I never dreamed of being a teacher.
This is a pretty big sentence coming from a girl who: wanted to be a nurse (until I saw someone bleed), hoped to own my own Modeling Agency (which confused counselors) and titled herself as ‘A Star’ for her aspirations when leaving Junior High. Professional Roller Skater, Oceanographer, Flight Attendant, Political Aide, Green Peace Volunteer, even Solid Gold Dancer … these are all just a few of the other ‘occupations’ which come to mind as I type. My mother encouraged me to dream big and chase my dreams. I guess you could say, I spent a lot of time on the ‘dream’ part.
Ironically, I loved school. From my very first day of Kindergarten, school to me felt like home.
I loved helping my teachers, being called on in class and even … having homework. Homework made me feel as if I had something to do. Odd perhaps to some, but as the youngest in our meshed/bohemian family it felt nice to have something of my own — a sort of purpose (I guess).
I even enrolled in Summer School, voluntarily. Summer School for me (especially in the latter years) was an opportunity to get a few ‘heavy’ courses out of the way and balance the school year scholastically and socially a bit better.
So, while I may have loved school, education and all that it entails, I was not passionate about it. I guess then it is no strange coincidence that a large number of my social circle are – teachers or administrators of some sort.
Many of the people I grew up with went on to become employed as educators. Matter of fact, I was a teacher’s friend, before I was a parent. Post college years for many of my friends were tough. Oh the memories of what I fondly call the ‘Pink Slip’ years. Much fun for an educator, faced with student loans, low man on the totem pole and hoping to be invited back for one more year. Good times.
Now as a parent with a school aged child, I must admit, I straddle the fence often. When faced with situations and circumstance regarding my student and a teacher or another student, I always try and weigh all sides before casting an opinion.
Conversations with family members or other moms regarding my child and school issues always seem to include the words ‘remember this is from a 7-year-old perspective.’ As a parent and a ‘grown-up’ this is an important piece to understanding school issues or challenges. Be it first grade or high school, they are still children.
This brings me to the topic of an issue that was raised recently as one of my friends had a very bad day at work. Her ‘work,’ happens to be teaching and after more than a decade in the field she was confronted by parents who had no appreciation for her skill as a teacher.
My friend is very passionate about the field she has chosen. So much so, that she often boasts about ‘her kids’ and how amazing it is to do what she loves for a living. Not unlike myself, she is passionate about her field and it shows.
Without getting too involved in her individual situation with this one set of parents, the topic did prompt conversation.
In a day and age of budget cuts, increased classroom standards and students with calendars to rival any Fortune 500 top exec, I had to pose the question - where are we falling short?
Before I continue, I have to share that I realize this is one loaded question with multiple facets. So much so, that the space provided here will not nearly cover all the areas that should be covered. For this week, I want to speak on the topic of ‘teachers versus parents?’
Yes, a bit appalling now that I look at it myself in print, but that is how I posed the question of learning to my friends on my personal Facebook page (yes, I utilize the tool of FB for work often and it pays off in spades).
What I love about my personal Facebook, is that it is a place I do not worry about offending and often I just type what is in my head - typos and misspellings included.
The question was not posed to pit one against the other, but rather to get a feel for what others’ perspective was on the responsibility to the student.
Without hesitation, friends began commenting. One friend called me out immediately stating, “…it’s very critical to say teachers vs. parents … as parents, we are our kids biggest teachers.”
A friend in Texas cited a personal friend who had recently retired from teaching, sharing, “biggest hindrance to a child’s education were parents –confronted with denial, threats and pleas to treat a child with individual attention because of the special child they obviously are.” This respected “Teacher of the Year” went on to share parental indifference rivaled long hours and low pay as the reasons for teachers leaving the field.
Other quotes from friends would include:
“The saying goes it takes a village to raise a child, it also rings true with their education.”
“The diversity of support and expectations seems to be misaligned (some want more for their children, some are happy not to pay for daycare anymore and some are in between).”
“This ‘my little angel’ denial by some parents has to stop.”
But when push comes to shove and our child starts to slip, where do we turn? We turn to their teacher, we turn to the Principal, we turn to the District. We point fingers, take names and stand on the soapbox of ‘what should have been done’ for little Johnny.
What I wonder is how many of us take the deep breath needed, the pause at the mirror, the moment of self-reflection? They are ‘our’ children. ‘We’ are ultimately responsible for their quality of life and education.
Yes, trusting ‘the system’ conceivably is a great idea. But it makes me wonder this:
A child plays football/soccer/tennis and the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are there for every crucial moment.
A child brings home Spelling Words, a Word List or Math homework and they are sat at a table or desk and left - as mom and dad prepare for the next day.
Where do you fall? Do me a favor. Before you head out that door, send out that e-mail or make that phone call, examine yourself as critically as you do the teacher you are about to criticize. If you come through it unscathed, then by all means - proceed.
A special Thank You to my Facebook friends for allowing me in to their heads. Future columns on this topic will follow, as we are just scratching the surface. To share your thoughts and views on this topic visit us on Facebook at Oakdale’s Mommy Musings.