Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teacher Parents

I am a teacher. I'm also a parent. I have high expectations of my son's teachers. I live by those expectations in my own classroom, so in early September when Alec Couros tweeted his disappointment in his daughters kindergarten classroom I sympathized.  At the time, I was knee deep in the swamp of the start of a new school year, but his thinking stayed with me.

Edu-bloggers picked up Couros' tweet and conversations ran long into the comments. Lee Kolbert blogged Couros' tweet. Honest and transparent, her post  "I'm Not Who You Think I Am" detailed how practical realities of her own classroom (rules, procedures and even textbooks) have their place. We aren't doing project based learning 100% of the time after all, are we? I've had many "I'm not who you think I am" moments but that's another post. Will Richardson also blogged Couros' tweet with "A Parent 2.0's Back to School Dilemma." Richardson took the parent view. He wrote about his disappointment and how he and his wife mediate it: by introducing themselves,  by co-schooling, by emailing resources (and cc-ing the principal).

Last week I listened to Lee Kolbert, Will Richardson and Penny Lindballe on Parents as Partners, an Ed Tech Talk show. The topic? Teacher parents, the recent blog conversations and how to mediate our disappointments.

Perfectly timed the Sunday night show helped me think about how I wanted to present myself and our classroom to parents at Open House last Tuesday.  Do I model learning passion for parents that I hope I live for my students? It also got me thinking about what I do to seek solutions to disappointments with my son's teachers. Do I complain or do I get involved? Answers to all will be  forthcoming. For now, I'm off to school.


  1. Nice post and thanks for continuing the conversation. It's got a lot of people, including me, still thinking and reevaluating their teaching and parenting behaviors. I think that's a good thing. For the record and I could be wrong, but I don't think it was Will who said he would CC: the principal on all of his suggestions. I seem to recall it was a commenter on his post.

  2. Last year our daughter's language arts teacher was ... not good. At first, my strategy was to tell myself, "Just shut up."

    That didn't last long as the situation deteriorated. So I contacted the teacher without mentioning what I do for a living. She responded with a bunch of hoo-ha that didn't even make sense, so I went to the principal, again not playing any of the cards that would probably have enhanced my credibility in any other situation.

    The principal got it. She asked us to be a little more patient and the teacher to try a little harder.

    Our patience lasted much longer than the teacher's new leaf, so when I couldn't stand it any more, I pulled out all the stops: quoted experts, provided research, invited informed dialogue, etc.

    The principal didn't directly respond to any of that but advised taking my daughter out of the class, which thrilled everybody in our household.

    So, what's the lesson? When they didn't know I was a teacher considered something of an authority on language arts instruction, nothing happened. When that landed on the table, they moved quickly on behalf of my daughter but not the other kids who were suffering through the same class.

  3. I too am a teacher parent and am a huge supporter of changing our educational system. The problem is that as a teacher we at times have no control over what is dictated for us to do in our classroom. We also have to realize that those parents that even have good intentions can sometimes sabotage what a teacher is attempting to do in their classroom and the relationship that teachers can have with their students.
    As a parent I caution other parents in how they approach teachers. If we do it in a confrontational way that is all we will have, a confrontation. Thanks for the post

  4. Thank you, Lee,
    Will actually did say he would cc the principal. It's number 4 on the list of what he and his wife do, but his email with the cc seemed to be just suggestions of resources, not a critical sort of email. He said, "4. We occasionally send links with resources to specific teachers and cc the principal."

    It is a good conversation. I'm usually much more of a listener, but this one really hit home, so I thought I'd try and start writing about it. Risky as that feels.

  5. Gary that sickens me. It sickens me because is that how our system responds? Is that all we can do to improve instruction in schools? That must have been so difficult for you all. Yeesh. Hoo ha! At the same time, I know in my heart that teaching is a continuum-- some of us are at the beginning, left of center; others are in the middle, still others, like yourself, are far to the right. We develop expertise. Though I feel sorry for the students that may have suffered through my early years as a teacher, I was always willing to live that new leaf. I always looked for answers. Thank you for your comment and getting me thinking even more... will you be at NCTE?

  6. Thank you, JWatson, You're right. Teachers in my state work under mandates. Teachers at schools across the country must find ways to make instruction engaging even in the face of unrealistic mandated instruction. Parents do sometimes undermine teachers. One look at the comments at Lee Kolbert or Will Richardson's post shows us that even teacher parents can undermine teachers. It is an interesting conundrum.