Scenes From the Hanna Skandera Parent-Teacher Conference

“Our place in regards to reforms and transformation is right at the top,” Skandera said Tuesday. “We’re pretty proud.”– from “State’s No Child Waiver to be Expedited,” Albuquerque Journal, 11.26.14

School Counselor:  Welcome everybody.  Thanks Ms. and Mr. Skandera for being here.  As I mentioned in my email we have some concerns about Hanna and this meeting will give us a chance to talk them over.  Now, looking at your overall GPA, Hanna, you might wonder why we’re having this meeting, but, as I talked with your mother over the phone, we’re a little concerned about…

Mr. Skandera:  Concerned about what?

Counselor:  Well, about the grade in Mr. Duncan’s Social Studies class.

Mr. Skandera:  I don’t understand, what’s wrong with A plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus?

Ms. Skandera:  Honey, she’s flunking all her other classes, but the eight pluses…

Counselor:  Yes, the 251% Hanna has in Mr. Arne Duncan’s class, and I’m sorry he can’t be here today… well it skews things a bit.

Ms. Simmons (English teacher):  We’re all busy, so I’ll get started.  In my class, Hanna doesn’t do much.  She almost never writes anything, and what she does produce is weak and lacks any insights.  She is poor at both persuasive and information essay writing.  She also never talks in class discussion unless we have a legislative committee in the room, and arranging those kind of guests are such a major pain.  She’s flunking.

Mr. Vallejos (Math teacher):  If you must know, Ms. and Mr. Skandera, I don’t think Hanna really has the handle of Math.  She turns even the simplest problem into a strange formula that even I, a MIT-trained math teacher, can’t understand.  I’ve suspected she’s actually getting her homework from someone else.

Mr. Skandera:  She’s cheating?

Mr. Vallejos:  Well…

Mr. Skandera:  Cheating is something we obviously won’t tolerate, but can you prove that?

Mr. Vallejos:  All I know, Mr. Skandera, is that once little Petey Goldschmidt transferred to another school, Hanna hasn’t submitted a bit of homework.  And her test scores, they’ve never been good.   She’s flunking, and what’s really weird is that she never, ever tells me how she supposedly solves the problem I give her.  She just turns in an answer with zero work shown on how she arrived at that answer.

Ms. Tomkins (Science):  I’m afraid it’s not much better in my class, folks.  Hanna repeatedly tells me “I don’t care about Science, it’s not a testable subject.”  I try to explain to her that we DO have tests in my class, and, strangely, when I give one to her, she throws me it back at me and says she won’t take one from me.  That it must come from the State to count.  Personally, I think she’s not only horribly uninformed about such things, she just doesn’t understand Science.

Ms. Skandera:  Excuse me, Ms. Tomkins, why isn’t Mr. Duncan here?

Counselor:  He is such a busy man these days, as you know, he has been called to speak on the subject of educational reform all over the place.  He had to run to Florida today, for instance.  Fortunately,  he can teach his class remotely, as he extensively uses the Discovery Education customized suite of tools to accelerate student achievement.”  He also passed along this note (reads from printed email):  “Hanna is performing at a level far beyond anyone else in class.  Her willingness to do exactly as I instruct and recall and implement precisely what is taught is amazing.  She combines a photographic memory in bureaucratic thinking with a willingness to execute her assignments with extreme prejudice.  She is truly a educational reform assassin, or ninja.   It’s like ‘Kill Bill’ or something, she’s the greatest!”

Mr. Skandera:  What the heck is he going on about there at the end of that?

Ms. Skandera:  It’s what I been telling you, Bill.  Mr. Duncan is unstable.

Hanna:  DON’T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT ARNE THAT WAY!!!

Counselor (in increased soft voice):  Hanna, everybody, let’s calm down.  Please.  Hanna, we’ve talked about your grades many times and about your excellent work in Social Studies.  Parents, I’ve told Hanna many times that it’s okay, great in fact, to have a passion for one subject and be what’s called a “specialist.”  Hanna, you’re definitely special in Mr. Duncan’s class.

Ms. Vallejos:  She’s a freakin’ Teacher’s Pet on steriods!

Counselor:  Ms. Vallejos, that’s not really a helpful comment.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  Still Hanna, in school and even life, there are many subjects and people.  And I must admit you tend to treat other subjects and people like they don’t exist.

(Ms. Skandera begins crying)

Ms. Tompkins:  Counselor, you’re right.  Hanna, why do you only listen to Mr. Duncan?  Why?

Hanna (in a cutting tone):  Because he’s right.  And he’s also right that everyone else here is so very wrong.  You people disgust me.

Mr. Simmons:  But Hanna, dear, even Mr. Duncan has been quoted as saying that his way of teaching is “sucking oxygen out of the room.”  Has it ever crossed your mind that he’s wrong and that maybe some of us are right?

Hanna (eyes blazing):  People like you (looks around room) are exactly why things are the way they are.  Don’t you get it?  You’re the problem and Arne Duncan is the solution.  Look at the grade I have in his class!  The highest in class;  heck the highest in the country!  Who else has A plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus, plus!

Ms. Skandera:  You left out a plus dear.

Hanna:  Oh, one plus, who cares about little discrepancies like that?  I’m more than Highly Effective!  I’m Exemplary!  That’s what’s important!

Ms. Vallejos:  Not in my class you’re not.

Counselor:  Ms. Vallejos, please.  Hanna, we all appreciate your passion for the subject and grade in that class.  One thing to consider, there will be a day, fairly soon, when Mr. Duncan isn’t your teacher.  You’ll move on.  Maybe Mr. Duncan will retire.  Things will change.  Are you ready for that?

(long period of time with no one talking, the only sound being Ms. Vallejos repeatedly clicking her red pen)

Counselor:  Hanna?

Counselor:  Hanna?

(sounds of sobbing from Hanna, her mother and the clicking of the red pen close the scene)

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3 thoughts on “Scenes From the Hanna Skandera Parent-Teacher Conference

  1. Thanks, I needed that. I just got home from an afternoon PARCC “accommodations” training. You know, the ones that are not needed since Arne Duncan has proclaimed children only have disabilities because their Munchausen syndrome special ed teachers make them that way. My cats can come out now.

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