I have recently read your article, “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents” and found it to be ill-conceived, short sided and quite frankly wrong on many accounts. I am aware of your accolades and achievements as written in the editor’s note prior to the article but I will also point you to Rule #51 in your Essential 55 Rules, “Live so that you will never have regrets”. If you don’t already, I feel you will learn to regret writing this article. This article has the ability to create an even bigger chasm between Parents and Teachers. Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education, as proven by 20 years of research, is one of the most effective methods in a child’s academic success. Educating our children needs to be a partnership between Parents and Teachers. Especially, since school age children spend 70% of their time outside of school. Your article makes it painfully aware that your idea of a Parent – Teacher partnership is one where Parents do everything you ask without input or questions.
If you are unfamiliar with Joyce Epstein Ph.D.’s work she has created a National Standard for Parent/Family involvement after years of research for the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships at John Hopkins University. Below is her list of National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement.
1. Communicating. Design effective methods of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school events and student progress.
2. Parenting. Families should establish home environments that are conducive to learning.
3. Volunteer. Recruit parents for help and support in the school.
4. Learning At Home. Teachers give parents ideas on how they can help students with homework and other academic related activities.
5. Decision Making. Develop parent leaders by including them in school decisions.
6. Collaborating With Community. Involve the community with school programs, student learning, and family practices.
Schools and Teachers that follow the standards as outlined above are much more likely to have a Parent – Teacher partnership in education. For instance, in your article you say, “If we give you advice, don’t fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or a lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don’t want to hear anything negative about their child.” When I take advice from a doctor or a lawyer it is someone I have a relationship with and trust. If the first time I am hearing from a teacher is to tell me something negative about my child that conversation is not going to go well. Why, because that’s human nature? We trust the people we are closest with. Form a real partnership with parents and you will not get this type of reaction.
You go on to say in your article, “One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, “Is that true?” Well, of course it’s true. I just told you.” Ron, have you stopped to think that we are trying to teach our children responsibility and trust. Even if we have enough of a relationship with you to take you word unconditionally I would still ask my son the same question. Why, because I want him to learn to take responsibility for his actions. I refer you once again to your essential 55 rules, #53 which states, “No matter the circumstances, always be honest.” Please do not question my methods for raising my child and to teach honesty. While we might have a partnership on his education, we do not have a partnership on how I raise him.
Lastly, you bring up the point regarding Teachers walking on eggshells. You state, “I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on egg-shells in a watered-down education system whose teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make the slightest mistake, it can become a major disaster.” While, I agree with this sentiment it is not for the reason you state. We live in a watered-down education system because the system is broken and School Districts are more concerned with budgets than education. Teachers by the tens of thousands are being let go and they fear being one of the causalities so they do the best they can with the limited resources they have available to them. This lack of resources is an even greater reason to make sure the Parent – Teacher partnership is strong. Teachers are often times stuck between the School District budget policies and Parents dedication to their children and that is the real reason Teachers walk on eggshells.
Your rule number 52 on the Essential 55 Rules is, “Learn from your mistakes and move on.” I very much hope you will learn from your mistakes and try to move on by making amends with the Parents you offended with your article.