Sorry Teacher, But Girl’s ‘Catastrophe Award’ Is No Laughing Matter

By  | 

Catastrophe Award Another week, another mother experiencing some serious mommy-shaming. Earlier this week, Christina Valdez spoke to her local news about an issue at her daughter’s school. During the end of the year awards, the 8-year-old’s teacher gave her the “Catastrophe Award.” It was bright and colorful, like the awards for “Math Wizard” and “Class Clown.” It was signed with a smiley face next to the teacher’s name. Except it was to honor the student for having the most homework excuses. Apparently, something catastrophic was always preventing this little girl from getting her homework done.

So, the little girl was humiliated. The mom complained to the school first, then to the local media when the principal was dismissive. And now the internet is telling her that she’s a horrible human being because her daughter wasn’t turning in her homework. Are we all caught up? Good.

I think we can all agree that a parent should have a good idea of their child’s homework and whether or not it’s being completed. It obviously sounds like this mom and her daughter’s teacher didn’t have a whole lot of communication. One would assume that if they ever spoke, the problem would’ve come up before this and the mom wouldn’t have been “shocked” to hear that her little girl was struggling.

Personally, I think it’s really important for parents to get involved in their kids’ schools. I think we should be talking to teachers. I think we should be volunteering to help and getting to know the people who are educating our kids. Even a busy working mom can write a note or an email to their child’s teacher to check in from time to time. Hopefully, Ms. Valdez will be planning on doing so in the future.

All that aside though, I think the teacher’s behavior really was inappropriate. The principal called the award a joke, but if the little girl came home embarrassed and upset, it obviously wasn’t a funny one. Humiliating a student for their academic performance in front of their peers normally isn’t a great idea. Honestly, I think this teacher crossed the line.

For a minute, let’s not think about the mother who should have known that there was a problem. Think about an 8-year-old girl having her whole class laugh at her for not turning in her homework. If she was making up crazy excuses for her late assignments, think about the emotional state she must be in already. Either A, the girl’s life is hectic and filled with drama and she really can’t get her homework done because of that chaos. Or B, she’s struggling with the homework and making excuses because she’s ashamed that her assignments aren’t done.

Both of these would be reasons to reach out and support a young girl. To me, they signal who child who might desperately need some confidence and encouragement. Instead, she got to feel even more exposed and insecure. Whatever comedic value this little award gave, it wasn’t worth the detriment to a child who is already struggling in school.

Some might say that the child needs to be embarrassed so that she doesn’t pull the same stunts next year. I think it’s more likely that a little girl will shut down and just stop trying at all.

Should this mother being paying more attention to her daughter’s school performance. Probably. But the relationship between the parent and the teacher is a two-way street. The teacher should have been communicating with the mother as well if there were homework problems. And we’re all so busy tearing this mother to shreds that we’re overlooking the point she had to make. Humiliating a child for academic issues isn’t going to solve anything. It’s not funny, it’s hurtful. And a “Catastrophe Award” certainly isn’t going to support or encourage a young student, which is what a teacher’s job should be about.

(Photo: ABC Local)


  1. JenNik

    June 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I agree that both mom and teacher screwed up here. Big, teacher should have communicated better, mom should you know be a mom. But I think that the mom made her daughter’s humiliation worse by going to the local media. The principal was dismissive? So take it to the school board, your district’s superintendent. What you DON’T do is call up your local news channel to complain. Now this girl is going to know that people are talking about his ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. Is she named? No, but her mother’s picture is splashed all over the place the school was named in one article and regardless she is going to know it was about her. The whole situation is a mess and continues to be made worse by the adults involved!

  2. Ipsedixit

    June 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Or C, she’s lazy like I was. Not everything has to do with a bad home life or not understanding homework.

    We also don’t know if the teacher was or wasn’t communicating with the Mother already. She very well could have been, but Mom is only one running to the local news station with her side of the story.

    Something doesn’t add up with Mom. If you’re not turning in homework, you’re not going to get very good grades…and report cards generally come out more than once a year. There is no reason Mom should’ve been “shocked” that her daughter got this award if her grades were reflecting otherwise. Perhaps she just didn’t care until it reflected badly on her.

    8 is maybe a little to young for an award like this, but it was a joke. Explain it to your child, take it up with the principal or the school board if the principal is dismissive, and move on, but for deity’s sake, don’t GO TO THE MEDIA if you’re concerned about your daughter and humiliation. You’re only making it worse.

    The “catastrophe” award is along the same lines as “messiest desk” or “class clown” – poking fun at slightly negative behaviors – but you don’t people getting up in arms over those. Maybe she had some really creative excuses.

    If this little girl had legitimate problems or reasons for not submitting homework, then I’d think it was mean spirited. But since Mom didn’t mention any in her media blitz, I’m going to go with Mom just doesn’t like the fact that it reflects negatively on her parenting skills and its easier to blame the teacher and administration than working to fix the problem.

    • Andrea

      June 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      My son’s 5th grade teacher would regularly inspect the kids desks at school. If they were messy, they would get this post it note with a drawing of a pig on it and some cutesy saying about cleaning up the pig sty. Needless to say, my kid saw it several times. I didn’t run to the media accusing the teacher of humiliating my kid. My kid’s desk was messy and he needed to clean it up. Teacher was doing her JOB.

      I get the feeling mom is slack, the kid is not very bright, but mom is shrewd enough to try an get her 15 mins and probably some cushy settlement from the school district. I hope the school does not cave. Mom do your job and supervise your kids homework.

  3. cec

    June 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Let teachers be teachers and parents be parents. While I do feel bad for this little girl, it’s okay for kids to “be humiliated” this isn’t going to be the only time that she’s going to feel bad about her performance, instead, it’s going to teach her that she can’t make up bogus excuses for not turning in her homework. This could have been a teaching moment at home rather than some media circus. If this teacher is disciplined, this child is going to feel entitled to having the world revolve around her, and that’s never a good thing. As a former teacher, I feel like parents and teachers should work together to make sure that the child is being educated. That includes a dose of “turn in your homework” every now and then. I commend this teacher for being hilariously creative. Now turn in your homework.

  4. Amy

    June 3, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Or C, she just can’t be bothered, and her mother is inadequate in checking to make sure she’s working properly. Throughout seondary school I didn’t do my homework and always had an excuse. I didn’t have emotional problems, and I wouldn’t have struggled with the work had I tried. I was just lazy and/or forgetful. People these days are too quick to think of children as perfect innocents and any bad thing they do must be the fault of something out of their control. She should count herself lucky that she got gentle teasing at the end of the year, not detentions, letters home and loss of recess privileges like I did.

    Both mother and daughter need to buck their ideas up and make sure homework is completed. Kids who struggle with homework hand in half-completed work, or completed work that is full of errors. They don’t hand nothing in and make excuses.

  5. LoveyDovey

    June 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    “Some might say that the child needs to be embarrassed so that she doesn’t pull the same stunts next year. I think it’s more likely that a little girl will shut down and just stop trying at all.”

    I can vouch for this because years ago, I *was* that child. Teacher saw me struggling and instead of helping me, announced to the class that I was still on question 3 after 10 minutes. My parents were abusive so they were no help.

    Fire that teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *