I don’t know if you’ve seen this article from CNN, but it’s entitled “What teachers really want to tell parents” and it has been in my Facebook feed several times recently. I am friends with many former, current and teachers in training, and when it’s posted and gets “likes” it’s almost as if I can see and hear their collective nods and “mmm-hmms” as they read it.
Every day at 8:10 am, I stick my non-verbal child on a van and it takes him to a school that is about 15 miles from our home. He has no functional communication. I have faith that his teachers and aides will greet him when he arrives at school and guide him into his classroom for the day and not leave him wandering around the county. He also has no sense of danger or navigational skills, so if he was left unattended, he surely would be in big trouble very quickly. He does not have the ability to chew, so he takes all of his food (soft solids) and swallows them completely whole. I have trust that his teachers and/or aides will sit with him during snacks and meals, carefully guiding his bites. I have faith that the one time that he chooses to over-stuff his mouth and choke, that the staff will be attentive and not be checking their cell phone or chatting amongst themselves.
He has hypotonia, poor vision and is generally clumsy, so he often has scrapes and bruises. Every morning when I bathe him or every evening when I’m putting his jammies on and I notice new ones, I just tell myself that surely he must’ve have fallen, as he has done so many times before, and that the staff is not harming him nor not seeing other kids harm him and bruise him. I say that to myself and I believe it, because I believe that most teachers are good and don’t harm children. Even though the media would have me believe otherwise.
Even my highly verbal 3-year-old came home from preschool last week with a pretty big wound on his back and his teacher told me what happened. I asked him about it in the car and later at home and both times he said “I don’t want to talk about it.” So I have to go by what the teacher said, and I do because I believe and trust her.
My 6-year-old can’t tell me anything so I have faith in all of their data and record keeping, that he is making progress and that his areas of need are being continually addressed. Truth is, his team really could be playing checkers, painting their nails or who knows what, all day long, and I’d never know the difference. But I don’t think that, because I trust and respect them.
I don’t know what the intent of the article was–was it just to vent? Or by writing it and passing it around, you are hoping that it will grab that one pain-in-the-ass helicopter parent, who will read it, self identify and vow to change their ways? I used to be a manager of people in various capacities, and one management tip I’ve read multiple times is: Don’t punish or yell at an entire group for something that just 1 or 2 people is doing. It’s demoralizing.
I will be the first to completely agree that in many cases, there is a huge disconnect between parents and teachers. Our system in broken in many ways, but I have faith that it is not beyond repair. I try really hard in our household to have balance and I try really hard in my job to work with schools, not against them. I read Free Range Kids all the time, in order to keep myself balanced and not become “that parent.” I think lots of us do, but even on our worst days I think most of us are well-intended. I know even on my worst days, when my families are experiencing the worst of the worst, that internally I am repeating my mantra of being child focused. Some days it’s very hard.
In my mind, the way to foster communication is not by putting people on the defensive and identifying a whole group of people by their lowest common denominator, as you have done. You detail a story about a teacher losing their job because they dared to wash some magic marker off of a kid’s face. Yes, I agree that thinking you could lose your job over something like that is scary. But I believe in my heart that situations like that are rare.
You know what else is scary? Thinking that your teacher might be doing or selling drugs, having sex with students, involved in child pornography, on medication while driving my child’s bus and so on. I also believe those situations are rare. Would you like me to categorize all teachers that way? By their lowest common denominator?
I have worked with schools that have missed Child Find kids over and over, ones that have name-called students, ignored bullying, teachers and administrators that have bullied families, and sometimes down right broken the law and lied to families. Can you feel my pain? It’s not just teachers and administrators that are scared to speak their mind. It’s all but impossible to get a crappy, law-breaking teacher removed and in the process of trying I’ve seen families experience retaliation in the form of losing their job and being ostracized in their communities. Because they dared to speak out. Heck if anyone even dared to do an article similar to yours, but reversed, they’d surely face an angry mob with pitchforks. I pity the fool who dares to publicly criticize a teacher these days. I remember back right after Newtown happened, a few people dared to say that the teachers who were killed were heroes. Immediately there was outcry–DON’T YOU KNOW??ALL TEACHERS ARE HEROES. That’s how teachers get to be defined–by the courageous souls who took a bullet for their class. Me? I get to be defined by the crazy lady who got a teacher fired for washing magic marker off a face. By the crazy mom who argues over a 79% and an 80%. Can you feel my pain?
Instead of berating the good parents, why don’t we work together? Because in my heart, I have to believe that 90-95% of teachers and administrators are good and well-intended and hardworking. And that if by chance my kid gets one of the bad ones, that he’ll survive with minimal damage. Otherwise, there’s no way I could stick him on that bus every day.