Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The tug war of education from the conflicting role of parent and teacher

As teachers, we tend to have an opinion sometimes on how maybe parents should parent. Don't get mad at us; teachers aren't the only professions judging parents. There's the dentist, doctor, babysitter, librarian once in my case. But we're in the business of kids and parents. It's our career. My dad coached girls' softball for over a decade, and he'd always say how he'd enjoy the season a lot more if he didn't have to deal with parents. Then I became a teacher and I started to see what he meant. And then I became a parent, and now it got a lot trickier. Because you know you always know a lot about parenting before you're a parent and now I see being in the game is alot harder than watching this parenting gig from the sidelines.

We see parents of all types. The completely uninvolved, almost neglectful parent, the horribly disciplining parent, and lately there's been a lot of focus on the enabling, helicopter parent. Two fellow teacher bloggers wrote on this concern recently with Parents put those helicopter blades away and Jumped on my soapbox. Now I'm going to offer a different, probably too honest perspective here. I agree with my fellow English teachers to an extent. But as my children get older I'm starting to see things a little differently, but at the same time I do not want to be THAT helicopter parent. I don't feel that I would be helping my child any by bugging her teachers to give her less work or hounding them about every little missed point on her paper. I also feel that if we really want our children to be prepared for the real world they need to challenged. They're probably not challenged enough if they never complain about how hard or time consuming something is. But when they do, we teach them nothing by trying to make it easier or helping them "get out" of it because it's too hard.

Now on the other hand, when my three year old was sent home this past year with nightly HOMEWORK, (Yes, homework, at three.) I was a little horrified and had several realizations. One, man, homework sucks. Who wants to do homework after working all day? She was at "school" all day and between dinner, sometimes dance or gymnastics, baths, and hopefully a little fun family time, homework was just another added thing on the to do list. However, I never questioned the teacher on why she felt it necessary to give my three year old a couple worksheets of homework a night or even a monthly project. She was the expert on learning for young children not me.  In fact, I loved her teacher that Fall, but  I also know our education system.

I know why they felt it necessary to give homework at such a young age. Government and education policy is constantly telling us-teachers, students, parents- we're not good enough. The students are "failing, they're not challenged, they are not prepared to compete in a global work force". I recently learned from my husband who is getting his degree in Human Resources Leadership that it's a growing field because "the American worker is not what it use to be." He was also informed that the statistics we use to measure our American students' test scores and capabilties to other countries is inaccurate because our country teaches ALL the students, not just the elite, like some countries, so our results include ALL the students, not just the elite. So as teachers we're being told it's time to increase the rigor, step it up. That's what we all want, right? The approach to this has become more, more, and more. More work at a younger age, more assignments, more writing, more tests, and more tests.

Here's my conflict. We do as parents, teachers, and a society need to have higher expectations. But we can't have higher expectations by making constant changes and enabling people because they struggle with meeting those higher expectations. That's one of the biggest things in life right there, that they can learn, no matter what stubject they are studying. They have to learn how to work through struggle and difficulty on their own. Parents aren't helping their children by fighting their battles for them or making excuses for why they can't or don't do the work.

That being said somewhere else I read America is an overworked society. We work longer hours, have way less maternity leave, and I think I also read take less vacation (if I was a good writer I would have done my research but I'm just going off things I've read over the years) than other societies. Kids have their whole lives to work themselves to death because that's what some do in adulthood (I'm not one of those but you know they're out there). They are kids; can't they be kids and play and enjoy the innocence of youth? Sometimes I do think kids of today have alot on their plates with schoolwork and for some of them the lives they live. It seems like they have alot more homework today than what I recall having. So as a parent, sometimes I am THAT parent, thinking really, isn't this too much?

I know three is really a pretty big difference from 15, and I am not against my teenage daugthers having homework, long term difficult projects, or summer assignments. But I'm also going to put it on them. If they want the credibility and recognition of being a higher achieving student in more challenging classes, great, but be prepared to do the work and accept that it's going to be a lot of work; otherwise, take a different course. I don't want my kids taking a bunch of easy classes because they don't want to do the work, but I also don't want them taking the harder class just because it looks good on a stupid sheet of paper when in reality they didn't want to do a darn thing to make themselves better. The more challenging classes are to make you better, not look better.

This educational battle of more rigor and challenging work I feel is starting to draw lines between what the teachers expect and what the parents expect. If we're going to make progress we're going to have to move towards being closer to being on the same side of the line.

Here's some of my other teacher/parent rants. May want to read some with caution.

Give your child the best educational gift you can

A harsh reality in America's classrooms some don't want to see

1 comment:

  1. My inlaws were both teachers, but they taught high-school. They actually have had more negative reactions than I have this year :) My oldest had a really horrible teacher that didn't feel the need to send anything home or pretty much grade any homework. She was not awesome. My mother in law was furious and had a whole rant about younger teachers and a lack of work ethic :) She is a pretty strict teacher and has high expectations like I do! Great post!