Dear Mr. Clark,
Thanks for addressing this issue. Your letter is an example of the kind of straightforward, honest dialog parents need to be having with their children’s educators.
I found a lot to agree with in your article. “Helicopter parenting”, making excuses for our children, attorneys at parent-teacher meetings (really?!) all need to go.
And I loved this sentence:
“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.”
Totally agree. Parents need to evaluate their child’s progress independent of grades, as much as possible.
But you said a few things that sound less like partnership and more like continued schism between parent and teacher. For example, this statement:
“If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer.”
Not going to happen. I expect my doctor or lawyer to tell me what’s causing my problem and how to fix it. Plus, they’ve studied/practiced medicine or law for many more years than I have.
And I know teachers have studied/practiced education for many years. Here’s the difference: I’ve known my own kid for many years. To your point, I don’t know them in the context of a classroom with other kids but to say I should take your advice like I would advice from a doctor or lawyer is going too far.
Plus, it contradicts your idea of partnering. I don’t bring much to my doctor or lawyer except complaints. With my child’s educator, however, we both bring something to the table and that is knowledge about my child in different contexts. By coming together, we can paint a more complete picture of him and come to a better understanding of his behavior and needs.
Next, this part:
“At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs.”
I agree it would be best if, instead of being defensive, we just listened to your perspective, sincerely considered it and made adjustments where we see fit.
But come on. These are our children. At home, they make us laugh and chase us with train tracks for swords and let us tickle them and, sometimes, when we’re very lucky, they whisper, “I love you, Daddy.” Can’t you at least understand that when you tell us our son is under-performing or talking too much or, heaven forbid, cheating, our first reaction isn’t one of passive acceptance?
We’re not reacting to you but to the message. You can help us by being understanding and patient with us. That way, we know we can trust you when the emotions have dissipated. Then, with your support in the classroom, we’ll provide the necessary structure and discipline to make positive changes in his understanding and behavior.
Oh, and about your pet peeve (“Is that true?”) We’re not asking him to confirm the verity of your statement. We’re asking him so we can hear him admit his mistake in front of you. It makes it easier for us to discipline him later on.
Mr. Clark, there are good parents out there who want to partner with their child’s educator to maximize the educational opportunity of their children. I hope when you meet new parents, you give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them like good, effective partners. Not like misbehaving children…