Parents: Are we what bothers teachers most of all?
In yesterday's Oregonian, opinion columnist Susan Nielsen reported out what she heard from the community about today's stressful classrooms. In a piece titled What tired Oregon teachers are saying (when parents aren't listening), Nielsen opens like this: "Oregon teachers would like parents to set down their cell phones for five minutes and pay attention to their kids." Sure caught my parental attention.
While she asked any readers to email her on the topic in a previous column, mostly teachers did (makes sense, I think). And while Nielsen and others allow that there are causes aplenty for classroom craziness (economy, class size, lack of back-up, the occasional bad teacher, pressure to get high school ratings, etc...), she emphasizes this one - and I quote:
Layered on top of everything else is a phenomenon that seems to bother teachers most of all. They say a growing number of parents undermine their children's academic success and personal growth, undercutting teachers in the process.
This bad behavior crosses the socioeconomic spectrum, teachers say: Low-income parents who let their kids skip school. Middle-class parents who drop off their kids late every day. Wealthy parents who take lots of vacations during the school year and demand tailored lesson plans.Then there are the parents who do their kids' homework, insist that the teacher accept late work, berate the teacher in front of their child, send nasty notes using the child as a messenger, skip parent-teacher conferences, spam the teacher with e-mails, fail to return repeated phone calls, or lavish their kids with video games and cell phones rather than books or attention.The majority of parents are not like this, teachers say. But even a half-dozen challenging parents in a classroom of 35 children can change the whole dynamic of the school year.
"Early in my career, parents and teachers were partners," said John Harrington, a recently retired teacher from Newport. "... Now it seems many parents side with their children against teachers and administrators."
After a few hours have passed (always good to cool down...), I am ready to ask: What do these teachers want from me, the parent? What does it take to be their partner? And perhaps most important of all, if this is - as suggested in the piece - what bothers them most of all, is it more important to fixing what ails our public schools than insufficient state funding? than class size? than trained teaching assistants? any teaching assistants, for that matter!?
Nielsen's article catalogs the many problems our schools face - including the age-old reality of a bunch of very different kids in one room all day. Why is this anti-parent part so prominent, I wonder? Did you read it, too? What do you think - am I being over-sensitive (always possible), or are we parents really that bad?