Friday, September 13, 2013

I Used to Think...

I used to think bad teachers needed to be fired. Now I realize bad teaching largely exists because of a lack of exposure to good teaching.

I used to think homework was the way to reinforce learning. Now I realize it a tool used to coerce compliance and reinforce the notion of haves and have-nots in the home.

I used to think punishing a student would change their behavior. Now I realize most kids need to be taught how to behave and punishments reinforce a cycle of misbehavior.

I used to think we did not need administrators. Now I realize how valuable an effective administrative team can be and the impact it can have on teaching and learning.

I used to think parents were something to be feared and I only had to contact them when things were going badly in school. Now I realize the vital role parents play in creating strong partnerships between home and school and how impactful their involvement can be.

I used to think the more work I piled on a kid the more they would learn. Now I realize the more valuable the work I ask kids to do the more they will learn.

I used to think that modeling for students was always the best way to teach. Now I realize modeling can lead to copying and can rob students of true learning experiences.

I used to think Captain Crunch was a good breakfast food. Now I realize how horrible that is and defer to more healthy choices…like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

I used to think I could be a superhero and was responsible for saving the kids in my classroom. Now I realize I can’t do it alone and my responsibility reaches far beyond the walls of my classroom.

I used to think having technology in my room made me a better teacher. Now I realize technology will not transform my teaching without me first shifting my teaching.

I used to think kids were motivated by grades and that could increase engagement. Now I realize grades are often less a reflection of academic abilities but rather an indication of prowess at playing the game of school.  

I used to think the kids that always raised their hands were the smartest ones in the room. Now I realize the ones who rarely speak have the most to say and are often the ones worth listening to.


I used to think I was a good teacher. Now I realize that good is not good enough and I must to keep working to be better. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Parent Pushback

Lately, I am seeing a troubling trend that I am sure is not new, but as a “younger” parent I am starting to take notice of.  Many of my friends have kids starting back at school as well as countless members of my PLN online. My inboxes, streams and updates are flooded with great back to school pictures but also some complaints. It appears that lots of parents have experienced things with their child in school they are not happy with. This is not a terribly new occurrence but some of the reactions are not sitting right with me.

Parents are loathing the fact they have to sign a paper indicating if their child doesn’t turn their work in on time it will be marked as a zero. They post updates about the absurdity of a teacher’s homework calendar and insane amount of packets that are coming home nightly for completion. Some are even sharing personal stories about signing off on classroom rules and policies they completely disagree with. Another trend is children being injured at school and parents not being notified. This troubles me. If parents are upset enough to post and share about these things, then why are they not taking steps to change it? Why are they not at least making it a point of conversation with their child’s teacher or building staff?

When I begin questioning these individuals, they all have excuses about why they do not step up and push back on the classroom teacher. The most common answer is they don’t want their words or actions to be held against their child. There is a fear if they become “that parent” their child will be singled out and treated differently because of it. Another reason I have heard is many of these parents are teachers in their child’s district and have a level of anxiety over their jobs. If they push back as a parent, what will that mean for their role as a teacher?

I wish I had an easy answer to those problems because the sad reality is both of those things happen in some cases. I have seen this first hand and it is something in the back of my mind as a parent. I can’t defend those teachers and yet many teachers would welcome the parent feedback and others just may need to be pushed. As a teacher if I am doing something that is upsetting to a parent or family, I want to be aware of it. If not, I can’t change my practice or at least have an opportunity to explain my actions. On the other side of the fence, as a parent I feel that my children deserve the best education possible and will advocate as such in a professional and appropriate manner. If parents are not willing to standup for what they know or think is right, the inevitable outcome is more negative updates and inboxes.

Just as I feel teachers have a moral obligation to stand up for every child, do we not expect parents to do the same for their own? Yes, I recognize that many educators fear parents will be unreasonable or inappropriate in their perceived demands. If we as parents stand by and allow things we disagree with to be done to our children, we are part of the problem. On the other hand, if we as teachers do not provide opportunities and situations for parents to provide that feedback, then we are the bigger problem.


What are you doing as a parent to constructively push back on your child’s school or teacher? As a teacher, how are you providing a forum for this discussion to take place?