This topic makes me think of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Remember, Goldie was rarely happy with her situation. This porridge is to hot. This porridge is too cold. This chair is too hard. This chair is too soft. And when she found one that was just right, she broke it.
As teachers we do often judge parent involvement in this way. “This parent is too hands-on and should just let me do my job.” Or “This parent does not know what is going on with his/her child!” Rarely do we think of the ones that are “just right”.
As I am writing this I am looking at a picture of this year’s seniors (all of which I taught at 6th grade level). I remember all of the parents of these students. The particular picture that I am focusing on is a picture of the Academic Honors students. To get Academic honors at our school, seniors must have a 3.75 or higher GPA. In this class of 78 seniors, 22 students achieved that GPA. That is an impressive percentage. Those parents must be “just right”.
So what makes a “just right” parent? A few years ago, when my son started high school soccer, I watched a video called “Giving into the Game”. The message was to cheer for your child, support your child, love your child, but when they are playing the sport, turn them over to the game and coaches. Let the coaches be coaches.
I think that is the words of wisdom for the teacher/parent relationship. Let the teachers teach and let parents parent. Develop a working relationship of allowing the child/student to be those 2 different roles.
Going back to the picture of seniors, I’m hoping those parents are considered “just right”, involved, supporting, and caring but not overbearing and pushy.
Because I am one of them. I am a parent first, a teacher second.
The people have spoken, and the power has turned from the Democrats to the Republicans. There is more than enough disgruntlement to go around, but if the Republicans want to solidify their voter base, they should consider the huge population of teachers, parents, and newly-graduated youth now qualified to vote.
We have one thing in common: We detest No Child Left Behind. If you, our new legislators out to retain your voter base, want to know why, here’s a bare outline:
- This law requires that all children pass all tests by 2012. This will never happen. Educators and politicians know this is true, because every year, teachers must teach a new group of children who come to them with various skills and aptitudes. It is impossible to reach 100%. This truth diminishes nobody, but puts students, teachers and schools at risk.
- Schools failing to show adequate progress are punished, but as years pass and scores rise, it becomes more and more difficult, eventually impossible, to show “adequate yearly progress.”
- Sanctions required for this “failure” include firing teachers and closing schools, which means busing “failing” students to schools farther away, lengthening the school day and ensuring worse performance for at-risk kids.
- High-stakes testing traumatizes kids.
- High-stakes testing almost certainly results in “teaching to the test,” which often limits a complete and broad education.
- A single assessment can never demonstrate a student’s learning, especially because research shows that humans recall a very small percentage of things they learn.
- Second-language and the poor will always score less than English speakers and those financially better off.
- No Child Left Behind effectively shrinks the curriculum to Math, English and Science, the tested subjects. Some schools even eliminate or greatly reduce the arts or other electives to accomodate the pressures of preparing for the tests.
- NCLB sometimes compels schools to hire private-sector contractors, a misuse of public funds.
- NCLB “Highly-Qualified” requirements work against teachers in small schools or other circumstances, often driving teachers from the profession. One example is a social studies teacher, in the last year of her service, forced to move to another school because she wasn’t HQ in geography, needed at the small school where she taught (another teacher had to be hired).
- NCLB puts test scores ahead of the emotional, physical and social growth and well-being of students.
Who dislikes (or detests, more truthfully) No Child Left Behind? Add together public-school teachers, college instructors, parents, and youth, and you have a powerful population that craves the banishment of this law so we can get back to educating the “whole child.”
At the very least, this is a powerful voting sector that you newly elected officials may want to serve.
I began acupuncture for the first time a few weeks ago, and aside from feeling absolutely fantastic, I am stealing my wellness clinic’s primary directive:
“If you have a problem or concern with anything, you MUST speak to us and give us the opportunity to make it right and learn from the situation.”
When I say primary directive, I’m not kidding. During each the first six or seven sessions, my acupuncturist reminded me of this expectation and explained the rationale. I can honestly say it’s a sincere request as customer service is clearly a priority simply based on the manner in which the staff conducts itself–always.
I started to think about this principle, and I decided to adopt it as part of my policy with parents. Too often we don’t know something has gone haywire until the parent is already in a full on tizzy or, even worse, until another parent reports it to us. I often wonder about how to make my classroom and demeanor more welcoming and open to parents, in a meaningful way, and I think stating this policy with parents at our first class meeting and reiterating it early and often is a good approach.
Of course, when parents do approach us with concerns, we have to be open to hearing what they have to say. It does no good to open our doors and then shut out anything we don’t want to hear. Could I have done this my first year of teaching? Probably not. But I can now. I’ve got my big girl pants on and everything.
As the new school year gets closer to beginning, I have set out on a task to offer more technological opportunities for my students. I teach in a rather rural area, so some of my students have limited internet access. However, every year the accessibility increases, so I thought this year would be a good year to get started and take a trial run. I know, for some of you this seems very late in coming, but I still believe there are many teachers out there who have not created classroom websites for a multitude of reasons: not enough time, many web site providers charge high fees, or the technology is too difficult.
I have spent a few days this week creating a website using google sites. (Feel free to check it out at http://sites.google.com/site/khsmdwalls ). Please keep in mind this is still a work in progress. Surprisingly, this free site set-up program is rather user friendly. I am able to create pages for each of my classes and can link notes or calendars to those pages. I can also create pages for the clubs I sponsor. The program offers an area where students can make comments . . . great for an online discussion board. The left navigation bar can be personalized for the highest level of convenience!
I plan on including my website information on my class syllabus that I give out the first day of school. I am also going to take my classes into the computer lab one day during the first two weeks of school to have a “scavenger hunt” of my website. This will allow them to become familiar with the site and with the linked websites that they may be able to use for help from home! I think this will ultimately enhance what I am doing in the classroom by allowing parents to check on assignments, by allowing students to obtain notes even when they are absent, and by allowing other teachers within my department to see the progress my classes are making.
If you are a classroom teacher who has yet to take this leap into technology, this year may be a great year to start. I am certain there are other options out there as well for free, user-friendly web-sites, this was just the one I have experienced. If you are intimidated, find a student who can help you (yes, I did say a student—most of them have way more experience with this type of technology than we do!). The way I see it, my students have nothing to lose and everything to gain by having another tool available to them and their parents. Why not give it a try!