Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THAT Parent

This CNN article, What teachers really want to tell parents
is a wonderful example of why I will always be THAT parent. You know the type, the one who:

If we give you advice, don't fight it. “
  • always fights advice from people who think they know the child I love and live with better than I do , especially when that advice does not ring true to my experience, observation, or way of living.
Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. “
  • doesn't just automatically trust professionals to know what is best for my family.
I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child ...”
  • gives her child the benefit of the doubt no matter how bad the situation looks.

At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs.”
  • always assumes that an undesirable behavior is an expression of my child being overwhelmed, suffering an unmet need, feeling powerless or in some other way overly stressed rather than a sign of a “behavior problem”.
They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting.”
  • always defends her child's rights even when he made mistakes, because even people who make mistakes deserve fair treatment. Yes, it often takes more effort to be fair.
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?'“
  • always asks for and genuinely listens to her child's side of a story.
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.”
  • always wants to know details of what is happening in the places where my child's care and education are entrusted to others, even if the details are uncomfortable for some to have exposed.
It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.”
  • always values honesty over pride, and my relationship with my child over any other partnership.
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. “
  • always excuses and adapts expectations based on circumstances--one of the most useful skills I can model for my child is to be adaptable because life is always changing.
... stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding.”
  • is always at least equally concerned about the process and the experience as the results.
  • always has a flexible definition of success that weighs my child's happiness far more heavily than anyone else's metrics.
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; ... “
  • always stands in the way of arbitrary “consequences” imposed by others for the sake of “building character” and teaching “life lessons”; there are far more effective ways of learning.
...we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong.”
  • always rescues my child from unfair situations from which he has no power to extract himself.
  • appreciates a good metaphor but does not appreciate name-calling.
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.”
  • never rejects favorable evaluations of my child as less valuable than criticisms, and doesn't value people who offer criticisms more highly than those who offer appreciation.
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.”
  • never accepts an evaluation by someone else as more valuable than a child's own evaluation of his/her effort, results, learning and experience.
“And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. ”
  • never partners with a person who is making accusations and is unwilling to accept that s/he could be mistaken (see earlier statement, “Well, of course it's true. I just told you.”).
... never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child.”
  • always talks honestly about issues my child is having with someone and what I am doing, and what he can do, and what we can do together to help resolve the issues.
If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.“
  • never hides concerns about people from my child, and NEVER expects my child to trust someone that I do not trust myself.
We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it.”
  • always fights to improve a system that is not providing what our family needs, and fights against a system that refuses to change.
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.”
  • does not need or believe your promises and would trust you a lot more if you showed me and my child some understanding, empathy, and respect.

Of course my preference would always be to have a partnership rather than an adversarial relationship with a teacher. But the attitude presented in this article only perpetuates the kind of negativity the author is complaining about. I resent the notion that teachers should be given preferential treatment over one's own children and that parents need to side with teachers against their children.
Have you ever been THAT parent, who stood up for your child? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. If every parent was like you or me or most of our friends, he would have never written the article. Unfortunately, they are not.

    I have talked to friends who are teachers about parent who behave abominably. I have seen parents who don't care how disruptive their child is to the rest of the class, they just want their child in school (and not at home). I have seen family members do their teenage and college age children's work for them--because the the kids and adults say the teachers are so bad. What kind of solutions are these? The parents he is writing about are not interested in partnering with either the child or the schools... they just want no problems and trouble/effortless education for their kids--and that isn't reality.

    BTW, can't put this on FB because I am friends with family. :-)

  2. Perhaps it was just a poor choice of title, and what he really meant was "What some teachers really want to tell a few specific parents." But it sounded to me like he was talking to all parents. And even if this attitude was not directed at me, how long would it take for that to change if I expressed disagreement with a classroom policy or practice? The idea of partnership in this article--"just trust us", "don't fight it", "stop making excuses"--sounds more like unquestioning obedience to me. As a professional, if he is not able to offer his advice in a manner that is clear, relevant, and useful to the families he is working with, then he is not doing his job well. It is not reasonable to ask families to support efforts that they do not agree with and have no input about. And the example in the article of the mother who offered an excuse for not completing the summer reading certainly did not sound to me like a family that just does not care about school and has no interest in partnership. It sounded like a family that could easily be mine.
    Asking for trust without being willing to earn it (and having a degree is not enough to earn my trust) is not my idea of partnership. And I don't see how this approach would help the families you are describing either. There are larger systematic problems at work here. But I would say that this kind of "teacher knows best" attitude has contibuted to families thinking that teachers should be able to handle even the worst of their children's behavior, because after all they do know best. And criticizing any questioning of grades is probably what leads to families feeling like the only option to help their children succeed is for the parents to contribute to their children's homework; talking to the teacher sure isn't going to help.
    I know teachers who do work well with the families in their schools. They do listen to parents, problem solve with parents, offer and take advice, never think that they know more about a child than a parent does, have the child's interest as their first priority. Of course not every parent is always happy, but they work together to resolve the issues. It is hard work; it is exhausting at times. But they see their job as a service to families, a service that families can go elsewhere for if they choose. And for the families who do not have other options, that is all the more reason they want to work hard for those families. These are teachers I could partner with, because it would actually be a partnership.

  3. Angela, I love this! The problem is with Clark's general attitudes toward students and parents. His view of his role as a teacher is most likely shared by many, judging by the hundreds of thousands of people who "liked" the article. All this makes me so happy to be opting out of the system.

  4. A response to Clark's article from another teacher:

  5. Angela that response was very reassuring to me. While we can choose how we educate our children it makes me feel reassured that there are intelligent "searching" teachers out there who are working in traditional schools, for all the kids who are in that system.

  6. My mom always sided with teachers....It was awful. I realize now how out of control I felt as a child. I remember many days crying on the way to elementary school and no one cared. Serious unmet needs there.....

    1. I'm sorry that you didn't have the support you needed. I hope that by sharing this, more people will feel like it is okay to by on their child/ren's side.

  7. I just discovered a new blogger I love today. :)

    1. I mean you in case that's not obvious. I just read your "Why We Play with Weapons" and now this one (I'd read the article you're commenting on in the past and had a similar reaction). I have 2 boys.