Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cheerleaders gone wild

I use MSN as my home page, so I love to get little news tidbits everytime I log on to the internet. Recently I saw this story about cheerleaders gone wild. I was very intrigued because all this drama happened practically in our backyard, McKinney TX. And as I read the article, my jaw kept dropping as I said to myself, "That's just like what I went through!" If you don't know the story of the Fab Five at McKinney North high school, you have to check out the story.

In my pre-children days I was a high school math teacher. I taught at a public high school in rural Missouri for two years. My second year, I was blessed (ahem) with the job of cheerleading coach. I was assured that this would be easy-peasy because the previous coach had been a real hard-ass, so the girls would already be broken in and softened up. Plus I was a cheerleader in high school so of course I thought I had all the necessary skills for this job.

The year started off fine. I accompanied them to camp and tried to be very active, very hands-on. I didn't want to be one of those coaches who stood on the sideline and collected a paycheck but clearly ran a program of "don't ask me just do it yourself" leadership. So, I got the girls on a regular exercise program, straightened up some rules about behavior and appearance, and believed we were all set for the basketball season.

SO, to start off the year, one of the two cheer captains starts to dig in her heels. Lets call this girl Betsy. Clearly she is happy for only about 5 minutes that she has made it onto the squad. Then she starts to act very... entitled. In years past she had been eliminated during try-outs because she had excellent athletic ability but her teacher evaluations sucked to high hell. She felt she deserved that spot on the Varsity squad. So she cleaned up her act junior year and made the squad for her senior year. Also, by some cockamamie ruling, made not by me but rather some previous coach, all seniors on the Varsity squad are automatically the Captains. So, now Betsy is in charge of a squad of 10 girls, she has got a huge chip on her shoulder, and she's ready to let her inner wild child escape after a year of lock-down. Her co-captain is sweet, has been on the squad for 3 years, and tiny (like 5'0"). Perfect for walking all over. Things are lookin up for Betsy, not so much for me.

Betsy is an only child and her parents are divorced. This can be a horrible combination (READ: not IS but CAN BE). In her situation, it has created a girl who has no mother but rather a best girlfriend who shares her clothes and defends her even when Betsy is clearly being a pain in the ass. Her mother and father both compete for her attention so she gives them what they want in the form of teachers calling regularly about her poor classroom behavior. She is every teacher's nightmare. And every parent's as well. All the innocent girls on the squad see her like a bright shiny ornament and think Ooh! She's so pretty! I want to be just like her!!! And Betsy's personality is so strong that yonger more naive girls are just too terrified to speak their minds when Betsy talks to them.

Now, when it comes to enforcing the rules about being on time for practices/games and expected behavior for a representative of the school, who do you think has to enforce those rules? Yep, me. And who do you think believes she is above those rules? Yep, Betsy. Before basketball season even started, she went to a bar with a fake ID and took some of her younger charges with her. She even tried to order drinks from the bar but was turned down (I think the bar was lenient with the bouncers but the bartenders knew better.) I witnessed the whole thing. I had been "tipped off" by the basketball coach that some of his players might be going. You can imagine my surprise - NOT - when the basketball players were a no-show but the cheerleaders showed up, led by Betsy. So when this was all reported to the school, what was their punishment? Benched 5 games. That's it. Betsy was still captain, even. I'm all WTF? Now of course, I'm in neck deep because not only do I have to continue to coach this sassy stuck-up girl, but I realize that the school administration is not behind me at all.

Fast forward about two months. Away basketball game. Betsy and a few other cheerleaders are "on a break" eating food in the gym which is not allowed and (in my opinion) disrespectful of us as the visiting team. I tell her to take her food out. She ignores me. I grab her by the elbow and say "DID YOU HEAR ME?" to which she shouts in my face "LET ME GO. YOU ARE ASSAULTING ME. I WILL HAVE YOU FIRED!!!" I was so shocked. That was it. The next day was my birthday (oh goodie) and I met with Betsy and her mom in the principal's office. Her mom also agreed that she should sue me for assault. I told her that no assault occurred and she needs to understand who is in charge of the Cheerleading team. She told me that her daughter worked hard for this place on the team (HAH!) and she'd do whatever she needed to make sure her daughter stayed a cheerleader.

In retrospect, I wish I would have said, "Go ahead and sue me. I would love it. You will end up spending thousands of dollars on an attorney while I get free representation from my teacher's union. You will so completely LOSE and have egg on your face to boot."

How does the story end? I'll tell you. I suffered through the rest of the season. I basically just made sure everyone was safe. I ignored Betsy and tried to steer clear of her. I no longer directed practices so much as I sat in the bleachers and graded papers. And when it came to being on time, or representing the school, I just let the girls dig their own graves. There comes a point when you have to say, this is not a fight I wish to fight. If I win, what will I have won? I decided to quit teaching at that school. The principal said he was sorry to see me go (who knows? Truth? Lie?), and assured me that next year would be so much better because Betsy would be gone. I tried to get him to understand that once a student treats a teacher that way, and it is allowed by the administration, the teacher is ruined. You just can't save face after that.

I am so lucky that it never got worse. I could have been harassed at home. I could have lost my job due to the crappy principal's uninvolvement. It could have been a lot worse than simply Betsy getting up on the stage at the senior follies and calling me a monster. Literally, she said "Thank God Miss **** the monster is quitting." I was so over it by that time. I was about 20% embarassed by the comment, but overall I just felt like she was showing everybody what she is really made of.

So is this what we can expect from cheerleaders? I would hope not. I think the real problem lies in the parents and administrators. Okay, I'm a parent and I know that I can only control my child to a certain degree. But my children are NOT going to be disrespectful of adults at school (ore at home for that matter) if I have anything to do with it. The permissiveness of the administrators at that school, and the unwillingness of parents to just admit that their kids aren't angels, is deplorable. It is shameful. These adults need to just be adults and say, *I* am kicking you off that cheerleading team. I don't want you to ruin your life by being associated with those delinquents. Yes, I know you're disappointed, but I would rather have you hate me for a little while and turn out with some morals than be my best friend and turn out to be a person who doesn't know the meaning of the word respect.

I know, you can never control your child 100%, but think about your own teenage years. Who did you know that ran around and did what they wanted and treated adults however they felt? At my high school it was the kid whose parents were either absent or totally disengaged from that kid's life. I remember from my own high school days that when I acted up at school, I got in trouble double at home. I knew that my parents were the BOSS and if I wanted to enjoy things like private school, a phone, and freedom to use the car, I'd better shape up. Proof positive was when I misbehaved and lost those things. Why are some parents so reluctant to recognize that their kids just might misbehave and hello? They need to be punished, not coddled. Don't turn a blind eye. Don't tell them, next time you're gonna be in trouble. Whatever because next time turns into okay, the NEXT time... and the follow through never happens.

So, summing up my complaint session for today:

1. Read the story about the McKinney Fab Five cheerleaders.

2. Be wary of your own children's behavior. It is *possible* that they are occasionally naughty. (gasp!) Expect misbehavior. Get comfortable with it. Go ahead and try to stop the misbehavior but, more importantly, learn how to deal with it once it happens. Trying to get a child not to misbehave is like trying to get it not to rain in Seattle for a year. Just ain't gonna happen.

3. Occasionally do something with your child just for the sake of showing him/her "I am the mom, you are the child. We are NOT equals. You get input in the family, but the buck stops with me. I care what you have to say, but a grown-up has to decide what's best for you AND our family. You won't always like it, and you don't have to like it, but as long as you're in our family you have to toe the line."

Sounds like I'm an expert, eh? Move over Dr. Phil!! Nope, I make tons of mistakes too. But unfortunately in this ONE area I have some experience. With any luck I'll never have that kind of experience again.


MeadowLark said...

Good in theory.
I just don't see it happening. There are way too many parents (my generation) who want to be pals, and "liked" by their kids.

I know it sounds bad but I always told my kids "look, when you're 17 you probably won't like me, so let's just get it over with now. I'll "parent" and you can dislike me for it". Funny thing, but even when the didn't "like" me, they mostly still recognized that I was in charge.

Luckily they're both adults now and seem to be heading in the right direction, so I can breathe a (tiny) sigh of relief. :)

The Nice One said...

Yup. Yup. Yup.

Didn't/Aren't they making a Lifetime movie about the Fab 5?

The Nice One said...

I forgot to tell you...thanks much for making me laugh so hard I almost peed today..regarding the Dupes of Hazard and the rocking horse. LMAO. Omg. A laugh is much much much needed today.

Sidney said...

OK, so, like, you're near McKinney? I'm just north of there.....like, JUST north of there...

Pennies In My Pocket said...

My parents always said, 'If you like us then we're probably not doing our job' -- which was true. I so didn't 'like' them most of the time, but now that I'm an adult I get it and I know that my daughter is going to hate me one day, too! LOL I'll try to be a little nicer though...won't yell as much, hopefully. LOL

Great blog here! Found ya on SITS. :-)


ReformingGeek said...

Yep, I remember the McKinney gals and it's not all that far from me either. Ages ago, it was mom's helping girls hurt other girls (it was the 70's and the Farrah Fawcett thing). In general, I'm not a cheerleader fan. About 1/2 the cheerleaders in high school left something to be desired. The others were fine. As for parenting, my mom made me mad more than once but I knew who was in charge.

Kathryn said...

I would DIE if my child treated someone that way. I can't believe parents let their children get away with that. Don't they realize the damage they are doing to their kids? They are not doing them any favors. The world is gonna be a cold, harsh place that slams them in the face someday and mommy and daddy won't be able to fix it. Yipes.

Sorry you had to put up with that garbage. Ugh.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. So glad you did because I love your blog! :)

Bridge said...

great advice!
I am dealing with a 12 year old who does not always like me too much and it hurts, but when he's grown he is going to adore me for helping him be a strong man with integrity.

Crazy Momma said...

Ugh! Betsy is the kind of cheerleader that makes everyone hate cheerleaders...

Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday and sharing the SITS love!

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

It's a Lifetime Movie. I had no idea it was mcKinney.
Pretty upsetting--I would not have even dreamed of doing a tenth of what they did :0

Mandy said...

Wow. Unbelievable.

I have enjoyed your blog!

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

This is a great post. Love/Hate your personal story. Sad and a perfect representation of an ever growing number of teens today. I see it all around my suburban neighborhood. Also? I bet Betsy feels a bit of remorse today for her behavior towards you. If not? Then she is probably on her 8th job at her 6th company because she has issues with authority still, but thinks it's everyone else.

Plus? You just totally described my sister-in-law's neice who's mom and dad were early divorce and whose mom SERIOUSLY thinks she(daughter) is going to dance and sing on Broadway someday, so why is school so important anyway? Teachers have too many rules. Did I mention this girl is SIX!?!?!?


Pinky said...

Nasty, nasty stuff. These girls will likely grow up to be totally embarassed by this. Or, they'll grow up to be just like their mothers. It's a sad commentary on our society.

I would have handled your situation JUST LIKE YOU DID.

And girl, we must live less than thirty minutes from each other. Yep. Tis true.

Jack said...

I went to a wealthy private school so most of the kids there had entitlement issues and got their way. I think someone sued the school because a teacher gave them an F for a quarter. The teacher didn't come back the next year. -_-

Second, I would not recommend touching another family's child. Ever. Even if you do win the papers would love to print how you are being sued for assaulting a child. It would look terrible. Plus, courts have a tendency of siding with a child even in such situations. It isn't something I would even chance.

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