Every once in a while, an article is published with some variation of the title “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents.” Here is one that went viral not too long ago.
While I have no doubt that there are parents who can be a real thorn in the side of a teacher, I have to say that articles like that do absolutely nothing to bridge the growing divide between teachers and parents; instead, they do just the opposite: pit us against each other. And who ultimately pays? As usual, the kids.
Here are some things that parents – at least this parent – would like to tell teachers:
There is this buzz-phrase, “parent-teacher partnership,” that’s tossed around a lot. That “partnership” is largely a myth, a farce, and writing articles like the one above, and sharing them and passing them around underscores that fact. The reality is that for the most part, teachers, schools, and districts expect parents to toe the line and enforce the unilateral decisions of the teachers/schools/districts like homework policies, and offer support in the form of shopping for supplies, supervising projects, and volunteering in the classroom. Teachers do not seem interested in parents’ questioning policies or raising concerns or suggesting alternatives, or even providing studies that question the value of certain policies. Parents who do that sort of thing are quickly written off as “problem parents.”
I understand and respect the fact that you, the teacher, are an expert in your field. I understand and respect that you are an educated professional. That doesn’t make you right about everything, however.
I also believe that you went into the field of teaching because you wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of children. I believe that you started out with passion. If you’ve been teaching for a while, chances are very good that you, too, have become disenchanted with the “system.” Some of you are downright burned out. Guess what: it shows. You do have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of children – and you have the power to make a negative difference. You have the power to break the spirit of a child with harsh, critical words. You have the power to kill a child’s curiosity and love of learning by stuffing them in a box and seeing them as just a face in the crowd – or worse, a pain in your rear.
I know you’re a teacher, and not a nanny. But you have to understand that I am entrusting my children to you – and I expect you to take care of them while they are in your charge. They are precious to me, and although you are invested in them for nine months, I am invested in them for a lifetime. I believe that you see a side of my child at school that I may not see at home, but I still know my child better than you do; I know what motivates her, what inspires her, and what makes her shut down.
I understand how much you detest the “helicopter parents” who breathe down your neck and can’t seem to let their children walk on their own two feet. I get it – and believe me, I have no desire whatsoever to be one of those parents. So, hey, how about ditching the requirement for me to sign off on everything my kids do? The reading logs, the agreements to enforce this and that – stop that nonsense, okay? You want the kids to take responsibility? Then let them.
Stop posting about your students and their parents on Facebook, for god’s sake! Even the cryptic messages are really not that difficult to decipher. It’s a violation of privacy, it’s disrespectful, and it’s really unprofessional (you’re a professional, remember?).
I know you feel entirely justified in claiming a chunk of our family time after the school day has ended in the name of homework – after all, homework has been a fact of life since forever. You need to understand, however, that to many families, it feels like an intrusion, a violation. We see some very real adverse affects on our kids and our families. If we parents raise concerns about the amount and kind of homework our kids are bringing home, please be open to us. Step back and realize that you are asking for time that belongs to us. We can’t always make it work the way you believe it should work.
If you truly want a “partnership,” don’t shut us out. Don’t treat us like the enemy.