Your Child...My Student

For most individuals reading this piece, the title should be self evident.  Yet, each year, we teachers involuntarily absorb more responsibility for the educational success of children as if they don’t have parents at home.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are often considered solely at fault for a large percentage of students with academic deficiencies: the politically correct term for failing grades.  Parents, who are expected to provide a firm foundation for our students and all the challenges that the pursuit of a free education entails, have somehow turned the tables and made us the “fall guys”.  As my tenure progresses, the familiar scent of disgruntled parents is easily detected even if they’re upwind.  If it’s the parent of a child who is consistently conversational, does little to no work, has repeated requests from me for late work or after school tutoring, and/or he has a D or an F, they are pretty much ready to place blame.  Of course, there are parents who are partners in progress with me, and I applaud this rare breed of human beings.


 I don’t mean to come across as cynical, but when did the school campus become so consumed with the social well-being of children that getting “down to business” in the classroom has taken second chair?  It’s true; I want my students to be socially well-adjusted.  Research, as well as plain old common sense and observation, lends the point that children who are socially well- rounded perform better academically.  However, when a parent casually expresses to me that his/her child just can’t stop talking even during my class or that “Johnny’s” friends are always visiting her house; but the homework for my class rarely gets turned in, I want to scream!  Who wouldn’t rather have fun and not do any work?   


Naturally, teachers just aren’t equipped to perform miracles. Positive parental involvement is a prerequisite if this thing called compulsory education is going to work as planned some one hundred fifty or so years ago.  However, they readily complain when they aren’t notified of each occurrence of a missed homework or if their child happened to fail an assessment.  Do they not speak to their children when they are together?  Are they checking to see if the homework was completed and packed away?  Dismissing the fact that the school sends home individual progress reports every three weeks, they usually lie in waiting, as if plotting, to release their aggression around the 4th report card.  We only have a total of six grading periods.  With 100+ students, I simply do not have time to email parents every day, which is why I send home a letter at the beginning of the year outlining my weekly schedule as far as the days for homework and assessments are concerned.  To go a bit farther, my school has an internet website where parents can also read said letter and any new information I deem useful.  Furthermore, all students are also equipped with an agenda in which they are supposed to write down assignments for parental review and communication with teachers.  Sadly, parents and students aren’t taking advantage of these resources, yet they are quick to inform us of what they view as inadequate instructional practices.  Considering the primary level of children that I teach, I believe that continuity is important.  I don’t take part in cornering my children with surprises; I want them to be challenged yet prepared.  My schedule has not changed for that reason. 


Daily, I stand in front of 7th and 8th graders with my lesson in hand.  To them, my voice must be reminiscent of the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoon.  That’s how their faces look when I scan the room, on most days.  On the days when I tend to be more serious in regard to our daily lesson, I’m lucky to receive little feedback, but if I happen to crack a joke; the flood gates are opened with no signs of relief.  Some days, I just don’t feel like attempting to make the five paragraph essay or the compound/complex sentence come across as comical.  Yes, humor works, but I can’t stand in front of the classroom everyday and pretend to be Kathie Griffin or Wanda Sykes.  However, those ladies’ bank accounts sure would make this teacher a happy woman.  Had I chosen a different career, maybe I would be driving the Mercedes Benz S Class that’s parked in my driveway…inside my head, but I chose teaching because I love my discipline and more importantly I enjoy teaching children despite my heartaches.  


Moreover, why is there an overwhelmingly number of those who seem so apathetic?  But they energetically share with me that they stay up until 12:30a.m. texting and playing “the game”.  Where is Mom or Dad or Grandma or Aunt so and so when the children should be in the bed getting much needed rest for the next school day?  Then I rewind to a previous conference with a parent when I asked if her son had any consequences for poor academics.  On many occasions, I had observed that this child was always well dressed.  I suggested storing away a few, not all, of his many expensive outfits.  Her response went something like this: “I could never take away his clothes.  He loves to dress.”  Well, he could easily “dress” in a nice pair of $30 or $40 dollar shoes instead of the $150 pair that he proudly displayed for the current week.  In retrospect, I had a parent tell me that “Susie” didn’t make her required AR (Accelerated Reader) goal for my only advanced class because she just didn’t “like” any of the 15,000+ books in our school library.  Don’t misunderstand me.  “Susie” liked reading, but she and her friends hadn’t found time to visit the public library during the entire six weeks.  The mall probably needed them more. 


I reiterate that not all parents blame the teachers, and many are proactive when it comes to helping their children succeed in the classroom.  Those parents who attempt to help me determine how to improve student success rate are most appreciated.  Unfortunately, my experiences have provided few who fit into this category.  It saddens me when I request a parental conference and either there is no response or the meeting is canceled without being rescheduled.  How do they expect us to work together when they have a position of indifference?   I’m a teacher not a magician, therapist, surrogate mother, hygiene coach or school supply provider, but I am.  I don’t want to have to offer a late-work folder, but I do.  When are more parents going to become active participants in their children’s futures?  Teachers can’t do it by themselves.  Wake up parents!  He’s your child, and then he’s my student!