Monday, October 12, 2009


There are a great many things about the elementary school here that frustrate me. As much as I love the teachers (well, most of them anyway), and as great of a community it is, there are the things about it that make me want to bang my head on the wall.

Most of those things, of course, have to do with the adults, not the kids. Kids are kids. It's been that way forever before and will continue to be that way forever in the future. Some things have changed in the years since I started working with school aged kids almost 20 years ago, but most things are exactly the same. What has changed more in my eyes is the parents.

There seem to be more spoiled kids, a greater sense of entitlement these days. More kids catered to, more parents oblivious to the behavior of their kids. There was once a time when if a child was in trouble at school, the child was at fault. Parents didn't question the motives of the teacher, they didn't shift blame to other kids and other parents, they didn't make excuses and lash out at the system for demeaning their child. The kid was just in trouble. That is rarely the case anymore it seems. At the same time, parents are less and less interested in working with their children. They are too busy, life is too complicated. They don't have time. Or they don't make time.

I taught an after school art program here briefly a few years ago. I had a situation with a child once, a child who clearly could have cared less about creating art. He didn't much want to be there, but there he was because his parents thought it would be a good idea. He was rude. He talked constantly. He interrupted me. He distracted the other kids in the class, those who really wanted to be there. And he was certainly old enough to know better. Finally, after asking him over and over and over again to please stop, I moved his seat. I put him at another table. You would have thought that the world came crashing down. He actually knocked off his bad behavior, and he sat and he listened and he did his work. Until the class was over, that is. And then he told his mom what I had done. And his mom complained to the office, told them all that I was just being mean to her son. And the office told the principal. And the principal called my boss. And I got in trouble. Really.

Before we left San Diego, I was already enrolled in a credential program. I had completed all the prerequisite courses and done some of my student teaching already. It was hard, to be sure. I was placed in a first grade classroom, one capped at twenty students, but one with six special needs kids, four of which were also English language learners. No aide. No help. Nothing. There were kids with parents in jail. Many more kids with absent fathers. Kids who wore the same pair of shoes to school every day, those which were obviously too small. It was hard. But they were good kids. There were some that were challenging, to be sure, but they were good kids. I never ever had any issues with the parents in that classroom. No one called and complained. And while that might sound like a better situation, it wasn't. The parents didn't complain because most of them had no idea what was going on at school.

The school my kids go to is pretty much the polar opposite of the one I taught at back then. Parents are everywhere. All the time. Peeking their heads in. Hanging out after school to grab the teachers for impromptu conferences all the time. They care about the education of their children. But that comes with a price. They interfere. They second guess. They judge. And they complain.

The vast majority of them have no experience in education. They don't know how to teach. They don't know the struggles day to day in a classroom. They see one thing - their child. And they can't see past that. And while I am certainly all in favor of advocating for the best interests of your child, there is a point at which to stop. You can't hold their hands forever. Life isn't fair, and they need to learn that. And yes, some parents can be so blinded by their love of their children that they cannot see what is really going on. Unable to see that it really is their child who provides the distraction. Who interrupts. Who hurts others. The rest of the world really isn't out to get them, but they can't see that. Or they don't want to.

The school where the kids go is an infamous one in the district. It's got a bit of a reputation. And that reputation has more to do with the parents than with the kids. And it's a well-deserved reputation. I try pretty hard not to feed into that. I try to respect the abilities of the teachers. I don't second guess what they do. When my kids are in trouble, I want to know what they did, and what the consequence was. I don't look for another place to shift the blame to. And I won't let them do it either. I try to stay involved and know what is happening at school without hovering. And I try to help without being too helpful. I wish more people were like that. I've been on the other side, and I know how frustrating it is.

If only being a teacher was just about teaching, if they could just focus on the kids, think how much more our children would be learning.

1 comment:

  1. When I taught in L.A. they once gave me a class of 40, half were ELL the other half were special ed. No help either. And L.A. wonders what is wrong w/ their schools. And I had both helicopter parents in my Honors classes and then non-existant parents in that class of 40....I agree with you that parents today are too lenient. I know that w/ Charlotte, we can not give an inch....she just keeps testing and testing. But those parents whose children can do no wrong drove me nuts. Once had a parents accuse us of conspiring against her child. He was a little brat constantly disruptive and rude, but something had to be wrong w/ us. All I can say is Oy


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