Thursday, May 11, 2006

An Insider's Joke Outed

Elementary school teachers are often criticized and/or "challenged” by parents who can bring their children to school but can’t emotionally turn them over to someone else’s care.

Let’s say your initial reaction to that sentence was, “Yes, and rightly so.” This puts you in the category of the new American parent, the one who believes that the villagers that are raising the child should openly confront each other when they disagree on how to do it, and there is a definite pecking order. Teachers are near the bottom.

Let’s say your initial reaction to that first sentence was, “What a shame.” This puts you in the category of the old school American parent, the one who believes that the villagers that are raising the child may disagree but not undermine each other’s best efforts.

One of the teachers at my school was being attacked by a new American parent because of her teaching practices, which was not the real problem. This was jeopardizing her reputation and possibly her career, and the teacher was emotionally yet rationally upset. During lunch in the teachers’ lounge she made the remark, “I love teaching, but sometimes the parents scare me. I guess the perfect job would be teaching orphans.” Every teacher in the room roared with laughter. You didn’t have to be there; you have to have been a teacher who has been “under fire.”


Laura said...

I have a very good friend who is a teacher and has always said that the worst part is the parents. But it is a scary conundrum: parents are also incredibly pushed by the administration to "participate" more fully. Our school mandates 30 minutes of reading a night, on top of homework, with designated books. Then he has a computer test on the book. The result? My son is no longer enjoying reading. Additionally school administration (not all teachers, mostly admin is my slam here) make us feel we are so lucky for our children to be attending school (in Florida Jakes attends an A+ school (FCAT graded). There is zero customer service, in fact they are incredibly rude and defensive from the moment you walk in the door.

Case in point: I picked up Jake from an after school meeting and couldn't find him. I went into the office "Oh," they said, "they changed the pick up point to the back lot". I laughed and said, "Well, I didn't get that memo from Jake!" Instead of laughing too, they launched their "defense".

"It was on everything that went home. Many, many notes." they declared haughtily and defensively. "Somone needs to have a talk with their son," one said, in a sing-song way.

"Okay," I sighed. "Have a Nice day.", and left.

I hear in parent's voices that this is the real frustration, that accusatory tone of administration that we are not good parents anymore (and so lucky to have them to tell us how to be good parents), do not spend time with our kids, and the homework is set so that we engage with our children. (That just turned my time with my son to engage into a yelling match over two hours of homework). Parents don't know where to take it out, however, and erroneously take their frustrations out on teachers. We have been forced by The System, to be in two camps: teachers vs. parents. And until the entire system is revamped, neither camp will be happy.

Walter said...

Your school has a problem. This attitude comes from the principal. Your school has a leadership problem. This comes from one person and is not the school system's problem. One staff meeting with a strong leader could clear up your school community's problem.

I still maintain my point. If you are in a good school or not, if you are a good teacher or not, teachers are "under fire."

Of course, this could be my state's fault. Maybe we are highly litigious.

As for the singer of the little tune, "Someone needs to have a talk with their son." I would have piped up, "Someone needs to watch their manners. Some things may be more important to families today than our silly memos home."

I wouldn't work at a school like yours. There are a few here in my town and I won't have anything to do with them. In my town, the issue is leadership and the principal's influence and personality. I think you will find that "All this too shall pass" when a principal change occurs.

I maintain that when everything is working fine and parents are welcomed, there are always nutty parents who put teachers "under fire." Teachers "under fire" never goes away.

tracy said...

Our schools have become a tough place to navigate. Teachers spend the most time with our children and unfortunatley that makes them a target for anything that is either good or bad with the entire school. And people only voice the bad stuff. I have experienced a little of the "under fire" b/c I volunteer at the school, thus putting myself unknowingly in the target position. Some of the comments from parents directed at me are really tough to take. Of course it's from parents that think they know how to do it better but don't volunteer. A bit like Monday morning quarter backing. I worry for our schools. Why can't we all play in the sandbox together?