Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Education: Going into Battle for Your Child

I taught for over thirty years.  This means not only did I meet a bunch of students along the route, but also I met a bunch of parents.  All of us have again and again been bombarded about how horrible the American education system is.  It is a political ploy.  Hate schools.  Hate teachers.  Hate curriculum.  Hate...hate...hate.

When was the last time you actually saw a positive movie like Stand by Me or Dead Poet's Society or Lean on Me that is not a sports movie?  When was the last time you saw a TV series that supported education instead of one that depicts silly or angst ridden teens with even dumber teachers?  We have moved away from the belief that teachers were someone who is there for kids, was to be respected, and wanted to raise truly independent thinkers.

At the beginning of every school year, many of my former students, now parents themselves, talk about issues they are having with teachers.  They are "battling" the teacher for what is best for their child.  Their poor child is over-whelmed by homework.  They seem to have forgotten that they too did or failed to do homework. They are not working with the teacher, or helping the teacher, or making sure the responsibility is shared by parent,  teacher and  child. No, they are battling the teacher.  Guess what? If you think that your child's teacher is your adversary and you must battle them, then there will be one loser: your child.

Invariably, another parent will chime in with  her horror story about doing battle and protecting the child in the comments on Facebook or publically over a cup of coffee.  The story will eventually end with "I finally had to pull the child out of that horrid school" and move him to the charter school or into a home school program.  I can tell you when such a parent does this, there is probably a relief at the school. Not for the loss of the child, but for not having to deal with a parent who is often more about herself than her child.

Another instance was when George Takei posted an over heard statement. It was one of those dumb things we hear all the time.  It was something like, "What if Canada decides to separate from the United States like Scotland thought about doing from England?" The comment that struck me was that one person  commented, "Another shining example of the failure of the American education system." This is the trained response. It is also terribly wrong.

The fact that Takei posted it means that most people will get how stupid it is, including the one who indicted all US schools everywhere.  The problem is that at no point does Takei say the statement was from an American.  We don't even know if the person went to school in public education.  They could have gone to private school or been home schooled or learned everything they know from Honey BooBoo. They could be Canadian, Irish, or Samoan for all we know.  Mr. Takei is a well-traveled person.  The fact that this person jumps to the position of blame teachers and the schools makes my point.

It's kind of like "Jay-Walking" where Jay Leno would go out to ask easy questions of people on the street.  Humorous? Yes.  We have no idea though how many people were asked that question before the perfect, moronic answer was found.  It is all founded on the premise that schools have failed us, even if they haven't.  Lies do not become the truth if repeated often enough; they become a lie that too many believe is the truth.

So as many of you are now getting ready to go to your child's parent-teacher conferences please keep in mind the vast majority of teachers are there for your child.  The ones that do the job badly are actually in a very small group. If you've run across a bad teacher, remember you must also teach your child that they must work in life with the good and the bad.  There are bad doctors and bad lawyers and bad parents.  There are super lawyers and super doctors and super parents.  There are super teachers, too.  Most though, be they lawyer, doctor, or parent, are doing their best.  They want to succeed.  The only way a teacher can succeed is if you are there for your child, not as your child's warrior knight.  The teacher does not need an adversary; the teacher needs a partner.   We all know that no matter how much testing we do or how much irrelevant junk politicians attach to evaluations, kids are not some inanimate object like a car.  Kids are individuals with needs that they don't even understand.  You see, teachers, like most parents, are doing the best they can.

If you are listening only to your child's story from school, you don't have the whole story.  I am not talking about ignoring stories of abuse but the typical kid stories. I would, on occasion, tell parents in conferences that if they would promise not to believe half of what they heard about me, I would promise not to believe half of what I heard about them.  I am not saying your child is lying to you, although that may be the case.  If you spent any time with a kid, you know the kid's perspective is usually pretty unique.  Remember some of them really do believe that they can grow up to be giraffes. Adolescents, besides having raging physical changes,  frequently see  in terms of a universe that centers on them.  There is no big picture, and time is of the moment not what might occur twenty years from now.  There is a reason that health care calls young people "The Immortals."

Teachers and schools are not the adversary.  No teacher worth his or her salt  wants to battle you.  Hiding history or moving it to reflect your political or religious beliefs proves only one thing, your child will never think and make good decisions.  The loser will be the kid.  If that's what you want...then go into battle, just remember who loses every single time you do.