Thursday, September 9, 2010

What not to say....

My good friend posted on Facebook yesterday that one of her kids' teachers said, "Ok. You all need to stop talking now. I hate this class already."

As of now she has 20 comments. Several comments were negative towards tenure (the program where teachers who have worked for 3 years in their position get a "job for life" and it is nearly impossible to fire them). I certainly understand resentment towards tenure. However, I also understand the comments - several left by teachers - saying that this isn't indicative of how the vast majority of teachers feel or teach. Some, like me, begged her to contact the school (I said she should bring it higher, to the Assistant Superintendent). She said her kid didn't want her to.

What would have I done? I would have called. Immediately! It isn't in my nature to wait and see. I'm hot headed and I just can't help myself. 

Would that have been in the best interest of my child? Probably not. It would be easy for the teacher to find out who called. That would give a teacher ample fuel to "punish" my kid through indirect means. We've all seen that teachers can treat students unfairly.

One of the bad things about Facebook is that it is designed for people like me. The hot-headed, fast typing type. I'm always quick with a response to people's status. 
The school district, on the other hand, is NOT designed for people like me. When I have made complaints to the school about a teacher or a program or a curriculum issue, or a general trend - this blog began with me being upset about how hard it is to get a child into special programs - I have NEVER changed anything! The principal sides generally with the teacher. The Board of Ed claims they want input, but they really just want to say they have invited people to speak. They rarely give a direct response to anyone at the podium and I am not sure if I have ever heard anyone's input result in any change. (One on one they may say something different, en masse they never say much at all and tend to vote unanimously). The PTO... well, let's just say it depends on who is running the show and while I'm biased toward a certain couple of gems, I cringe at hearing the names of others. Some are clearly on the PTO with ulterior motives (just as certain BOE members). It leaves the average Mom feeling helpless. So why complain?!


But back to the student-hating teacher mentioned above: what can you do? What should you do? Is the better course of action to contact the school and end up in a he-said/she-said debate with the Principal who will generally side with the teacher he/she hired, and risk a bad relationship with the school where you have to deal with the staff for several years to come? Is it better to go straight to the Assistant Superintendent who seems to have no idea what really goes on in a classroom? Is it better to bite your tongue, and tell your kid to deal with it? Then again, if teachers hate kids enough to tell them aloud on the first day of school, and they "have to stay" in their job, isn't it in the TEACHER'S best interest to get out of the classroom and your responsibility as a parent to help prevent this teacher from continuing in the classroom? Since you can't fire someone for saying something like that, isn't the best course of action to find a different job within the system where he/she doesn't actually have to deal with students? Why did the budget crisis lead to firing tons on non-tenured staff but this beastly teacher gets to stay? Would merit pay have helped to get rid of such a hateful teacher? Probably not. 


In general my kids said they heard more about disciplinary procedures, than on what they will be learning this year. Perhaps all teachers (beyond K-3) have to start this way to nip problems in the bud? All I know is that no one had homework but me - and mine was signing my name to papers... at least one was regarding consequences for negative behavior. Nothing about promoting good behavior or good results. 


I have taken several hours to write letters of recommendation for various teachers throughout the years. Each holiday I've spent a small fortune to remind teachers and staff that we care. It's when things go wrong that it's a conundrum.


I've said what I would do if my kid came home with a description like that. Like it or not, my nature would push me to contact the school. But what would you do?

4 comments:

Diary of a Social ART-tivist Mommy said...

I am a mother and a teacher.....your friend sould have said something to the teacher then and there and written a letter to the principal. But the idea that most teachers are like that is not even close to true. what I don't get is this deep animosity towards teachers in general as if we are all taking advantage of the system. I tell people everyday....you come do my job one day and I will listen to what you have to say....otherwise you have no idea what a day in teaching is like. I teach 6 classes a day, 600+ kids a week.....asied from that I do free clubs afterschool, post a blog with about 60-100 pictures a week of the kids for the families. (www.murchrt.blogspot.com)....


I agree, bad teachers need to go....but most teachers are there b/c they care and try very hard to do well by their kids....

Miriam
2 great articles to read: http://newpol.org/node/363

Poppet said...

I never meant to insinuate that most teachers are like that, but sadly there are too many "burned out teachers" who work in our schools. We have all encountered them, even in our own experience as students. The pay-system encourages teachers to stay in teaching as long as possible because salary increases are accrued through time (and additional education - like a MA or M.Ed.)and they think "well, it's only 7 more years" when they would be much happier - and so would the kids - if they cut their loses and tried a different profession.

Saying you love kids and actually liking the hard-to-love ones are two different things. After someone has been in teaching for 10 years they may have grown very sick of 7th graders - but are "stuck" and have to stay until the end to get the best benefits increases. I am assuming that this teacher is one of them - although I don't know for sure. I never said that teachers are rich, or "overpaid" or anything like that. What I meant was that the newest teachers are paid very little, with promise of higher salaries to come (as with many jobs).

That said, I have both family and friends who are teachers. It is a hard and not always well-understood job. What makes a "great teacher" for one student may be the warm fuzzy approach. What works for another may be direct instruction and structure. But families who say "oh, my kid (or "I") had a great teacher may see these qualities very differently.

The teachers who have really touched my kids have also become people that I truly care about and have let them know - I hope - how much their impact has meant to me.

I also think that some teachers don't realize how cranky they really seem. Recently a teacher who I would have described as "not very nice" spoke at length about how much she loves children and the most important part of her job is watching them grow in their interest in their academic pursuits.

As parents we aren't in the classroom (that's a good thing) all the time to keep watch. But we do expect a certain amount of compassion, most especially on the first day when *everyone* should be on their best behavior.

Anonymous said...

Tell us who this teacher is and my husband and I will make sure that our child does not have to be subject to this "teacher's" hatred. ;)

Poppet said...

To be honest, I don't know which teacher it is. I will ask my friend who has a child in her class and if she feels comfortable divulging it, I'll post it.