Friday, February 27, 2015


Parent-Teacher Responsibilities in Education

Although the responsibilities of parents and educators are difficult, their division is quite simple:

          ·      PARENTS are responsible for seeing that their children attend school regularly, arrive on time, bring their assignments, and are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to learn.
          ·      TEACHERS are responsible for teaching every child according to his or her needs, in keeping with the curriculum and objectives, using the most effective pedagogical approaches, and their specialized knowledge and experience.

         ·      ADMINISTRATORS and STAFF are responsible for supporting students, teachers and parents to enhance teaching and learning.

Accomplishing each of these jobs is difficult, and requires effort, dedication, and commitment.  The ultimate goal of helping each child achieve his or her unique potential is dependent on each of the three components accomplishing their specific assignments.  When a child fails to learn, one or more of these components is malfunctioning (failing).  Over the past 50 years, I have played all of these roles – none is easy; all are essential.  I have great empathy and understanding for each of these as they strive together to achieve the goal.  I have absolutely no patience for those who seek to excuse their own failings by blaming others.

On checking Social Media this morning, I encountered a request from a grandparent, asking readers to publically chastise a school administrator for punishing a child for being tardy to school.  The grandparent was absolutely right that the first grader should not be the one punished for being late – the parent should be punished.  If you read the “rest of the story” you will find that this was not a one time occurrence, but that the Mother “sometimes” has difficulties starting her car, and THIS makes the child late.  So we see that this is a recurring pattern.  The parent has a number of options that DO NOT make her child regularly late to school: (1) get up earlier so the faulty car starter won’t make the child late; (2) fix the car starter; (3) make alternative arrangement to get your child to school on time.  The parent, NOT the car is responsible for getting her child to school.  The teacher and the principal are NOT responsible for the parent’s thoughtless irresponsibility.  She should be apologizing, not admonishing.

Getting a group of 20 or more young children into a school, into a classroom, settled down, and ready to begin their lessons is a challenging task, and when just one student arrives late, the entire process is disrupted, and every student loses valuable learning time.  It is estimated that one child arriving late in a class of 20 students means a 3-5 minute interruption, costing a total of 60 to 100 minutes of lost instructional time.  A negligent, irresponsible parent who repeatedly brings her child to school late is depriving all of the other students of their RIGHT to an optimal education.  The parent of this child places her “right” to sleep late ahead of the needs of every child in this class.  And if that isn’t bad enough, this parent wants to punish the teacher and principal for not simply accepting her irresponsible behavior.

In an optimal world, this negligent, irresponsible parent would be subject to punishment, but in our system, the Mother is immune from direct repercussions for her actions.  Hence, the innocent child is punished for the “sins of the parent.”  This biblical quote is intensely accurate, but it is not God who punishes the child for the parent’s transgressions.  Children suffer over and over from the “sins” (irresponsibility, selfishness, thoughtlessness, neglect, and ignorance) of their parents, and educators are forced to watch their suffering.

In every classroom, every morning, I can find one or more children too tired and sleepy to do their schoolwork.  They don’t get enough sleep for their brains to function properly because their parents are too ignorant or too lazy to enforce a regular bedtime.  The brain cannot mature or function without sleep.  It is estimated that over half of the children taking medication for ADD suffer from brain malfunctions related to lack of sleep.

In every classroom, every morning, I can find one or more children who are so hungry that they are irritable and unable to focus on their work.  Some of these children are hungry because there is no food in their home, but almost half are hungry because no parent was willing to get up and prepare breakfast for them.  The brain cannot mature or function optimally without proper nourishment, and most experts agree that breakfast is the most essential meal of the day.

In most classrooms, there are children suffering from malnutrition from improper diets.  Indeed, some of these are malnourished and overweight, suffering from disorders related to excessive consumption of sugars and starches, and a lack of fresh vegetables and fruits.

In most classrooms, I can show you one or more children who are suffering physical and mental distress from lack of exercise.  They don’t come to school ready to learn because a basic physical need is not being met.  They need to run and play, and no parent is making certain they have these opportunities.

In most classrooms on any given day, there will be at least one child who is physically sick, and should not be in school.  Too many parents can’t or won’t take time to care for their sick children, so all the children and the schools suffer.

In too many classrooms, I can identify children suffering from anxiety and anger disorders from listening to parents who are constantly angry and shouting and cursing.  I can show you children suffering from parental drug and alcohol addictions.  Indeed, I can show you a few children who are simultaneously suffering from all of the above.

AND in way too many classrooms I can show you teachers, who simply can’t take it any more.  They are expected to help each of these “neglected” and “abused” children, while protecting, teaching, and never neglecting the other children in their classrooms.  Guess what, this is an impossible task.  Too many teachers, who love children and teaching, cannot bear to stand as witnesses to the daily suffering of innocent children.  These teachers are being driven from their profession by parents who are not fulfilling their responsibilities.  The dropout rate among teachers is greater now than ever, and in too many cases, it is the “best,” the most caring, the most dedicated who are being driven out. 

Wake up America’ recognize the intrinsic difficulties of teaching; honor and support struggling teachers.  Tell the politicians to back off, and let teachers make decisions.  Tell irate parents to judge themselves before judging a teacher.  Tell everyone to support and encourage, not crucify, those who are brave enough to enter a classroom and try to make a difference in children’s lives.

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