parent problem #3: enablement

in case you haven’t figured it out by now, i have become a big fan of ron clark (author and former disney teacher of the year winner) and the piece he wrote for cnn.com entitled, “what teachers really want to tell parents.”

my wife and son are public school teachers and, while they both love kids and are working diligently to fulfill their mandate, are ensnared in a system that is hopelessly broken.  my perspective is a little different.  as a long-time youth pastor, i worked to support the teachers and the system.  an outsider, i saw myself as a partner and advocate, and worked hard to make viable connections between the school, the community, and the church.

sadly, i encountered circumstance after circumstance of overbearing parents spoiling the process by enabling laziness, making ridiculous demands, and undermining the authority of teachers/administrators by berating them in front of their child.

please forgive me for being so dogmatic, but i love kids, and i grieve when i see short-sighted, self-absorbed parents pronounce a death sentence on their child’s future prospects.  so…

i am taking clark’s points, one at a time, and sharing them with you, my bloggy buddies, along with a few pithy comments of my own.

3. Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor

And parents, you know, it’s OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don’t set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It’s a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.

This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn’t assume that because your child makes straight A’s that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, “My child has a great teacher! He made all A’s this year!”

Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it’s usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal’s office.

Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has “given” your child, you might need to realize your child “earned” those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.

And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

dear parents,

please allow me to clarify something for you.  when your child cheats on a test, he is not a criminal.  he is a cheater.

that is all.

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