Thursday, July 9, 2009

Parents are the boss....

I hadn't wanted to write this blog.... I'm not sure where it is going to go. But a number of articles and television reports seem to mandate that I should write something. Let's add up the totals here. First there was an article about a young teen sicking her dog (which she had apparently just beat) on two adult women in separate incidences. The women say they were trying to stop the beating of the dog. The young girl is in custody at the moment however her Mom says the women provoked the fight. A hard story to read in the papers.

Then there was the incident of another young girl in another state that was zapped with one of those electronic guns by a sherif deputy. She needed emergency work and stitches.

A good friend of mine has repeated a story of his daughter falling and hitting her head in a PE class and feeling bad when she got home. Her father (my friend) called to say he wanted to speak to the teacher and principal the very next day. After some argument with the principal, he had his meeting--he didn't want his daughter jumping hurdles in PE class. He wanted the schools to teach his daughter reading, writing and arithmetic. And leave this other stuff alone. I understand his anger and unhappiness. And that incident appears to have happened some years ago and he still is angered by the memories.

A few of the diehard readers of this blog will recall the father who demanded that his daughter be an "A" student and it was my fault if she didn't reach that level. He was bigger then me and very aggressive in his demands. I was intimidated, no question about it. Near the end of the school term we became friends--but it was touch and go for awhile.

My other friend (I'll call him John for this blog)--the one whose daughter fell in class is down on public schools--and wants "poor" teachers fired. It is my opinion that he thinks that schools waste tax payer's money and John refuses to vote more funds for teachers. "All poor teachers ought to be fired, but the teachers' union just protects them." There are a lot of people that think like him.

Let's get my biases out in the open first. I believe that the parents are the ultimate boss. Hey, they pays the money (taxes) so they get to make the rules. As a teacher it is their child that I am working with. I want to do my best. If one of my parents told me no PE for their child I would do my best to fulfill that request. The state curriculum says that I'm supposed to do some PE but if the parent is adamant about this request, I want to work with the parents.

One year I had the nicest boy in my class--bright as all get out. Everyone liked him. But early on in the school year the parents came to me with this request--no parties, birthday or holiday, nothing. Their religion prohibited celebrations. Okay, I understood (or I thought I did). I asked if Alfred (we called him Al) could go to the library while the class had a birthday celebration for another student. Yes, that would be fine with them. One more thing--could he have a cupcake while at the school library reading? Yes, that was also okay as it would be considered a snack. So that is what we did every time we had a afternoon birthday or holiday party, Al would head down to the library with a piece of cake and spend the last hour reading. Al was happy with the arrangements and the parents were happy with me. If kids missed school because of religious days, I would try to just catch them up with the class. I did put my foot down when a father came in to pick up his son to go get a haircut. But that is another blog at another time.

So....parents, you are the bosses. But because you are the boss you have some responsibilities. You have to let me know what it is you want for your child. Come to PTA meetings or call me to make an appointment after school. I can't talk to you in the middle of the class. You work afternoons?--then what is a time for you and I to meet before school in the morning or on weekends. And if you have a problem with me, let me know. Don't go directly to the Superintendent. He/she hasn't the foggiest idea of what I am doing in my class.

Here is another responsibility for you--if you don't like something in the curriculum or want something in the curriculum, then go to a school board meeting and request a change. I am required to teach the holocaust, native American culture, patriotism, slavery, and a host of other subjects. I may miss one now and then but I try to get them all taken care of. And it is different for different grades--the high school teacher has their demands as well. Every year there seems to be a high school English teacher who in teaching literature of the United States picks a book that upsets some parent. Harry Potter teaches the black arts--I don't want my child to learn about that. I'm not intending to make fun of any parent's request but be aware that there are many who have different requests. It's a tough row to hoe.

If you haven't seen your kid's teacher, don't criticize until you've met face to face. I suspect in most cases you can solve the problem. That is what teachers want to do. Solve the problem and teach your child that way you want.

Are there poor teachers? Given the fact that we have 2.6 million teachers in the public elementary, middle and high schools in the United States (Department of Education statistics)
I will grant my friend, John, the point that there are probably some poor teachers in the system. But I will also defend the majority of teachers as hard working and wanting to teach students to become successful.

A special comment for John as well. If a teacher is not up to the task there is no way that the unions can protect that teacher. The teacher unions or associations just do not have the power to make a district keep a teacher. I know. I was president of a state teachers association.

One more aside here: there are times when a student will say something to a parent and say something different to the teacher. Kids aren't dumb. Some learn that they can play a game with the adults. That is why the adults have to get together and discuss what the end result is to be. Some kids want to push the envelop. It is a part of learning and growing up. But it behooves us adults to be a bit smarter then our kids.

If you've had a problem with a teacher, then go see if you can resolve the problem(s). And I'll make a deal with you--if I have a problem with your child, I'll call you to get some advice. You know your kid better then me. If you haven't had a problem with the education you child is getting--then go thank a teacher.

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