Friday, March 15, 2013

What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents

As requested, here is the article from

I am puzzled at today's parents.  I once had a parent call me about talking to his son in Little League about controlling his mouth.  I assumed dad was calling to set up an apology by his son; something my parents insisted on when I was growing up, but I was wrong.  His son lectured me on how to coach and others how to play, and now dad was doing the same.

"I am very close to my son", he said.  I had not questioned his closeness, yet noted what he said, in the negative, as sensitive.  This was key and the likely reason why he was coming to his son's defense, instead of helping his son take ownership.  Here is where I have such strong empathy with teachers and why I am an advocate for summers off for teachers:  recharge the batteries that are not only naturally drained in inspirational, but to recharge some of the energy wasted on parents.

I said to him, "given the degree of mouthiness, I have a hard time thinking that this comes as a surprise to you" in which the father admitted that, not once, but on several occasions, he and his wife were called to school to meet with teacher about their son's mouth.

He could not grasp that by the time it gets to the point where a teacher asks parents to come in for a specific conference, it is already a bad problem; one in which the teacher was unable to bring the child's mouth under control.  He could not grasp how teachers do not need the extra stress in life of not only having to get the child to stop interrupting class with his incessant mouth, but that the teacher knows, in our day and age, that by calling in the parents, the teacher is risking increasing her own stress levels and may be met with, "not my son!" and "what's the matter, don't you know how to teach a genius?" type of responses.  Most teachers conclude that it is not worth it, and the child goes uncorrected due to the self-esteem bloat by today's parents.

Here is the most significant point for teachers to grasp:

The more neglectful the parent, the more the teacher or others will be blamed. 
The more neglectful the parent, the more vocal the parent will be. 

I don't blame the teachers.  Teachers understand the projection of guilt as well as any professional:

The negligent parent feels guilty and since the teacher has complained about the child, the parent has an opportunity to alleviate guilt by playing 'hero' and showing the child how much he or she cares.  It is a critical mistake that has the potential to teach the child to blame others for the rest of his life.

Texas Teacher, here is your article.  Thank you for your comment and your red pen in science class!  Some day, you will be thanked for your work!

What teachers really want to tell parents

By Ron Clark, Special to CNN
updated 3:55 PM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013
Teacher Ron Clark is pictured with his students.
Teacher Ron Clark is pictured with his students.

  • Ron Clark is an award-winning teacher who started his own academy in Atlanta
  • He wants parents to trust teachers and their advice about their students
  • Clark says some teachers hand out A grades so parents won't bother them
  • It's OK for kids to get in trouble sometimes; it teaches life lessons, Clark says
Editor's note: Ron Clark, author of "The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers," has been named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and was Oprah Winfrey's pick as her "Phenomenal Man." He founded The Ron Clark Academy, which educators from around the world have visited to learn. This article's massive social media response inspired CNN to follow up with Facebook users. Some of the best comments were featured in a gallery.
(CNN) -- This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.
I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."
Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.
So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?
For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.
Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.
Please quit with all the excuses
The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.
Ron Clark
And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.
His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.
Can you feel my pain?
Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.
Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor
And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.
This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"
Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.
Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.
And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.
Teachers walking on eggshells
I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.
My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"
I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators.
Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.
If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the result, then take your concerns to the principal, but above all else, never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child. If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.
We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.
That's a teacher's promise, from me to you.


Tania Cadogan said...

I guess i was lucky at school in all grades.

They saw that i was above average in most areas (bar sport, though i did ok in gymnastics)
My teachers encouraged me, pushed me and in some areas gave me free rein since everything in the course i had already read multiple times or skipped completely because i was beyond the level being taught.
I loved english language and literature (i hated chaucer)
When it came to parents evenings i always went with my mum, i wanted to know where is was doing well, where i was average and where i needed to work harder.
I was the only pupil who went to every parents evening, if i wasn't do well i wanted to know why and how i could do better.
Even now i set myself high standards and i worry when i feel i am not doing as well as i could and should be doing.

My bosses got used to me asking if i was doing ok and how i could do better, the lil sods though did the dirty on me, they never told me they were training me as an admin as i would have immediately worried if i was good enough etc.
They also never told me i would be doing the training until i arrived in the virtual class ready to make notes on the trainees in regard to reponses, handling of drama etc and she said OK teach! and promptly went silent. She later told me if they had told me i would be training the new staff i would have started the doubting i was good enough etc. They said we knew you were god enough welse we wouldn't have got you training them.

I was lucky also that my mom would answer any question i had on any subject as best she could or point me to someone who could.
As a baby i was a nosey lil geek, she would leave me in my pram outside the shop (those were the days)I would sit up and watch the world go by, she would come outto see me babbling away to someone, an animal or the world in general.
When i was 6 months old mum and dad put me in a baby bed as i kept escaping from the cot by undoing all the screws and sliding out the bottom, leaving bedclothes undisturbed and no me, this was even after dad used cables to stop said escapes.

I think she found me a bit scary at times.

I find it sad today that teachers often don't want to teach, pupils don't want to learn and the parents don't care as long as they get their smokes and booze.
When teachers do tr and teach they get abused, demeaned, threatened and often told you must do this not that so no one feels hard done by, everyone is equal, don't correct mistakes and there must never be winners and losers.

In time we will stop making advances and start going backwards, perhaps eventually ending up with sticks and stones and grunts.

Shayna said...

Amen to this article! My parents were both teachers in the public school system. I have heard them speak of such parents in frustration.
I was definitely a pain in the@$$ at times (good student, liked to push limits in creative not destructive Watts) and I am so thankful for the excellent public education I received in Waupun, WI in the 80s and 90s.
There were a few in particular that I'll never forget who really went above and beyond. Mrs. Kloostra, Mr. Gunderson, Mrs. K. Thank you!

Shayna said...

Watts= ways (on my mobile)

Tania Cadogan said...

Anonymous said...
Welcome to Hobnob's Autobiographical Happy Hour...

Autographs will be signed for a donut.

Personal appearances will be a box of donuts and a box of krispy kreme donut holes in choc.

To keep me away poutine and milkshakes in lime, peach. apricot. mango, orange, blackcurrant will be fine.

Failure to provide any of the above will result in Hobnob's Autobiographical miserable as sin Hour...


txjustice said...

As a teacher, I appreciate this article very much. I could tell all sorts of stories of parents who believed things without question...drives me crazy.

Kathi said...

I just received a call from my son's teacher this past Tuesday about his behavior in classes. Four of his teachers were on the conference call. My reaction? Why, yes, give him lunch detention. I made him write an apology letter to each of the teachers and grounded him. Aren't you on my side, he asked. I told him that I *am* on his side and so are the teachers and we expected better. He's a gifted student but that does get him out of being a polite one!!

Kathi said...

Does *not* get him.....

Anonymous said...

You know ... If most teachers were trustworthy, contained their exercises of influence to scholastics and weren't simply drones implementing a government social program.... Then most teachers would be trusted. There are bad parents but there are also bad teachers - Lots.

TxTchr said...

Anna, your comment is offensive. Your bad experience with a teacher (or is it teachers) is in no way indicative of all (or most to use your word) teachers. Sign up to be a parent volunteer in a school or become a substitute teacher and your lowly view of teachers will dramatically change. Your comment is proof of what Peter says "'the more neglectful the parent, the more the teacher or others will be blamed. Teaching is a thankless job.