anything to do with public schools in particular. I am sorry your daughter had to deal with one of them, however.

Anonymous said...

Wow. How old is your daughter?

You should complain about this to the principal. Not so much for your daughter's sake, but for all the other kids who might not have such supporting parents.

Ms.PhD said...

Yeah, this made me sad for you. I hate this phrase, the concept, and everything it implies about what men and women are "supposed" to do.

And DM- uh, yeah. THIS kind of bs is what I'm always "whining" about. We have a LOOONNNGGG way to go.

Anonymous said...

So inappropriate. Marriage? WTF?

EliRabett said...

It's depressing that half the comments think that the teacher was a woman (RTFP folks).

Anonymous said...

I am a woman, unmarried, and I'm wearing pants right now. Connection?

Ambivalent Academic said...

WHOA! It's hard to believe that people who think like this are still out there teaching our children. That being said, when I was in high school less than 10 years ago we had a student teacher in geometry who told me that I'd never be any good at math because girls don't have the manual dexterity to wield a compass as well as boys do. Huh? What - my pubescent boobies are going to get int he way of circumscribing a circle? Therefore I'll never understand math?

Dr M said...

Wow! Two minutes later, I am still stunned. And I only read this on the internet, in the blog of someone I don't even know. I am honestly not sure how I would react if someone said that about my hypothetical daughter...

Also, I've got to ask: how old is this teacher? I've never heard anything quite like this, but the only times I've heard something close, it has been from men above 60 (and only from very few).

I am fairly certain that this guy does have issues with pantswearing women, and based on the following, I think the problems start already with the pantswearing part (though the later parts of the comment clearly indicate that her being female apparently adds insult to injury):

though I wish she'd just do what I ask her to do -- I do provide the students with a checklist -- and not go off on tangents and provide extra information about stuff that apparently interests her

I recognise the need for a teacher to keep some of order in what the children are doing and learning -- and for that matter, to teach the children how to stick to a subject -- but this? This sounds like he is actively discouraging curiosity. I find this even worse than the blatant sexism, which is saying something.

female Science Professor said...

I wondered about his age as well. I asked my husband how old he thought Mr. S was, and we both agreed that he was about our age (mid/late 40's), maybe 50 at the most.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I have to admit that I try to keep my (university) students from going off on tangents in their papers, but mainly because such tangents don't pertain to the question, and tend to weaken the overall argument. So this might be the case here.

But I do agree that, at the K-12 level, a student with "things that interest her" should be encouraged -- maybe by a special project for extra credit?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:20,
You're right to point out that it is not necessarily a public school problem. I taught at a private school and it was certainly no model of enlightenment. I don't even think there is anything in FSP's post that indicates we can be sure her daughter does attend a public school, although perhaps this information comes from someplace else in FSP's writings.

Anonymous said...

"Schools in western industrial societies are 10% for teaching students to think critically and independently, and 90% for indoctrinating students into their appropriate roles as workers and consumers in the corporate capitalist economy."

Geez, I presume the same is also true of colleges & universities?

So, my daughter's school encourages creativity, and I would puke if I ever heard her teacher say that my daughter shouldn't "go off in tangents and provide extra information. . . ." (and, of course, they never would).

There is the possibility that the student was actually seriously off-topic (i.e. a report on birds, and she was providing extra information on world war 1), and we would get that information.

Gingerale said...

She's changing schools next year, by unanimous family decision.


Please accept my congratulations on taking action in the form of changing your daughter's school next year. That's often not an easy thing to do and you're doing it anyway.

Anonymous said...

I am with the folks who suggest talking to the principal. The comments about pants-wearing and marriage are TOTALLY inappropriate. Does this teacher comment on the marriability of his male students?

Margaret L said...

Anonymous @ 2:02 -- LOL! Me too! Pants, check. Lack of husband, check. Darn those pants.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I'd be quite concerned for the chances of any GLBT student in this man's classroom, as well.

female Science Professor said...

Yes, exactly. I was wondering about that too. One of my daughter's friends in this class has two moms and another friend is a biological girl who has decided, even as a pre-teen, to identify as a boy. These kids are accepted by their classmates, but what about the teacher?

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school (25 years ago) the guidance counselor told me if I took too much physics no one would marry me and I would be alone. I should enroll in home ec instead of AP physics. I am surprised this is still going on.

I switched my daughter's school last year to avoid looping with an idiotic teacher and she is really happy. Good move.I suggest you wait to complain until your daughter is safely out of this man's influence.

Anonymous said...

I would write a letter to the school board. A teacher's role is to foster and nurture the younger generation to reach their full potential, not suppress them via ideological pigeon-holing. This teacher is not doing his job.

Anonymous said...

I remain glad that I went to a girls' school where we were all actively encouraged to become scientists and engineers, and also the boss/manager/leader of whatever profession we chose. The message was so strong, that when I got my first part time job I was surprised that the manager wasn't a woman. It turns out that men can be competent managers too :-)

quasarpulse said...

I...don't even know what to say.

I think my mother would have made that guy eat his pants (but on your daughter's behalf, I thank you for your admirable show of restraint).

Anonymous said...

Good for your daughter! And props to you and your husband for raising an independently thinking, intellect young person.

I think the teacher doesn't know what to do with an woman who thinks for herself :P And what does that mean "if she ever does marry?" Holy inappropriateness, Batman.

Katie said...

Sounds like your daughter's doing just fine, despite an ineffectual teacher...

Anonymous said...

How come you automatically assume that the teacher saying your daughter would be the 'pantswearer' equates to her being a bitch?

Anonymous said...

I feel very lucky that I study at all girl's school, and with most of the teachers being female, we were actively encouraged to study whatever we liked and of course, the school was free from many teenage problems. I didn't understand the value of that education at that time, but can appreciate it very much now.

Jackie M. said...

I worry so much that our culture trains young women out of their drive and ambition at an early age, hobbling their chances for success and happiness and even secure health care... I'm frankly delighted to hear that nothing has managed to dim your daughter's intensity.

If you ever bump into that teacher again, I think you ought to clap with joy at his complaints and immediately start bragging about your daughter's ballcrushing academic prowress.

butterflywings said...

Sounds like you should be very proud of your daughter.
Doing extra work is a good thing. It shows initiative. I say this as one who was told in a recent evaluation at work that I *should* 'find' work to do, i.e. do 'extra credit'...yeah...the school system trained me out of that.

And I second the person who said to wait until your daughter has left the class before complaining.

Anonymous said...

A couple of random points I wanted to add:

-You should definitely be proud of your daughter for having an independent/creative mind.

-It's disturbing that a teacher would openly make a comment about him thinking she might not get married. It sounds like he was trying to compliment her, but a lot of people could have taken that comment badly.

-I obviously have no idea what exactly "going off on tangents" meant in this specific case, but I understand why a teacher might not be so happy with it.

I TA for Gen Chem and have to read my students' lab reports which is essentially a template they fill in. Some students go above and beyond adding in their own comments, hoping to get a better grade. While I appreciate their effort, it adds to the huge load of grading I already have to do as a TA. Sometimes I wish students would realize that there's a time and place for "creativity." Sometimes the assignment is about following directions. Just my two cents on "going off on tangents." (Hopefully I didn't offend anyone.)

female Science Professor said...

OK, so the assignment was to pick a Native American tribe and list/briefly describe: (1) where they lived; (2) what they ate; (3) what kind of structures they lived in; and (4) what kind of things they made. My daughter added a few sentences about an event in history that she found interesting.

hkukbilingualidiot said...

That's not going off topic at all, history have a relevane in the way sociological behaviour is developed and it is actually very important...that teacher is so damned wrong

Ira said...

I know I'm quite late, but clicked through from your more recent post involving the same teacher. I would say 'yikes,' but I think your doctrinaire marxist commenter already underscored reasonably enough the unsurprisingness of such moments in the school system. One thing, though, that struck me as I was reading through the comments:

So, the anti-creativity bit is unpleasant and gross and hardly unusual, but the anti-equality bit is by far what's really disturbing (as, I have to say, are some of your readers' apparent dismissals of that). Reading, I wondered whether this was aimed not at your daughter but at you. That is, there's a significant discrepancy between the vitriol of the man's statement and your daughter's stated experience of him as 'ineffectual' but more or less harmless. Perhaps he feels insecure about what your evident success seems to tell him about himself, and he was trying to put you down via a critique of your daughter?

At any rate, changing schools certainly sounds like a sane, if also difficult, option. Good for you folks! (And I wish this option were more easily available to a broader spectrum of people, at least until the ERA is passed and actually ratified, as it must at some point be.)

- Ira