Monday, December 17, 2007

Apple for the teacher

Listening to the radio today, I heard the best suggestion that I've heard since someone told me that marshmallow fluff tasted good with peanut butter.

If you have a school-aged child, instead of giving his or her teacher some cheap-o spa kit from Walgreens or some stinky candle, write a letter of appreciation.

I would add, be specific. If you particularly like that your child's teacher does experiential learning instead of lots of worksheets, say so and cite a particular lesson that your child came home talking about.

My own experience as a teacher has some really ugly moments with parents. Several times I had to respond to parents who wanted to know why their child wasn't getting an A in an Honors class that the parent had waived the child into over her other teacher's objections. "But she works so hard!" I was called into my department chair's office to explain something that a parent had gone over my head to my boss about. 7 times out of 8, it was regarding something that never happened but the parent never thought to doubt their darling child's interpretation. Occasionally, parents would call the principal directly. Have these people never heard of a chain of command? They had to go directly to the big boss without letting me explain myself first? Every evaluation that has every been written about me describes my methods as exemplary and uses phrases like -I swear to God - "We are lucky to have a teacher like Rebecca."

My mother is currently embroiled in strife because the parents of 2 or 3 students have nothing better to do than call the superintendent of the district because they think that 4 movies in a semester of 7th grade social studies is too many. Really? My mom has a bachelors degree in Education, a masters degree in Teaching and Learning and over 30 hours of post-graduate classes in Education. She's raised 4 children and taught junior high for over 10 years. But these parents feel qualified to judge her pedagogical methods as bad? To the person who runs the entire district? Without ever asking her why she felt like those videos were appropriate in the first place?

I taught 150 kids a year. My mother has around 100 kids. That means that 95% or more of parents are at least indifferent to the way we teach. I bet a fair number more than 5% actually like us as teachers. How much better would we feel if that 5% made as much effort as the 5% that don't like us to tell both us and our bosses that their children's lives are better for spending 50 minutes a day in our class.

If you don't have school-aged children, mention this idea to those friends of yours who do. It will make Christmas a more beautiful time for a whole lot of people.


Dave said...

we unfortunately live in a results-oriented, return-on-investment minded society where superintendents and principals get to play exciting new roles like, "community mediators," and "marketing directors," and the always exciting "cage match referee."

your mom should politely tell these parents to offer constructive feedback directly to her in the future. if not, then they can go play in traffic.

Evenewra said...

I am a teacher with lots of teacher friends. One friend told me this story...

One of her second graders said a bad word at home. The parent asked where he learned the word, and he said he got it from his teacher.

The parent went to the teacher who said, "I'll tell you what. You don't believe everything he tells you and I won't believe everything he tells me."

Not a good response for some situations, but great for some others.