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

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A teacher's work is never done

Okay, here's the scenario: A parent has asked that all of a (16 year old) student's teachers call him if his daughter's grades drop below a B. By the way, the grades are available over the internet, and the parent has internet access. Yet another parent has requested that she be called any time her offspring does not turn in an assignment, with the same caveat regarding grades and the internet.

Mind you, a certain teacher (who looks remarkably like a certain simian named Ms. Cornelius) has maintained both phone and email contact with said parental units, although not at the level they are now attempting to acquire.

Now the question: Reasonable, or not?


At 1/4/07, 5:20 PM, Anonymous Mario said...

I don't think it's reasonable. It's not the teacher's responsibility to call in the first place. It only becomes an issue if it seems chronic. The fact that all of this information is available for the parent to monitor only makes it worse.

The parent not only does not want to make any effort, but they want to be able to complain each time to the teacher and push more responsibility onto the teacher. The only person the parent ought to be complaining to is his or her kid.

Let the parent ask the kid if he or she has been turning in homework and studying for tests. And if the kid lies, punish the Dickens out of the little darling -- take away privileges and such.

There are fewer and fewer real parents left.

At 1/4/07, 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I often have this request, and I always deny it (politely). I explain to the parent that I would be more than happy to respond to a weekly email originating from them, with their student's grades. With all those resources available to them, I think the request is unreasonable. And why doesn't the student have to report to the parent?

At 1/4/07, 5:58 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

That is not reasonable. Even if they did not have access to grades on line, it would not be reasonable. In my district, after the 3rd week of a six weeks a grade below 75% or one that drops 10 percentage points requires a progress report.

Since our parents did not have access to grades on line, I would print a progress report for each child each week after I had 5 grades.

But it was more for the kids. I was teaching 5th grade a the time, and they were just getting how one failed assignment or missing assignment would hurt them.

When I recieved requests like this I would show them the relevent part of the student handbook and grading policy, along with a copy of their signed statement that they had read the handbook and grading policy. (No make up work for work a child failed hand in during class is district policy).

At 1/4/07, 6:10 PM, Blogger La Maestra said...

Not at all reasonable, and the teacher that looks like you is going waaaay out of her way.

Elementary school is one thing, high school is another kettle of fish altogether.

At 1/4/07, 7:17 PM, Anonymous Ivory said...

Not. Resist.

At 1/4/07, 7:35 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

In our district, which has computers and software that hover at 10 years and more behind the times, parents cannot track their kiddie's averages, let alone grades on individual assignments via the internet. So, Each Monday, I give each student a little yellow stick-on note with their average as of the previous Friday. We do have websites, of a sort, and post lesson plans, of a sort on the net. and send out progress reports every 3 weeks and report cards every 6 weeks.

Is it my responsibility to notify a parent whenever little Johnny falls behind? No. I get such requests rarely, and when I do, I tend to respond to them promptly and with great appreciation and encouragement, but I explain to parents that we complete, on average, four assignments a week. If little Johnny is just barely passing, he could well be failing on Monday, but passing on Tuesday, failing on Wednesday, passing on Thursday, etc.

My ultimate solution is to tell parents of my internet lesson plans and of my Monday grade distribution. then I ask them to e-mail whenever they have a question or want information, informing them that I'll be sitting at the very computer I need to retrieve grade information and will be able to answer them quickly. I explain that there are 100+ kids and only one of me and that if I am to continue my policy of returning every assignment the day after I receive it, I need every minute of my time in school and can't try to remember who needs phone calls and for which reasons.

I've never had a parent see this as unreasonable. But I never cease to be amazed at how utterly disengaged most parents appear to be from their offspring. I suspect, in fact, that most of my students have no biological parents and were hatched in test tubes. In any case, it's about time that parents and students took a bit of responsibility in the education process. Spoon feeding this kind of information is not the way to acheive it.

At 1/4/07, 8:20 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, there's a little twist I left out accidentally....
an assistant principal actually requested that the teachers do this.

At 1/4/07, 9:52 PM, Anonymous mrc said...

Isn't it interesting how those APs always find something time-consuming for you to do, but never want to take on extra work for themselves? Is the AP proposing you do this for all students, or just a particular problem case? I would object, but not too strenuously.

Check the Ed Code and know the legal requirements for notification of possible failure. Make sure you meet those, but my goodness... we all have more effective things to do with our time than run around parenting our students' parents. I also respond quickly and fully to parent emails, but it's surprising how few of them (none, actually) will follow through and email you every week to ask for an update. I'm not someone else's set-it-and-forget-it child grade alarm and neither are you.

At 1/4/07, 10:08 PM, Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Completely unreasonable! No way!

At 1/5/07, 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*mmm* I'd say it depends on the parent. If the parent is actually going to follow up on the information, and work with you to keep their child on track, I'd be all for it. Otherwise, no.

That being said, I'd be more interested in supporting/working with the 'missing assn' parent vs. the '< B' parent.

I currently have a few students who are on the 'you don't hand it in, I call your parents' plan, per their parents request - these are students who were failing Alg I for the third time, and it was one of the things their parents and I agreed upon to get them to do better. (The students now hand in all their work, and have pulled their grades up to Bs - and it only took ONE phone call to ONE of the parents before the whole batch realized I'd follow through.)

At 1/5/07, 12:40 AM, Blogger The MAN Fan Club said...

Just another reason for them NOT to be responsible or to have someone else to blame.

At 1/5/07, 6:09 AM, Anonymous mrschili said...

NOT reasonable, and for a host of reasons.

16 year olds should have been taught by this time to be responsible for themselves. Mario's right - there ARE fewer and fewer real parents left.

You have nothing better to do all day than to call parents to give them information they can get with a few keystrokes? I think not. Send a note home giving them web links and instructions for obtaining passwords and call it even.

Your AP is way out of line. If he (I'm assuming it's a he - not sure why - perhaps because all my negative AP experiences have been with males?) thinks it's so important that the school notify the parents, ask HIM to look up the kids' grades and make the calls.


At 1/5/07, 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um...is an admin assistant also going to be hired to keep track of all of these requests?

Not reasonable. If I were a parent, I would never expect such a thing. I would hold myself responsible for knowing my kid's grades and progress.

Seriously, though...it's really a shame that a technological solution can't be found. I know. There's no money for it; it all goes to helping the kids, etc. But in the hands of a good techie, what you've already got could probably be leveraged to ease some of the burden. I do it all the time for the needy executives who refuse to check anything online for themselves.

At 1/5/07, 9:44 AM, Blogger MommyProf said...

That seems like too much for the teacher, but I wonder if there is a technical solution that could pull the grades from the grade database and e-mail them automatically? I understand that you have too much to do and not enough time as a teacher, but on the other hand, if you want parents to be responsible*, I don't know that you want to encourage their attempts to do so. Maybe there is a creative solution?

*I'm not a teacher, but I do have elementary age kids in Sunday School and Brownies and the parental irresponsibility drives me nuts, too...and I'm not accountable for the outcomes in these settings.

At 1/5/07, 6:07 PM, Anonymous Polski3 said...

IF the parent asked me, I might. Our JHS has a daily planner and we put current grades in it on a regular basis.

However, please consider if this was a request from your AP or was it a mandate? Was it done in a personal manner or via a memo/email from your AP? If your AP mandated this brief communication with the parent, then maybe you should consider it an inconvienent necessity.

In my experience, the parents we teachers need to talk to are the ones we cannot.....no phone, faulty phone numbers, failure to respond to requests on progress reports or messages left on an answering machine or message service......

At 1/5/07, 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



Especially if the numbers are available online.

Or let the oh-so-helpful AP check up on the kid and make the calls.

I love my kids, and I tend to like their parents. I will teach them and I will role model for them. Both.

I will not wipe their noses for them, no. Either.

At 1/6/07, 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not reasonable, and I'm not a teacher or a parent.

At 1/6/07, 10:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I agree that it is unreasonable. However, as a parent, I would add that it depends upon the competency of the teacher. Last semester, my ninth grader missed assignments due to illness. Because the teacher was not updating her gradebook regularly, we had a difficult time with catch-up. Should my daughter be more responsible? Absolutely. I just haven't have much luck in the Land of "Should".

At 1/6/07, 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not. Particularly since the info is available to the parent.

A similar solution that puts the burden on the kid (where it belongs) is for the parent to require the kid to maintain an asignment book -- a place to write down all assignments. At the end of each day, it is the kid's responsibility to show the written assignments to the teacher at the end of class. teacher initials (this only takes less than 10 seconds of teacher's time and attention). Parent checks book at end of each day and requires kid to show parent completed assignments before they are turned in. Teacher's responsibility is ONLY to sign off on the kid's having written down the assignment. The rest is up to the kid and the parents.

The weak point is parents who don't follow up -- and then want someone else to do the keeping track -- by making weekly phone calls --- hmmmm.

At 1/6/07, 12:05 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Not reasonable.

Like your school, my grades are online. At the beginning of the year, I communicated with the parents that I would do my very best to update the grades once a week (I teach 5 different classes, so I assigned a day of the week to each one). I've missed this once or twice so far, but have always caught up very quickly. The amount of parent emails I've gotten this year regarding grades, missing assignments, etc has dropped considerably from last year.

I would communicate (graciously) to the AP that this request seems unreasonable. Perhaps he has other information (parents don't have internet access or something) that makes the request seem reasonable to him.

Following that I would communicate with the parents that you will gladly respond to requests for this information from parent or child, but cannot call each week. Suggest that the responsibility be put on the 16-year-old: each Friday (s)he is responsible to talk to you about the grade and any missing assignments, perhaps recording something and getting your initials, and then report back to mommy and daddy.

At 1/6/07, 5:39 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks for all the feedback!

See my latest post for an update.

At 1/6/07, 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The parents are f**king idiots who believe that you are their personal servant because they pay taxes.

Okay, maybe I'm connecting this a little too close to my own personal experience.

At 1/7/07, 11:28 AM, Blogger Nic said...

I have 155 students. Imagine if I had to do this every time any kid missed an assignment (and I upload my gradebook to the internet site several times a week, too.) Good grief.

At 1/7/07, 12:34 PM, Anonymous Mario said...

Ms. Whatsit -- my girlfriend, who teaches 7th grade English, was talking about this "I pay your salary" attitude among the worst of the parents. She wondered how well that line would work should one of these parents use that the next time a cop pulled them over.

Suggest that the next time someone says it.

At 1/10/07, 2:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not reasonable; no way, no how. End of story.


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