Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grading the Parents and other interesting thoughts...

A slew of interesting, shocking and yawn inspiring articles on teachers, students and education in general have crossed my computer screen in recent weeks.  In many areas of this country, teachers are getting bashed, threatened, put down and blamed for what seems like all of societies problems.  I can hear some teachers saying, "Geeez, I'm just trying to teach the kids."  

Along this thread of thinking came a report that one state legislator has introduced a bill that would require, yes, require teachers to grade the parents.  I suspect it has little chance of passing but it is an interesting idea.  As a teacher I wouldn't want to do that in any form.  

I had wonderful parents all the years I taught at the grade school level--too wonderful in some ways.  My school was in a growing bedroom district to Seattle--maybe lower middle class to middle class.  The rich folk lived a couple of towns away.  The ethnic population was heavy second and third generation Italians whose ancestors had come to this area to mine coal.  Indeed, one small area was called "Coalfield" to the locals.

One problem with my parents was that they could cook.  Oh my, could they cook and bake.  The first year when planning for some sort of celebration in my fifth grade classroom, I asked a room mother if she would ask a few Moms to bake some cakes.  At the room party there must have been at least eight cakes with gooey icing and fillings and sugar highs.  It was fun for the kids but their teacher had to have a piece of each cake!  

Some good came of all this.  After the kids and parents had gone home they had left me more cake to take with me then I needed.  It was such delicious food but this I didn't need.  So I took much of it down to the janitors office and left it on their desk.  After that the janitors would do anything I asked.  They loved me.  If you are a new teacher be sure to thank appropriately your janitors.

Another example of my parents being too nice was plates, cups and saucers, serving bowls and the like.  One of my parents owned a gas station near where my wife and I shopped.  So it was natural to fuel up our cars and talked to one of my boy's father.  Really nice guy.  He taught me much about my cars.  But his gas station also had a promotion--when you filled up you got your pick of a plate or mug or serving bowl, whatever.  My wife and I were newly married and didn't have a lot but we were doing okay.  Our dishes were mostly hand me downs from the family.  When the parent who owned the gas station heard this, instead of a plate, I'd get a whole box of dishes.  They were cheap dishes and they broke easily but still--a whole box?  I didn't know how to get my parent to not be so generous.  He was happy with his son's progress and he showed it with an overload of dishes.

I liked my parents.  But I did have one problem one day that I remember vividly.  A man walked into my class  about noon and said he had to take his son to the barbers for a haircut.  I didn't know this father but his son told me it was his Dad.  I asked, "Couldn't this be done after school?"  "No, I work swing and this is the only time I have.  Bring him back afterwards."  So off they went.  I had enough kids in my room that I forgot about Elden.  

That night about dinner time I got a call from Elden's mom.  Where was Elden?  I then remembered that Elden had gone to get a haircut and had never returned to the classroom.  I felt sick to my stomach.  But Elden's Mom said it was okay, she knew where they had gone and that she would take tomorrow off and go get Elden.  I did call the principal and relate what had just gone on and gave him Elden's phone number.  

Elden's mom and dad were divorced and she had custody of Elden.  This had happened before and she knew that Elden and his Dad had gone home to his parents and grandparents in Oregon.  She drove down, picked up Elden and returned home--he missed a day and a half of school.  But his mom never blamed me for the problem I had caused.  Very nice lady.  Elden was back in good hands.  But after this experience, we teachers along with the principal decided that all children leaving the school had to clear with the office.  Scary time for me.

So if I had to grade my parents, they would have all gotten "A"s.  

While we are on grading I need to tell you that I got a number of e-mails dealing with the blog on Valentine's Day.  Some interesting emotions out there on who got a Valentine and who didn't.  One teacher wrote that when she taught in a low economic area school, some children didn't have money enough to buy even the cheap Valentines.  Do you take school construction paper to let the kids make their own Valentines?  Tough call.

But this teacher reminded me of President's Day.  It was a holiday and no school but so many teachers, herself included, would spend the day agonizing over grades as they filled out the quarters report cards to be sent home.  Yes, I do remember sitting at the dining room table with a pile of folders of kid's work, my valuable green grade book and worries.  I hated grading--all through my career.  It didn't matter what level I was teaching at, it was hard work to evaluate another person.  Some kids tried so hard to do well, others could get an "A" with their eyes shut and their mouth going.  No sweat.  

At the college level I'd see a waitress at a local restaurant one evening for dinner and see her in my eight o'clock the next morning....working her way through college.  I've always said I'd teach for free but would triple my salary for grading.  Yes, Presidents day was a holiday for grading report cards. 

Finally a heads up about another blog.  The Journal of Educational Controversy Blog, posted on Friday, February 18th, has two good items. First,  a YouTube presentation by A. J. Rud, Dean of the college of education at Washington State University on John Dewey.  It is well done and may provide some guidance in these days of shouting and hollering about education.  Then....right below it is a open message to President Obama by Daniel Tanner, Professor emeritus  in the graduate school of Education, Rutgers University.  Once again it is something I wish I had written.  I suggest you take a gander.  It is an excellent blog on education.  http://journalofeducationalcontroversy.blogspot.com/

Thanks to those who sent verbal Valentines.  And to all those teachers who spent their holiday writing down grades, you have my sincere thanks.  And once again, thank you parents for being there.

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