Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Talk To Me...

To Parents of Children in Public Schools:

Don't talk to me about how bad your school district is because of the low test scores and tightly stretched budgets. Don't tell me that teachers are overpaid for the poor work that they do. Don't complain to me that your kid's teachers aren't actually "teaching" them because they have to do so much paperwork. If you try to get me to commiserate with you about the poor quality of public education in the United States, TOUGH. I will not join you in your ignorant rantings and instead I might just tell you off. 

A few weeks ago my chiropractor admonished me that since I was in a certain school district I should either home school or private school my daughter. News flash: MY HUSBAND TEACHES IN THAT DISTRICT. By telling me that the school district where my husband teaches is "horrible" and will result in the "poor education" of my daughter you are directly insulting me and the hard work my husband does and you are showing your utter stupidity.Yes, I said stupidity and here is why:

It bugs me to no end when people complain about all the time teachers waste documenting rather than teaching, as if teachers have a choice. Parents are the ones primarily responsible for educating their children and it is because they have abdicated this responsibility that teachers have to document "results." If parents were involved as they should be, there would be no need to know how their kids are stacking up to others because the parents would know intuitively. Too much blame is placed on teachers by parents who willingly give away the right to educate their children to bureaucrats who care of little but test scores and bottom lines.
I wrote that in response to an article posted on facebook that asserted that the reason that teachers don't teach exciting lessons is because they are too busy recording results. Guess why they have to do that? Because parents WANT to see results. Tax payers want results. They want to know that their dollars are making a difference. Test scores show only a small portion of what others find meaningful and in my opinion they mean jack squat. I was an honors students and I still randomly filled in bubbles on the standardized tests we were forced to take every year for days, and days and days. I did it because I was bored and I know I was not alone. What makes you think that children today are any different?
The real teacher of any child is the parent. Plain and simple. If you do not like how your child is being educated, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I have observed that while people enjoy complaining about teachers and school districts on blogs, facebook, grocery stores, in mommy groups and even in chiropractic offices, none of them seems willing to step up and take their child's education fully in their own hands. I knew before I had a child that I was willing to be my daughters teacher if that was what she needed and I stand by that.
I also reject the notion that going to a "bad" school will destroy your child's chance at getting into a good college. I went to a bad school with low test scores in a bad area and had a few stinky teachers, but guess what? I also had great ones, the vast majority actually. When I struggled in math class my mom stepped up and helped me herself. I graduated at the top of my class from high school and college and continue to have a love of learning. I consider my education a success, however I know that the foundation of my education did not occur in a classroom.  My education was fostered at home from a young age and those principles I learned as a child helped me through the under qualified teachers, drugs and violence, and ridiculous time wasting standardized tests of that "bad" school. The key is being fully involved, knowing your child's educational needs and a willingness to do whatever it takes to meet those needs even if it means teaching them primarily on your own.
As the daughter and wife of educators I have seen how hard my mother, husband (and yes, even his coworkers) work. They are passionate about what they teach. They are just as frustrated as you are about not being able to spend time preparing and teaching great lessons because they have to spend such a huge chunk of their time with paperwork, documenting student's "progress" and being trained on how to write lesson plans using complicated charts and buzz words to satisfy the bureaucracy. But parents are what it comes down to. You are your child's first teacher and it should always be that you are their PRIMARY educator. No matter how great the teacher, they will never make up for you, the parent.


  1. My dad is a teacher. My husband is a teacher. Actually, I taught for a little while too. We all can validate the statement that a child's results (educationally and otherwise) is primarily in the hands of their parents. Teachers will do what they can, and sure some are better than others, but any teacher can tell you that the difference between an A student and a D or F student is not the teacher or the books. It is a combination of the student's motivation (or lack thereof) and his parents' support (or lack thereof).
    Utah schools tend to turn out good grade results in spite of terrible underfunding...but the pro-family culture has left most kids with good familial support, so they succeed anyway. Kids in 'bad schools' (like yours) with good familial support do well. Kids in 'good schools' with no support don't do so well.

    And, for the record, homeschool or charter schools or private schools are not inherently better. Charter school scores match public schools. Private schools are usually similar as well, though perhaps somewhat increased (in my view because parents willing to invest money for tuition are also willing to invest time in helping their kids with homework!) And homeschoolers, well, speaking as someone who was homeschooled, let's just say that the range of homeschool results is even wider than public school. Some are the MOST invested parents on earth...and some are the LEAST invested. I've known 10yr olds who could not read, and I've known kids who went to college in their early teens.

    In short, no generalization is really accurate, and you are right. It all comes back to parents.

  2. I totally agree with you. Having student taught and worked in public schools, it is very clear which students had parents' support in their education and which did not.

  3. You're so right. Parents are a child's first and most important teacher. I consider school to be supplementary to what I teach my son. And one of the most important things you can teach a child is to love to learn. When they love to learn, a motivated child will find ways to learn, even in schools or classrooms that aren't the greatest.

    I can't believe people actually say that teachers are overpaid! I thought everyone knew that the opposite is true. The majority of teachers care so much about the kids they teach, and imparting knowledge to them is one of their highest passions. It is so unfortunate that standardization inhibits them from teaching at their highest level.

    The public school system is faulty and problematic. I don't think there are any easy answers to improving it. Seems like where some "improvement" helps some, it also hurts others. I wish all teachers had the freedom to teach interesting and fun lessons every day, so that kids will be excited to learn. I wish that little kids weren't required to do homework or be graded. But you're right, some parents WANT that.

    I don't care for the complaining, either. I know moms who complained because the had to buy Crayola brand crayons instead of the cheap ones, and because they had to pay a $10 activity fee for the year. I just want to tell them to try homeschool and see how expensive it really is to buy all those learning materials themselves!

    I actually consider myself a homeschooler even though I want to send my child to preschool two days a week next fall. I think I will always consider myself a homeschooler, even if he ends up going to public school full-time, because I so deeply believe that learning begins at home.

  4. Well Said.

    My husband is a Reading Specialist and would agree whole heartedly with the points you have made.