A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A teacher's work is never done, part dos

Well, my previous question certainly touched more than just MY last nerve!

The parents can set up a weekly progress report to be automatically emailed to them.

First, the first kid got a D in my class. I had been in consistent if not harassing contact with the parent regarding my concerns not just in my class, but in patterns I was seeing overall across this student's classes. The parents and I had a lovely little electronic conversation going there. I told the AP, very tactfully, of my concerns. He then told me that it wasn't me about whom the parents had the concern, so that I didn't have to do it, just touch base with the parents as needed-- which I have been doing.

I believe that that is what teachers should do. I am a parent, and I have been somewhat unhappy with the amount of contact I received from one of my children's teachers, so I know how it feels. But! These same parents have been known to pull their child out of class at the drop of a hat, so that grade could drop to a B awfully fast, and it really shouldn't be a surprise.

The call-me-with-any-missing-assignment person's kid got a C. And I am fine with having the kid call, but other teachers have been told that doing this during class time embarasses the students and hurts their self-esteem, so they are supposed to do it during their prep time. Now I don't know about you, but my prep time is completely-- COMPLETELY-- used up doing little things like grading and planning and talking to counselors and answering emails and attending IEP meetings. Not to mention that I already have been staying an extra hour and a half to two hours at school every day. I'll tell you one thing-- I leave after every administrator has gone home.

The greater problem here is that there seems to be no end to the demands placed upon us, and there are only so many hours in the day. The same administrators who admonish teachers not to give too much homework have no problem introducing new expectations seemingly weekly. And this is even more annoying given that the parents can see these things for themselves if they will only make the effort to check instead of depending upon someone else to intiate.

Now I love my job. I love my students. But eventually, the parents and students have to realize that an education really isn't "free," no matter what anyone may say. It requires at least as much effort at their end as it does at mine.


At 1/6/07, 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's too bad that some parents cannot see the difference between advocating for their kid and becoming an enabler for irresponsible behavior.

I have felt your pain.

At 1/6/07, 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love that picture, and the legend too. I am very big on parental contact as well, and I couldn't really do my job without it.

At 1/6/07, 10:21 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

I too, love to speak with parents and I never fail to respond at warp speed to any parental inquiry. But that is generally the determining factor for me, my prime directive: a parental inquiry. In other words, they take the initiative to actually become involved in the lives of their children and do their part to see that the children value and pursue education. Are there special cases where I might agree to make periodic contacts first? Yes, but rarely as it breachs the prime directive.

I don't see the teacher/parent-student education balance as 50/50. I've thought on this issue often for many years. I am one of many teachers a student will have in a 12 year primary education. My job is to provide, given the resources provided me by the public, the best daily educational opportunity (opportunity is the most meaningful word here) I can manage. If I am doing that, I am meeting my primary burden. Of course, any dedicated teacher knows the job requires much more than that minimum, but even that minimum takes considerable knowledge, skill, dedication and huge dollops of time.

So what is the proper percentage? I'm still not sure. But since we have two parents and one child involved on one side of the equation and me on the other, I'm leaning more and more toward 75/25 every day.

In my high school, despite having teacher websites on which we must post complex and complete lesson plans, our principal had the bright idea that we must now send out monthly calendars by e-mail essentially recreating the lesson plans! So I tried. I offered 150 extra credit points for any student whose parents sent me a e-mail identifying themselves. To date, I have e-mail addresses for about 1/4 of my students. The results of a trial e-mail message requesting mere acknowledgement of my e-mail? Two parents responded and 1/2 of the messages came back undeliverable. I also send out letters--personalized letters on school letterhead--to parents every three weeks (we have 6 week grading periods with midterm progress reports) for each and every failing student, and personalized letters whenever I have to engage in any discipline more in depth than handling something in the classroom. I stopped trying to make phone calls years agao--it was ridiculously time consuming for too little contact. I guess I'm just not sure how much more I can do to be in touch with parents other than actually visiting their homes and demanding to be admitted to harangue them, and I won't do that because my district won't let me carry appropriate weapons.

At 1/7/07, 1:24 AM, Anonymous Jonathan said...

Since I missed your first post: Call anytime the grade falls beneath a B? Not reasonable. Call for any missing homework? Not reasonable.

Among other things, I am often a week / week plus behind in grading.

But if a student is failing, or close to failing, I reach out. If a student has a sudden drop that cannot be easily remedied (shocking drop in test score without obvious reason, or several consecutive missing assignments from a student who normally doesn't miss), I call.

And I usually have some early contact with parents (usually at Parent Teacher Conferences) where I make clear that they are always welcome to reach out to me. And I return calls immediately.

But the standing order to call? No. The parent needs to take a piece of the initiative as well.

At 1/7/07, 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love me some despair.com. Much truth is distilled there.

You've touched on many truths as well: parents who leave reason behind, administrators who generate busy-work, teachers who care too much to turn their backs.

At 1/7/07, 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I hate the little parental involvement, I think I'd hate over involvement even more.

At 1/7/07, 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what is worse: the parents who drive you crazy wanting to know EVERYTHING, or the ones who never show up and don't care about how their kids are doing academically, but then freak out when Little Johnny tells them you took up his cell phone.

At 1/7/07, 2:24 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

aisby and janet-- the answer is:


At 1/7/07, 5:24 PM, Anonymous mrschili said...

"parents and students have to realize that an education really isn't "free," no matter what anyone may say. It requires at least as much effort at their end as it does at mine."

Uh-uh - I disagree: it requires MORE effort on their part than it should on yours. You've already EARNED your education. Your job - as I'm sure you're aware - is to lead those pretty little horses to water. Whether they deign to bow their heads enough to drink is entirely out of your hands.

At 1/8/07, 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhat off-topic:

Despair.com rocks my world. In my office, I have "Potential" taped up on my bookshelf.

Mrschili: two words for your delightful comment...bra. vo. :)

At 1/13/07, 8:20 PM, Blogger Bybee said...

Oh, and I had been getting all gooey and homesick to return to the US and resume teaching ESL at some high school! What WAS I thinking?! How could I have forgotten Assistant Principals? How could I have forgotten the heavy handed guilt trips when you complain about overwork: "Well, it's obvious you're not dedicated. Perhaps you don't have any business being a teacher."

Thanks, Ms. Cornelius...you've saved me from my sentimental & patriotic self. It's difficult to live in a foreign country, but I'd rather live where I'm much appreciated and slightly underworked.


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